Born December 9, 1962, in Bedford, NY; married William H. Macy (an actor, writer, and producer), September 6, 1997; children: Sofia Grace, Georgia Grace. Education: Attended Royal Academy of Drama Arts, London, England; New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, B.F.A., 1988.
Addresses: Office —c/o Desperate Housewives, American Broadcasting Co. (ABC), Inc., 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521.
Actress on stage, including: Boys' Life , 1988; Speed-the-Plow , 1988. Television appearances include: A Home Run for Love , 1978; Lip Service , 1988; Golden Years (movie), 1991; The Water Engine (movie), 1992; Quicksand: No Escape (movie), 1992; The X Files , 1993; The Heart of Justice (movie), 1993; Law … Order , 1997; The Underworld (movie), 1997; Sports Night , 1998-2000; A Slight Case of Murder (movie), 1999; Snap Decision (movie), 2001; Path to War (movie), 2002; Out of Order (miniseries), 2003; Frasier , 2003; Reversible Errors (movie), 2004; Desperate Housewives , 2004—. Film appearances include: Things Change , 1988; Reversal of Fortune , 1990; Hackers , 1995; The Spanish Prisoner , 1997; Magnolia , 1999; House Hunting , 2003; Raising Helen , 2004; Christmas with the Kranks , 2004; Transamerica , 2005; Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman , 2005.
Awards: Emmy Award for best lead actress (comedy), National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for Desperate Housewives , 2005; Golden Globe
Veteran actor Felicity Huffman toiled on the sidelines for nearly two decades before winning a highly coveted Emmy Award in 2005 for Desperate Housewives , one of the top-rated television series of the 2004-05 season. Lynette Scavo, Huffman's character, is a stay-at-home mother consistently overwhelmed by her duties as cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, and general supervisor of a six-member household. "People pay lip service to stay-at-home moms, but it's not really respected, " Huffman told Newsweek writers Marc Peyser and David J. Jefferson in a cover story about the Desperate Housewives phenomenon. "You say you're a stay-at-home mom and you can see the life force drain out of people. They're already bored with you."
Huffman was born in 1962 in New York state, but grew up in Woody Creek, Colorado. Her childhood nickname was "Flicka, " after a popular horse movie from 1943, My Friend Flicka ; the word was also Swedish for "girl." She was the last of eight children, and one of seven daughters. Though she grew up in a traditional and somewhat strict Roman Catholic family, she later recalled that as the youngest child she often got a pass on the rules. "My sisters broke my mother in, " she told Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Frazier Moore. "By the time I came along, it was like, 'What time will you be home? Oh, never mind.'"
Huffman's interest in acting was spurred by a movie-theater outing to see Italian director Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet , which won several industry honors that year, including the Academy Award for cinematography. "I was way too young, and I had my eyes covered part of the time, " Huffman recalled in an interview with the Houston Chronicle 's Luaine Lee. "One of my sisters sat behind me and covered my eyes at particular ardent points. I just fell in love with that story: 'Oh, I want to act, I want to act.'"
Thankfully, Huffman's family was supportive of her ambition, and she went off to acting camp every summer, and for high school even attended the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan, a boarding school whose alumni have included Tom Hulce ( Amadeus ) and the pop singer Jewel. During this time she also made her television debut, as Flicka Huffman, in a 1978 television movie called A Home Run for Love. "I didn't know what I was doing, " Huffman confessed to Jenelle Riley in Back Stage West. "The first shot I was shaking so hard they had to keep stopping. I can't remember what it was about, even."
After graduating from Interlochen in 1981, Huffman studied at London's Royal Academy of Drama Arts and began a lengthy stint at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Though she did not earn her drama degree until 1988, she was active in the New York City theater scene, and by 1984 was working with the Atlantic Theater Company, which grew out of some workshops that Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright David Mamet had started with members of the NYU drama program. It was there that Huffman met her future husband, the Atlantic company's co-founder, William H. Macy.
The same year that Huffman earned her NYU degree, she made her Broadway debut in a highly publicized production of a new play from Mamet, Speed-the-Plow. Huffman replaced one of the original three leads, pop singer Madonna. Despite such an auspicious start, Huffman had a difficult time finding and even keeping work. "Basically, I got fired off of the play Jake's Women , " she recounted to Moore in the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution , referring to a notorious 1990 flop by playwright Neil Simon. "And then I did an ABC pilot with Ed Asner that was going to be a big deal and was called Thunder Alley , and I got fired from that." She had a brief role in the 1990 movie Reversal of Fortune , about the Claus von Bulow murder case, and was cast in a first-season episode of The X Files. She also appeared in a few made-for-television movies, including Stephen King's Golden Years and Quicksand: No Escape.
Huffman did not begin dating Macy until 1994, about ten years after they first met, when they reconnected at a London funeral of a mutual friend. They wed in 1997, and a few months after the wedding she appeared in the Mamet film The Spanish Prisoner. By then she had left New York City to be with Macy in Los Angeles, where his career was boosted by impressive performances in Fargo and Boogie Nights. Huffman, however, was ready to move on. "I decided to give up and go to Marinello School of Beauty. I actually got an application, " she told Entertainment Weekly , but her career in cosmetology was thwarted when she was cast in Sports Night , a new series on ABC created by Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame. Huffman won one of the leads, Dana Whitaker, a television producer at an ESPN-like cable network that served as Sports Night 's fictional setting.
