The cast of Ally McBeal in 1998. Clockwise from top left: Courtney Thorne-Smith, Gil Bellows, Calista Flockhart, Jane Krakowski, Peter MacNicol, Lisa Nicole Carson and Greg Germann.
Calista Flockhart —Now 52, Flockhart won over the show’s casting director Judith Weiner with memorable stage performances and her winsome turn as a rich girl with a heart of gold in The Birdcage. She charmed critics and viewers equally quickly, earning three Emmy nominations, five Golden Globes nominations and one win, and four SAG Awards during the show’s five-year run. Famously married to Harrison Ford, who she met at the 2002 Globes ceremony, she currently plays former CatCo CEO Cat Grant on CBS’ Supergirl.
Gil Bellows — Primarily a stage and film actor (and a Flockhart friend) when he was cast as Ally’s ex and boss Billy Thomas, Bellows charmed as the former beau Ally followed into the law, then fell for all over again. After Ally, Bellows, now 50, never landed an equally high profile gig, but has worked steadily in film, television and on the stage.
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Courtney Thorne-Smith — A Kelley favorite, having played Allison Parker on Melrose Place, Thorne-Smith longed for a break when the nighttime soap ended, but couldn’t resist Kelley’s new series. Playing Billy’s wife Georgia, the genial third wheel in the show’s central love triangle, Thorne-Smith eventually left the show because she felt too much pressure to be thin. Since then, the 49-year-old actress has made a solid career in television, spending nine years on According to Jim and another five on Two and a Half Men.
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Greg Germann — Playing Richard Fish, Cage, Fish and Associates’ wattle-loving partner (and Ally’s law school bud), Germann’s distinctive features make him the quintessential Ally McBeal “hey, it’s that guy” — appearing regularly in films and TV series. Currently playing Jon on the Netflix series Friends from College, the 59-year-old Germann is also an avid writer.
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Peter MacNicol—MacNicol, now 63, played Cage, Fish & Associates stuttering partner John Cage, who admits he was nicknamed “The Biscuit” as a chubby kid — much to the delight of Lucy Liu’s brash Ling Woo. MacNicol won a 2001 Emmy Award for his work as the eccentric lawyer, known for his love of Barry White and “the dismount” — his unique way of exiting a commode. MacNicol did just fine after Ally ended, landing memorable roles in Grey’s Anatomy, Numb3rs, 24 and a host of animated series and features. MacNicol currently plays “Uncle” Jeff Kane on HBO’s Veep.
Jane Krakowski —Krakowski, 48, shared an agent with Flockhart when both were auditioning, and landed the role as sexy, ambitious, theatrical office assistant Elaine Vassal. Currently playing Jacqueline White on Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which she won an Emmy, Krakowski balances a busy career in musical theater, television and the occasional film. Look for her singing a song about glue on pal Amy Sedaris’ upcoming truTV comedy At Home With Amy Sedaris.
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Lisa Nicole Carson — Carson did double time as Ally’s prosecuting attorney Renee Raddick (who was also Ally’s pal and roomie) and ER’s Carla Reece. Carson took time off after four seasons to deal with her newly discovered bipolar disorder — which she bravely discussed publicly. Carson returned to TV as now-judge Renee Raddick on the short-lived Kathy Bates starrer Harry’s Law, and the actress also appeared in this year’s The New Edition Story miniseries.
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Portia de Rossi — The Australian actress played Nelle Porter, a beautiful, icy newcomer to the firm who enters an unlikely romance with John Cage. Choosing roles in quirky series like Nip/Tuck and Arrested Development post-Ally, de Rossi came out in 2005 and married Ellen DeGeneres in 2008. Now 44, she most recently played the murdered Elizabeth North on the soon to end Scandal.
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Lucy Liu —When Liu lost the Nelle Porter role to Portia de Rossi, Kelley wrote the role of Porter’s brash pal Ling Woo specifically for her. A Cage & Fish client before joining the firm, Woo was best known for her sexual exploits — including a dream sequence in which she plants one on Ally. “I’d been told it was the first big female-to-female kiss on primetime television when we did it,” Liu, 48, told The Hollywood Reporter, “although I wasn’t sure if they were just saying that. Either way, it was very significant at the time because the show was such a huge hit and so many people would see it.” Liu currently plays Dr. Joan Watson on CBS’ long-running Elementary.
Vonda Shepard — You can’t talk Ally McBeal without mentioning Shepard, Kelley’s recording artist pal whom he made the show’s musical producer behind the scenes, then put her in front of the cameras as the resident singer in the bar McBeal and friends frequented. Shepard is currently touring the U.S., with a 2018 U.K. tour in the works. And we still play “Baby, Don’t You Break My Heart Slow” on regular rotation.
It was the series that made wide-eyed, waif-like Calista Flockhart both a star and a role model for upwardly mobile, inwardly quaking young female professionals. And doing the "animated dancing baby" boogie to Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" a fine way to acknowledge your ambivalence and/or heartache about marriage and babies.
Ally McBeal, the David E. Kelley creation about a lovelorn young attorney (Flockhart) and her quirky law firm colleagues, debuted on Sept. 8, 1997, and quickly became part of the pop-culture zeitgeist thanks to its unisex bathroom, unabashed discussion of feminism and sexuality, and an appealingly quirky cast that made you feel OK for being a little off kilter.
The prolific David E. Kelley is up for an Emmy yet again this year for adapting Liane Moriarty's 'Big Little Lies'
Scoring more than 13 million viewers at its zenith, plus a pair of Golden Globe nominations and multiple Emmy wins, Ally McBeal was a harbinger for truthy dramedies that wear their oft-bloodied hearts on their sleeves and happily blur the lines between thought-provoking, gut-busting and taboo-tweaking.
While only some cast members — Flockhart included — maintained their Ally-level fame and visibility, check out the gallery above to find out where you'll find your Ally McBeal favorites today.