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Kate Burton Biography


Home > Actresses > B > Burton, Kate > Biography


Birth Name: Kate Burton
Born: 09/10/1957
Birth Place: Switzerland


Born in Switzerland on Sept. 10, 1957, but raised in Manhattan after her parents' famous divorce, Burton retained her British citizenship, yet considered herself an American actress, having spent most of her life in the USA. Intent on a diplomatic career, she majored in history and Russian studies at Brown before succumbing to the family business in her senior year. Burton went on to earn an MFA at the Yale School of Drama and began her stage career in the 1983 Circle-in-the-Square revival of "Present Laughter," directed by George C Scott. Subsequently, she starred in the title role of "Alice in Wonderland" (in which she made her TV debut in the 1983 PBS version). Among her other well-received stage appearances were the musical "Doonesbury," "Wild Honey," opposite Ian McKellen, "Some Americans Abroad," and the 1995 revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company."

In 1984, Burton co-starred with her father in the CBS miniseries "Ellis Island" and had featured roles in Showtime's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1987) and as Eugene O'Neill's wife Agnes in "Journey Into Genius" (PBS, 1988). But it really wasn't until the 1990s that her small screen presence increased. Burton played a nun accused of molesting a teenaged girl in a 1991 episode of NBC's "Law & Order" and made her series debut as the mother who mourned the loss of her social activism in "Home Fires" (NBC, 1992). She won a Daytime Emmy as a mother suffering with breast cancer in "Notes For My Daughter," a 1996 "ABC Afterschool Special."

On the big screen, Burton could first be glimpsed in a small role in "Anne of a Thousand Days" (1969), which co-starred her father. Her adult debut was as a ditsy reporter opposite Kurt Russell in "Big Trouble in Little China" (1986). She was the TV Mom featured in clip sequences in "Life With Mikey" (1993) and had her biggest role to date as the younger wife of a professor in "August" (1996), the directorial debut of Anthony Hopkins which transposed Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" from Russia to 19th Century Wales. She next co-starred opposite Bill Pullman in "Mistrial" (HBO, 1996), playing the worried wife of a homicide detective who takes a courtroom hostage after a jury sets a cop killer free. In 1997, she began appearing as District Attorney Susan Anderson on the legal drama, "The Practice" (NBC, 1996-2004), a recurring role that lasted until the show's final episode. Meanwhile, Burton was seen in "Ellen Foster" (CBS, 1997) as the hippyish art teacher of a young foster child (Jena Malone) left with her alcoholic and abusive father (Ted Levine) after the death of her mother (Glynnis O'Connor).

Returning to features, Burton had supporting roles in Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" (1997) and Woody Allen's "Celebrity" (1998), then a brief appearance in "The Opportunists" (2000). She then went back to series television with episodes of "100 Centre Street" (A&E, 2000-2002) and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001-2006). In "Obsessed" (Lifetime, 2002), Burton played an attorney who takes the case of a woman (Jenna Elfman) arrested for stalking a physician (Sam Robarbs) while claiming to be having an affair with him. She next played the friend of a bored woman (Diane Lane) who embarks on a steamy extramarital affair in "Unfaithful" (2002), then was the mother of a near-perfect high school senior (Jesse Bradford) whose life is destroyed by an alluring new student (Erika Christensen) with a dark past. An unremarkable performance in "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer" (ABC, 2003), prequel to Stephen King's thriller "Rose Red," was followed by episodes of "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006) and "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005).

Burton next had a meatier role in the multi-award-winning miniseries, "Empire Falls" (HBO, 2005), playing the disabled daughter of a small town matriarch (Joanne Woodward) who owns a diner where a man with little ambition (Ed Harris) reflects on his wasted life. Episodes of "Rescue Me" (FX, 2004- ) and "Numb3rs" (CBS, 2004- ) were followed by a recurring role on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ), playing the famous surgeon mother of a surgical intern (Ellen Pompeo) struggling to follow her footsteps in the competitive environment of a Seattle hospital. Burton made a brief but lasting impression with her performance in "Stay" (2005), playing the strange mother of a psychiatric patient (Ryan Gosling) planning to commit suicide on his 21st birthday. Burton eventually left "Grey's Anatomy" during the 2006-07 season after a dramatic three-episode arc involving a ferry crash and the near-death of her character's daughter, Meredith. In 2006 and 2007, she earned consecutive Emmy award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.