Family & Companions
Possessing a visage that inspired rock songs and was once likened to that of a young Elizabeth Taylor, Vanessa Marcil first captivated television audiences as dramatic temptress, Brenda Barrett, on the award-winning daytime soap opera, "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963- ). Her breakout role saw her locking lips with "GH" hunks like Maurice Benard and Ingo Rademacher, creating one of daytime TV's steamiest love triangles of the 1990s. As the impulsive, emotional Barrett, she not only earned a kind of long-time fame few daytime TV performers experience, but she also garnered numerous acting awards for her work, including a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. At the peak of her Brenda fame, she even landed a supporting role in the blockbuster "The Rock" (1996) opposite Nicolas Cage. After leaving the security of daytime soaps, Marcil took on primetime TV; first starring on the hit series "Beverly Hills 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000) as the show's resident sexpot before playing a no-nonsense casino host on NBC's sexy drama, "Las Vegas" (2003-08). After being an integral part of "General Hospital" for years, Marcil had ended her stint on the series in 2003, but after a long absence that left fans clamoring for ABC to bring back Brenda's storyline, Marcil reprised her role in 2010, solidifying her status as one of daytime television's most beloved actresses of all time.
Sally Vanessa Ortiz was born on Oct. 15, 1968 in Indio, CA to Peter Ortiz, a contractor, and Patricia Marcil Ortiz, an herbalist of French, Italian and Portuguese ancestry. Marcil - who started acting when she was eight years old - enjoyed her first taste of fame in sixth grade when, during a school talent program, she performed her own song and won. She went on to attend Indio High School, where she was part of the Circle Theatre Acting Company, and spent most of her formative years in Palm Springs where her Mexican father - a self-made millionaire - was a well-known figure. Rebelling against her family's status, Marcil started drinking at 11, ditching school, and getting poor grades; behavior that ultimately destroyed her relationship with her father. At age 18, Marcil secretly married former child star-turned-Hollywood bad boy, Corey Feldman; an impulsive union that lasted three years too long. Marcil later told Entertainment Weekly that their marriage was a joke that "two messed-up kids" played on their friends. Ultimately, the union took a darker turn when Marcil discovered Feldman had a substantial heroin problem. She tried to help him after he was arrested in March 1990 for drug possession, but the marriage eventually collapsed. Now a 20-year-old divorcée, Marcil threw herself into acting full-bore, appearing in a number of theater productions, including the classic, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." An agent caught her performance as Maggie and signed her immediately. In 1992, she made her television debut on "General Hospital" and within a very short time, began making her presence known.
Marcil was cast as teenager Brenda Barrett, the show's tempestuous and scheming vixen who, along with co-star Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos, became half of one of daytime TV's most dark and disturbing yet sexy romances. The show's new "Luke and Laura," "Sonny and Brenda" burned up the screen with an unmatchable chemistry and intensity that fans of the series remembered long after their onscreen love affair ended. The couple went on to face numerous roadblocks in their relationship: Sonny's mobster lifestyle, his forced marriage to another woman, and Brenda's relationship with Ingo Rademacher's Jasper "Jax" Jacks. A suave, wealthy businessman, Jax helped Brenda recover from a nervous breakdown after being jilted at the altar by Sonny; an episode that became one of the most watched in the series' history. During her run, Marcil's character also struggled with her modeling career, a painkiller addiction, was a hit-and-run victim, and even faked her own death. Such juicy plotlines provided Marcil with plenty of opportunities to showcase her ever-expanding range. For her efforts, she earned numerous accolades from the Soap Opera Digest Awards and a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2003). Marcil's reign over "GH" lasted for six years; she left the show in 1998 but briefly rejoined the cast during the 2002-03 season, claiming she missed her "GH family."
Marcil's dark, sultry look - raven hair, perfectly placed beauty marks, and luminous complexion - transcended the "General Hospital" confines. In 1994, pop artist Prince cast her in the music video, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," a song he reportedly wrote for Marcil. People magazine named her one of their "50 Most Beautiful People" in 1996. Marcil also lit up the big screen as Cage's love interest in the high-octane thriller, "The Rock." She starred in independent movies like the romantic comedy "Nice Guys Sleep Alone" (1999) and "This Space Between Us" (1999), as well as the made-for-TV drama, "To Love, Honor, and Deceive" (ABC, 1996) as a woman who becomes involved with a cop after her husband and son die mysteriously in a boating accident. In 1994, Marcil received rave reviews when she starred alongside Dwight Yoakam and Sally Kirkland in the Peter Fonda-directed stage play, "Southern Rapture."
After her first departure from "General Hospital," Marcil joined the cast of "Beverly Hills 90210" as the show's new vixen from 1998 to the series' conclusion in 2000. Off the set, she began dating co-star Brian Austin Green and had a son with him, Kassius Lijah Marcil-Green, in 2002. Not long after, Marcil nabbed her second primetime series role as a spitfire casino host on the NBC series, "Las Vegas" opposite Molly Sims, James Caan, and Josh Duhamel. In June 2010, much to the delight of her fans, Marcil made her highly anticipated comeback to "General Hospital" after flying a bit under the radar post-"Las Vegas." When Brenda was last seen in Port Charles, Jax had left her at the altar because he saw her kissing Sonny. Dejected, Brenda took a flight out of Port Charles to, presumably, live abroad and mend her broken heart. Stepping into Brenda's shoes again kicked Marcil's career into high gear, and true to form, her character arrived with an explosive secret that rocked Port Charles. She returned to her beloved soap with a new stage name as well, Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo, after marrying "CSI: New York" (CBS, 2004- ) star, Carmine Giovinazzo in July 2010.
Cast (Feature Film)
Began acting in local theater productions in Palm Desert, CA (date approximate)
Portrayed Brenda Barrett on the ABC daytime soap "General Hospital"; received Best Supporting Actress Emmy nominations in 1997 and 1998; made her triumphant return to the show in 2010
Co-starred with Dwight Yoakam and Sally Kirkland in the Peter Fonda-directed play "Southern Rapture" in L.A.
Served as a recurring host for ABC's late-night series "In Concert"
Had lead in the ABC TV-movie "To Love, Honor, and Deceive"
Portrayed Nicolas Cage's fiancee in "The Rock"
Had featured role in unsold ABC pilot "L.A. Med"
Joined the cast of the Fox primetime soap "Beverly Hills, 90210"
Co-starred with Jeremy Sisto in "This Space Between Us"; premiered at the Seattle Film Festival
Acted onstage opposite Tyler Christopher in the L.A. production "Starfire"
Joined cast of ABC's "NYPD Blue" in recurring role of detective Carmen Olivera
Cast as Samantha Jane "Sam" Marquez in the NBC drama "Las Vegas"
Starred in The Hallmark Channel family drama "The Nanny Express"
Cast in a recurring role on NBC's "Lipstick Jungle"
Starred in the Lifetime Network comedy "One Hot Summer"
Appeared in crime comedy "The Bannen Way"
Starred in "Borrowed Moments"
Played Kaylene in "The Wrong Mother"
Starred in the thriller "Bad Tutor"