A young and charming character actress, Alia Shawkat first caught attention for her turn as sensitive preteen on the coming-of-age comedy drama "State of Grace" (Fox Family Channel/ABC Family 2001-02), before breaking out as Mae "Maeby" Fünke on "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06). Full of cunning and angst-ridden rebelliousness, Shawkat stood out among her more flamboyant co-stars and elevated her career to the next level. But in the end, "Arrested Development" was too smart for its own good and was canceled due to low ratings, leaving Shawkat to return to making guest starring appearances on other shows. Meanwhile, she delivered quality supporting turns in popular indie films like "Amreeka" (2009), "Whip It" (2009), "The Runaways" (2010) and "Ruby Sparks" (2012), only to struggle to find that next career defining role. In a strange twist of fate, Shawkat was able to reprise Maeby Fünke for the resurrected "Arrested Development," which was set to air on Netflix in 2013 and allowed the actress the rare opportunity to reprise the role that turned her into a star.
Born on April 18 1989 in Riverside, CA, Shawkat was raised by her father, Tony, an Iraqi immigrant-turned-actor, and her mother, Dina Burke, a film producer whose father was the prolific character actor, Paul Burke. As a child, she studied piano and cultivated hobbies that included equine care, language and dance. By age nine, Shawkat was featured in a Calvin Klein catalog, which caused commercial and theatrical casting offices to take note. The next year she snared her first television job on "Jag" (CBS 1995-2005), and made a quick step to film in David O. Russell's post-Gulf War gold-hunt, "Three Kings" (1999) as the daughter of Amir (Cliff Curtis). Following a turn in the TV movie "The Trial of Old Drum" (Animal Planet, 2000), Shawkat landed a regular series role on the short-lived "State of Grace" (Fox Family/ABC Family 2001-02), a show about two very different preteen girls growing up in the 1960s who learned valuable life lessons from their social and religious differences. Shawkat's sensitivity, ease, and humor as Young Hannah Rayburn - played as an adult by Frances McDormand - set the actress apart from scores of actors in her age group.
After "State of Grace" ended its run, Shawkat had guest appearances on "Without a Trace" (2002-08), and "Boomtown" (NBC, 2002-03), before being cast in her breakout role, playing precocious teen Mae "Maeby" Fünke on the offbeat sitcom "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06). A groundbreaking absurdist comedy about the formerly wealthy dysfunctional Bluth family, the show won high praise from critics while Shawkat earned her due for playing the rebellious daughter of Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), a promiscuous and materialistic snob married to Tobias (David Cross), a discredited psychologist-turned-aspiring actor who is completely oblivious to his overt homosexuality. A dream come true for the actress, as well as all involved, "Arrested Development" was unable to attract a large enough audience to stay on the air and was canceled despite numerous attempts to save the show by rabid fans. Following the show's untimely demise, Shawkat moved between TV movies like "Not Like Everyone Else" (Lifetime 2006), where she was the Native-American teen target of a witch hunt, to the ho-hum big screen Christmas tale "Deck the Halls" (2006), then back to TV for "Bad Mother's Handbook" (ABC 2008), a multi-generational comedy pilot that was not picked up.
Shawkat went on to star opposite William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines in the little-seen indie "Bart Got a Room" (2008) and enjoyed critical success in "Amreeka" (2009), director Cherien Dabis' poignant journey of a woman (Nisreen Faour) who moves from the Middle East to Illinois to give her son (Melkar Muallem) a better life. She next played the jealous best friend of Ellen Page in the roller derby-driven comedy, "Whip It" (2009), which marked the directing debut of Drew Barrymore. From there, she was featured in the Floria Sigismondi music biopic about the 1970s all-girl rock band "The Runaways" (2010), which starred Dakota Fanning as the drug-addled Cherie Currie, Kristen Stewart as the ambitious Joan Jett and Scout Taylor-Compton as lead guitarist Lita Ford. Shawkat was bassist, Robin Robins, a fictional character created for the film because real-life Runaways bassist, Jackie Fox, refused filmmakers the right to use her name. After an episode of "The League" (Fox, 2009-15), she had a small role as Bree in "Cedar Rapids" (2011) and was a fan and potential love interest of a young novelist (Paul Dano) in the widely hailed romantic comedy, "Ruby Sparks" (2012). Meanwhile, the stars aligned both figuratively and literally when it was announced that "Arrested Development" would return following six years of speculation that included a rumored movie that never materialized. With the show's fourth season to air on Netflix in 2013, Shawkat was set to reprise Maeby alongside the entirety of the show's original cast.
By J.F. Pryor
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Art Department (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made TV-acting debut on "Jag" (CBS)
Made feature film debut in David O. Russell's post-Gulf War gold hunt, "Three Kings"
Landed series regular role on short-lived "State of Grace" (Fox Family/ABC Family)
Cast in breakout role as precocious teen Mae 'Maeby' Fünke on Fox dysfunctional family sitcom "Arrested Development"
Cast opposite William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines in little-seen indie "Bart Got a Room"
Enjoyed critical success with "Amreeka"
Cast in Drew Barrymore's directorial debut "Whip It"
Played bassist Robin Robins opposite Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart in biopic "The Runaways"
Played Paul Dano's potential love interest in romantic comedy "Ruby Sparks"
Reprised role of Maeby on renewed "Arrested Development" (Netflix)
Played Colleen Hoover on HBO comedy "Getting On"
Co-starred with Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots in "Green Room"
Had a guest role on "Broad City"
Had a cameo as the mayor's kid on hit IFC comedy "Portlandia"
Played the tough Bella in Pee-wee Herman sequel "Pee-wee's Big Holiday"
Played Dory Sief on dark comedy series "Search Party"
Had a recurring role on "Transparent"
Co-starred with Haley Joel Osment in "Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town"
Returned for "Arrested Development" yet again
Appeared in Ethan Hawke-helmed biodrama "Blaze"