Family & Companions
A striking presence on television and in the occasional feature since the late 1980s, actress Michelle Forbes gave memorable turns as steely but often flawed women of power on such series as "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14), "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99) and "24" (Fox, 2001-2010). Tall, raven-haired and blessed with a distinctively husky voice, Forbes made lasting impressions on viewers, beginning with her turn as cult favorite Ensign Ro Laren on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994). Critically acclaimed assignments like "Homicide" led to major roles on high-profile shows like "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi Channel, 2003-09), where she played the ruthless Admiral Helena Cain, and on "True Blood" as the supernatural hedonist Maryanne. When Forbes landed the plum role of a mother of a murdered young girl on AMC's "The Killing" (AMC 2011-13; Netflix, 2014), she suddenly found herself a critical darling. Decades of hard work paid off for Forbes, who was among the most respected character actresses of her generation.
Born Michelle Renee Forbes Guajardo in Austin, TX on Jan. 8, 1965, her first love was ballet, but after studying at the Performing Arts High School in Houston, she shifted her attention to acting. At 16, she left home to begin her career, soon signing with the William Morris Agency for representation. In 1987, she landed her first major role as the brilliant but troubled psychiatrist Dr. Sonni Wells on "Guiding Light" (CBS, 1952-2009). Traumatized by the childhood death of her sister, Dr. Wells assumed her sibling's identity, which allows her to commit all manner of atrocities that, in turn, besmirched her "good" sister's reputation. Forbes earned a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for her performance before departing the soap opera in 1990.
She then divided her time between off-Broadway theater and guest appearances on television series, most notably "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as a distraught daughter who attempted to convince her father (David Ogden Stiers) to accept their civilization's rule that individuals must commit ritual suicide upon reaching the age of 60. Her performance received solid reviews from fans and critics alike, and producers soon set about to create a recurring character for her on the series. Forbes was introduced as Ensign Ro Laren in the fifth season of "The Next Generation," and despite only eight appearances on the series, became a popular figure among fans. A headstrong member of the perennially oppressed alien race known as the Bajorans, Ro arrived on the Enterprise with a troubled past, having been court-martialed for disobeying orders on a mission. Over the course of her appearances, Ro learned to work with other crewmembers and eventually took part in several significant adventures before departing the show in its seventh season by joining a rebel force that fought against the Cardassians, her people's sworn enemies. In reality, Forbes was offered a chance to join "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated, 1993-99) and "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001), but turned down both, citing her reluctance to sign on to a series.
Despite major roles in independent features like "Kalifornia" (1993) and the cult favorite "Swimming with Sharks" (1994), Forbes was unable to generate much traction with her movie career; instead balancing subsequent turns in largely unseen efforts like the Jason Alexander-directed "Just Looking" (1995) and John Carpenter's "Escape from L.A." (1997). In 1996, she relented on her previous stand on becoming a series regular by joining the cast of "Homicide: Life on the Street" during its fifth season. Forbes' character, Dr. Julianna Cox, was the chief medical examiner at the Baltimore city morgue, and immediately established herself as a worthwhile addition to the show's cast of sharply defined, complex characters. A flinty, no-nonsense doctor with no compunction about firing employees for incompetence, she also displayed a personable side that sat well with the show's detective heroes. However, she possessed her share of demons as well, burying her sadness and stress in alcohol and meaningless sex. Cox was fired at the end of the show' sixth season after refusing to tamper evidence that would implicate a city worker in vehicular manslaughter, which also ended Forbes' tenure with the series, though she returned briefly for the 2000 TV movie "Homicide: The Movie" (NBC), which brought the celebrated series to a close.
