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Sharon Lawrence Biography

Home > Actresses > L > Lawrence, Sharon > Biography

Birth Name: Sharon Lawrence
Born: 06/29/1961
Birth Place: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Lawrence was born June 29, 1961, and raised first in Charlotte and then Raleigh, NC, where her father was a television news anchor. A Junior Miss pageant winner, Lawrence intended to follow in her father's footsteps by studying journalism at UNC Chapel Hill, but when the on-air part of the job began to hold more appeal than the news reporting, she moved to New York City to pursue acting. She had already been singing on cruise ships and at night clubs to earn money during college, and her seasoned pipes brought Lawrence her first break in 1984 when she was cast opposite Anthony Quinn in a national tour of "Zorba." Harold Prince's revival of "Cabaret" marked her Broadway debut in 1987, and the actress spent 1989 to 1992 immersed in "Fiddler on the Roof" - first, as a member of a national tour and then on Broadway. Following her first TV guest spot on Steven Bochco's divorce court series "Civil Wars" (ABC, 1991-93), producers recalled her performance later that year when casting the controversial new police drama "NYPD Blue."

Her role as Sylvia Costas, the earnest, no-nonsense assistant district attorney, began with only a few lines as a day player in the premiere, but producers liked what they saw and eventually added Lawrence to the cast. The sophisticated, ambitious lawyer developed a heated romance with and eventual marriage to older tough cop Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz). The fledgling TV actress obviously had the appeal and the grit the show required, and was honored with Emmy Award nominations in 1994, 1995 and 1996 for portraying the loyal Sylvia as she went through the birth of a child, her husband's cancer treatment, and the couple's eventual separation over Sipowicz' drinking problem. During her hiatus, Lawrence ducked back onto the stage, this time the Los Angeles stage in Matrix Theater Company productions of dramas "The Seagull" and "The Homecoming." Offers poured in, and Lawrence was cast in the TV movie "In the Line of Duty: The Price of Vengeance" (NBC, 1994) and a remake of the family film "The Shaggy Dog" (ABC, 1994). The following year, she appeared in TNT's adaptation of Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "The Heidi Chronicles" (1995), and gave a powerful performance as the accused murderess Mary Carelli in the NBC miniseries "Degree of Guilt" (1995).

When Lawrence returned to "NYPD Blue" after a Broadway run in "Chicago," her character's prominence had been reduced somewhat to a recurring rather than a cast role; concurrently, NBC cast her in her own sitcom, "Fired Up" (1997-98), where she played a flamboyant executive forced by downsizing to go into business with her former secretary. When that series fizzled quickly, the actress put in one more season as working mother and supportive spouse Sylvia until her character was dramatically killed off in a courtroom shoot-out. She promptly returned to the New York stage in "Tongue of a Bird" (1999), reprising a role she played a few years earlier at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum. Lawrence was not absent from primetime for long, with CBS casting her on "Ladies Man" (1999-2000), as the pregnant wife of Alfred Molina, a long-suffering male in the midst of an extended family of five women who hopes against hope that his new baby will be a boy.

Lawrence enjoyed a Broadway run as Velma Kelly in "Cabaret" and starred on another short-lived, hour-long drama series, "Wolf Lake" (CBS, 2001-02). In September 2002, she appeared in "Under the Blue Sky" by David Eldridge at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Following a supporting role in the romantic comedy "Little Black Book" (2004), Lawrence scored big with a recurring stint as suburban housewife-turned-call girl Maisy Gibbons on season one of the hit primetime drama "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012). From there, she joined USA Network's comic detective series "Monk," in a recurring role as a real estate agent-turned-murderer, and did double-duty as the deadbeat mom of estranged sisters Megan and Lily on the short-lived, luxury-set series "Privileged" (The CW, 2008-09). However a guest spot as the mother of doctor Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) earned Lawrence another Emmy Award nomination in 2009.

By Susan Clarke