Critics loved Sports Night , with Ray Richmond in Variety calling it "the most entertaining new comedy in primetime this fall"; Richmond also complimented a cast that included "a scene-stealing turn from Felicity Huffman, who has the look of a break-out star." Entertainment Weekly delivered a similarly laudatory tribute, asserting that "the series' strength is its speed-racer pace…. Characters tear through rooms spitting out staccato bursts of dialogue at each other. This machine-gun banter is expertly handled by the crack ensemble, especially Felicity Huffman (a veteran of David Mamet's verbal wars) as an interference-running producer."
Sports Night lasted just two seasons before the network cancelled it. Huffman took some time off, after the births of each of her daughters (Sofia in 2000, and Georgia in 2002), but landed an interesting, five-part miniseries for Showtime that aired in mid-2003 and allowed her to work with her husband once again. In Out of Order , she and Eric Stoltz were cast as moderately affluent Hollywood power-couple Lorna and Mark. Their future in screenwriting, however, appears to be succumbing to Lorna's depression; she behaves erratically, and Mark begins having an affair. Macy had a supporting role as one of their friends, an out-of-work producer. "Huffman's performance captures Lorna's agony and terror, her fear that she's 'going to fall into a black hole and never come out, '" noted the New Yorker 's television critic Nancy Franklin, "and also the aspects of depression that can be so frustrating for those outside it—the unreliability and the excuses that make it hard to tell whether the sufferer is dying inside or getting away with murder."
Later in 2003, Huffman had a recurring role as a Suze-Orman-styled financial expert at Frasier 's radio station on the NBC sitcom, and the following year had a supporting role in Raising Helen , the Kate Hudson comedy. Few expected her next job to become the breakout success of ABC's 2004 fall line-up that it did, but Desperate Housewives began pulling in viewers from its debut, and the numbers grew exponentially as the Monday-morning buzz surrounding it and critical acclaim increased; midway through the first season, 25 million viewers were tuning in every Sunday night. The pilot episode had been rejected by NBC, CBS, Fox, HBO, Show-time and even Lifetime, and the hourlong drama/ comedy, noted Peyser and Jefferson in Newsweek , "is what network television isn't supposed to be. It's a soap opera in an era when procedural shows like CSI and its clones rule. It's on ABC, a network that hasn't launched a hit show since the fall of the Berlin wall. (That's only a slight exaggeration.)"
Huffman was cast as Lynette Scavo, one of a quartet of housewives on Desperate Housewives ' Wisteria Lane. The campy drama revolved around several subplots, but was loosely tied together over the mystery surrounding the death of a fifth housewife, Mary Alice, who provides a narrative voice-over. Huffman's Lynette is a former high-powered corporate executive who had four children, including a set of twins, in six years, and quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom. The new workload is far worse than anything she ever encountered in the business world, and Lynette struggles to maintain her sanity. Compounding her dilemma are her exceedingly rambunctious twin boys, and her secret addiction to their attention-deficit-disorder medication.
On Wisteria Lane, Lynette's similarly desperate neighbors include Susan (Teri Hatcher), a divorced single mother; Marcia Cross as Bree, a perfectionist housewife; and risk-taking Gabrielle (Eva Longoria), who is having a torrid affair with the high-school student who mows the lawn. Edie, the local real-estate agent played by Nicollette Sheridan, rounds out the cast as Wisteria Lane's resident busy-body. Writing about the series' success in the New York Times , Virginia Heffernan compared it to short stories of mid-century American fiction writer John Cheever, which gleefully punctured the facade of middle-class suburban life. "Much of what makes suburbia function in Cheever's stories are the lawns, fences, driveways, and other visible means of separating one life from another, " wrote Heffernan. "On Wisteria Lane, where the desperate housewives live, inhabitants keep hedges high, cultivating—in contrast to other shows about girlfriends—great ignorance about one another."
By turns dramatic and comic, Desperate Housewives seemed to strike a nerve with viewers, and it was one of the top-rated shows of the 2004-05 season, even inspiring its own hour on Oprah Winfrey's show with real-life counterparts for the characters. "There's more than a kernel of truth in all of them, and I think that's part of the show's success, " Huffman reflected in an interview with Bari Nan Cohen for Redbook. As a working actor who once hoped to have several children, Huffman could relate to Lynette's predicament and perpetually frazzled nerves. Prior to becoming a mother, she told Cohen, "no one ever pulled me aside and told me—and I'm not saying this is everyone's experience, at all— 'It can be really hard, you can lose your mind.'"
As the debut of its second season neared, Huffman took home an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, beating out fellow cast members Cross and Hatcher in the category. The shooting schedule for Desperate Housewives allowed Huffman to take on other projects, such as the feature film Transamerica , which opened in theaters in December of 2005. Produced by Macy, the story revolved around the sex-change operation Huffman's character undergoes. In 2006, Huffman won a Golden Globe for her role in that film. She also appeared in Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman , a unique interactive movie that once more gave her a chance to work with her husband.
Another family member of Huffman's is still her biggest fan. Her mother, she told Lee in the Houston Chronicle , comes to see "every one of my plays. She's now 80. And she actually comes to previews and helps me out. She's got a really good eye."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution , March 9, 1999, p. E4.
Back Stage West , November 28, 2002, p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly , October 2, 1998, p. 58; July 25, 2003, p. 19; June 24/July 1, 2005, p. 46.
Houston Chronicle , May 28, 2003, p. 6.
Newsweek , November 29, 2004, p. 48.
Newsweek International , January 17, 2005, p. 50.
New Yorker , June 16, 2003, p. 198.
New York Times , March 1, 1988; November 28, 2004.
People , May 16, 2005, p. 32.
Redbook , May 2005, p. 110.
Variety , September 21, 1998, p. 44.
— Carol Brennan