Television soon became Forbes' primary showcase, and the exposure from "Homicide" allowed her to attain substantial parts on several well-regarded series. Peter Berg cast her as a psychiatrist and expectant mother in his controversial and short-lived drama "Wonderland" (ABC, 2000), which took place in a mental institution. Only two episodes of the series were broadcast, and were followed by recurring guest stints on "The District" (CBS, 2000-04) and "24," the latter of which cast her as presidential advisor Lynne Kresge, who tried to stop an attempt to remove the Commander in Chief (Dennis Haysbert). The character of Kresge set in motion a string of similar roles for Forbes: tough government and military operatives who occasionally bent the rules for their own purposes. She was a sinister intermediary to the vice president on "Prison Break" (Fox, 2005-09), then an undercover agent in the unaired pilot for "Global Frequency" (The WB), based on the graphic novel of the same name.
During this prolific period, her most high-profile figure of this type was Admiral Helena Cain on the revamped "Battlestar Galactica." Traumatized at an early age by the series' robotic villains, the Cylons, Cain grew into a dogged warrior whose thirst for vengeance made all other considerations secondary, including the lives of those around her. Cain eliminated all who opposed her during her brief run on the series before being herself murdered by her lover, a Cylon (Tricia Helfer) posing as a crew member. Forbes as Cain was top-billed in the TV movie "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" (Sci-Fi Channel, 2007), which expanded upon the events in Cain's storyline as well as serving as a bridge to the show's fourth season.
While tackling these tough-minded roles, Forbes also explored more nuanced characters in somewhat lesser known programs on both sides of the Atlantic. She learned British sign language in just seven days to play the deaf wife of detective Ken Stott on the BBC One series "Messiah" (2001-08) and the long-suffering spouse of conflicted therapist Gabriel Byrne in the first season of HBO's "In Treatment" (2008-2010). In the Canadian series "Durham County" (The Movie Network, 2007-10), she played a love interest for the show's lead, homicide detective Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon), who discovered that she had a murderous past of her own. And in the second season of "True Blood," she gave an alluring turn as Maryann Forrester, a social worker who was a secret devotee of the Greek god Dionysus, and takes control of the citizens of Bon Temps in an attempt to bring the ancient deity to life. The latter earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination as part of an ensemble, as well as a Special Achievement Award from the Satellite Awards in 2009. In 2011, Forbes played the mother of a murdered young girl who struggled to deal with her grief on AMC's "The Killing" (AMC 2011-13; Netflix, 2014), a role that earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Played dual roles of Solita Carrera and Sonni Carrera Lewis on the CBS daytime soap "Guiding Light"
Began appearing on primetime TV episodes with "Shannon's Deal" (NBC)
Landed the recurring role of Ro Laren on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
Co-starred as photographer Carrie Laughlin in the thriller "Kalifornia," opposite David Duchovny and Brad Pitt
Portrayed foul-mouthed, ambitious Dawn Lockard in "Swimming With Sharks" opposite Kevin Spacey
Joined the NBC series "Homicide: Life on the Street" as medical examiner Julianna Cox
Appeared in John Carpenter's "Escape from L.A."
Returned to series TV as co-star in the short-lived ABC drama "Wonderland"
Portrayed Susan Metcalfe in "Messiah," a series of occasional serials shown in several parts on BBC
Co-starred in the epic Western "Johnson County War" on the Hallmark Channel
Played the recurring character of Lynne Kresge, the aide to the President of the U.S., on the second season of "24" (Fox)
Portrayed Admiral Helena Cain on three episodes of the re-imagining of the classic series "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi Channel)
Appeared as a Mossad agent on three episodes of the British series "Waking The Dead"
Co-starred on HBO's "In Treatment," playing the wife of Gabriel Byrne
Cast in HBO's "True Blood" as Maryann, a wealthy local with mysterious intentions
Joined the cast of the Canadian psychological drama series "Durham County" during its second season as Dr. Penelope Verity
Cast in the role of no-nonsense Mitch Larsen on the AMC series "The Killing"
Starred as Gail McLeod on "Chicago Fire"
Had recurring role of Dr. Marian Bowles on "Orphan Black"
Cast as Lt. Jackson in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2"
Starred as Valerie Edwards on "Berlin Station"
Voiced Zofia Blazkowicz in the video game "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus"