Family & Companions
Having two enormously popular performers for parents might have seemed like the ideal base camp for a young girl with dreams of becoming an actress. In the case of Joely Fisher - daughter of 1950s' teen idol Eddie Fisher and singer/actress Connie Francis - it actually made for a rocky start in life. Behind the perfect coif and shiny teeth of dad's hit album covers, lay an unhappy addict who split from the family early on. Add to her father's departure, Fisher's pressure to compete with her vivacious and glamorous mom, and she emerged as an unhappy teen with a weight problem. But the future actress survived the ups and downs of youth and the subsequent soul-searching, surfacing as a Golden Globe-winning TV actress, a Broadway performer, and the mom of a much higher-functioning family of her own. She was not just another child of Hollywood. Instead, she was as much a self-made woman who paid her dues, as were any ambitious redheads who had stepped off a bus into Hollywood with dreams of fame and fortune.
Fisher was born in Burbank, CA, on Oct. 29, 1967 - the third generation born to a show business family. Her maternal grandparents were popular Italian-American entertainers from Brooklyn, and Fisher, herself, was the surprise result of a torrid, headline-grabbing affair between her actress mom, Connie Francis and crooner dad, Eddie Fisher. Her father was married to someone else at the time, and though he and Francis did eventually marry, his alcoholism and troubles became too much to handle. He left the family by the time little Joely was two. He would remain virtually absent throughout her life.
Whether it was in her DNA or the result of her Beverly Hills address, Fisher knew that she wanted to be an actress from the time she could walk. Younger sister Tricia Lee also shared showbiz aspirations, as did half-siblings Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher (whose mother was singer/actress Debbie Reynolds) who the sisters did not even know existed until many years later. Fisher received her first moment in the spotlight well before her teens, when she and Tricia sang a number in their mother's Las Vegas act. By that time, life spent in the wings of a famous parent was all she knew, and having legendary entertainers at her house playing piano and telling tales 'til all hours was normal. There was a downside to this non-traditional childhood though - the instability of life on the road with a single mother, an erratic education, and a mounting pressure to be Hollywood "picture perfect." Living in the shadow of a figure like Francis grew even more difficult as teenaged Fisher faced ongoing food and weight issues that she feared would ruin her chances of succeeding as an actress.
Fisher and mom entertained Gulf War troops in a 1988 USO tour, but off the musical stage, she found herself already typecast as "the fat friend" in the few acting gigs she had started to land, including the film "Pretty Smart" (1986) starring sister Tricia. It was time for Fisher to face up to the demons that had begun to show themselves in her eating disorders and streak of wild behavior. Fisher hit therapy, went head-on into a college education (studying at Emerson College in Boston and the University of Paris) and emerged with more focus and determination than ever before. It was a change that would garner immediate results, before long, helping her to land bit parts on TV shows such as "Growing Pains" (ABC, 1985-1992), "Blossom" (NBC, 1991-95), and the Schoolbreak Special, "Dedicated to the One I Love" (1994).
In 1994, the 26-year-old actress made her TV movie debut in "The Companion" and landed a role in the Nick Nolte feature, "I'll Do Anything." She had been turned down for over 30 TV pilots, but finally in the fall of that year, landed a role on the second season of the sitcom "Ellen" (ABC, 1994-1998), starring still-in-the-closet comic, Ellen DeGeneres. The show had been a mid-season replacement the previous year, first airing under the title "These Friends of Mine" before getting a title and cast revamp for its second season. Fisher came aboard as Paige Clark, an ambitious and kooky TV executive with a flair for the dramatic, and best friend to neurotic book store owner, Ellen. The show's new formula was an instant favorite with critics and viewers alike, and Fisher got her first professional nod with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
As she established herself as a solid comic actress, new doors began opening for her on both screen and stage. She appeared in "The Mask" (1994) with Jim Carrey, "Mixed Nuts"(1994) with Steve Martin, and "Inspector Gadget"(1999) opposite Matthew Broderick. Fisher also took on challenging stage roles, including Rizzo in the Broadway revival of "Grease," Sally Bowles in the touring company of "Cabaret," and while she was pregnant with her first child, she wrote and performed a one-woman stage show called "From Here to Maternity."
Following Ellen's historic "coming out" episode and subsequent series cancellation, Fisher found roles on various TV shows like Darren Starr's sudster "Grosse Pointe" (WB, 2000-01) and "Normal, Ohio" (Fox, 2000) co-starring John Goodman. Made-for-TV audiences loved her in dramas like "Jitters"(1997), "Kidnapped in Paradise" (1999), and "Seduction in a Small Town" (1997), while viewers of "Superman: The Animated Series" (WB,1996-2000) didn't even know it was her they were loving as the voice of Clark Kent's main squeeze, Lana Lang.
Fisher finally reached TV headliner status when she was cast in the Lifetime series "Wild Card," which had a two-year life span from 2003 to 2005. Personal life experience probably proved useful, as she was called on to play a single mother of two daughters - though in the case of her character, Zoe Busiek, the girls were daughters of a deceased sister. A brief 2005 stint on the campy mega-hit soap, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-12) playing Lynette Scavo's (Felicity Huffman) uber-bitchy boss, Nina Fletcher, was a high-profile boost. No sooner had her character been fired from the law firm, than Fisher was back in the TV line-up. In the fall of 2006, she signed on with Fox to play opposite Brad Garrett in "'Til Death," a sitcom that paired cooing newlyweds and cynical vets of a 23-year marriage as neighbors.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made stage debut at age 12 singing a song with her mother Connie Stevens
TV debut, "Bob Hope's USO Christmas From the Persian Gulf--Around the World in Eight Days"
Appeared in the recurring role of Sally Garner on several episodes of the ABC sitcom, "Growing Pains"
TV series debut as a regular, "Ellen"; joined show in its second season
TV-movie debut, "The Companion" (USA Network)
Feature acting debut, "I'll Do Anything"
Made Broadway debut as Rizzo in revival of "Grease"
Starred opposite Matthew Broderick in "Inspector Gadget"
Had four-episode recurring stint on The WB's "Grosse Pointe"
Replaced Susan Egan in the Broadway production of "Cabaret"
Portrayed the recurring role of title character's ex-wife in "Danny", a fall CBS sitcom starring Daniel Stern; series cancelled after only two airings
Starred in the CBS midseason sitcom "Baby Bob"
Had a recurring role on "Desperate Housewives" (ABC) as Nina Fletcher, Lynette's boss (Felicity Huffman)
Cast as one half of a middle aged couple in the Fox comedy, "Til Death" (Fox)