My Life on TV: 'Good Doctor' Newcomer Lisa Edelstein Reflects on Her Biggest Roles (PHOTOS)
Edelstein started out on the sitcom circuit with spots on NBC’s Wings
, Mad About You
, where she appeared in two episodes opposite Jason Alexander as George’s sexually frustrated girlfriend Karen — better known by her nickname. "When I’m in New York, I still get catcalled: 'Yo! Risotto Girl!'" she says. "Those three roles helped me find a new agent and manager."
ABC’s romantic dramedy lasted just 17 episodes, but Edelstein made an impact in her first regular series role. She played Rhonda Roth, a lesbian, and had a major make-out scene, rare for TV at that time. "We went in for the kiss, liked it, went in for more," she recalls. "The network tried to cut the 'more' part, but the producers kept the scene intact. It was really daring and fun for me to portray her back in the ’90s."
The West Wing (1999–2000)
After a guest stint on Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night
, the producer asked Edelstein to play Laurie, an escort and law student, in his new NBC White House drama. She didn’t have to audition. "It was pretty fantastic to get offered a role for the first time," the actress says. "To top it off, there I was lying in bed in my underwear with Rob Lowe. If I knew that was in my future when I was 16, I would have died of being thrilled!"
Ally McBeal (2000–01)
Edelstein’s transgender character, Cindy McCauliff, dated Cage & Fish lawyer Mark Albert (James LeGros), who broke up with her when his friends didn’t approve. "Getting to play a trans woman was amazing on a lot of levels," she says. "I’d known trans people growing up and I wanted to play Cindy with elegance and respect. I almost didn’t get cast in House
because apparently [then Fox president of entertainment] Gail Berman thought I was a man. I guess I am that good!"
Executive producer Bryan Singer loved Edelstein in The West Wing
and signed her up for the role of hospital administrator/dean of medicine Lisa Cuddy on the Fox drama. "Being on a show that continues to be viewed by so many people is a unique experience," she says. "But for a while, I felt invisible. The show was about House [Hugh Laurie], then about the medical cases, then about the team. Who was this woman in ever-tighter skirts storming around in four-inch heels?"
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (2014–18)
This scripted Bravo show about self-help author Abby and her postdivorce group of gal pals "was another groundbreaking experience," says Edelstein. "I was 48 when I was cast as the romantic lead of a sexy dramedy. Plus, it was both hilarious and deeply heartfelt, so I got to act my — unaltered — face off. It was incredibly empowering. I also got to write, direct and produce."
The Good Doctor (2018–)
Edelstein joins the ABC hit in its sophomore season in the recurring role of Dr. Marina Blaize. Suspended by Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff) for smoking pot, she is reinstated "because she’s the best oncologist around and he has a brain tumor," she says. "I’ve known Richard since he played my dad on Relativity
, and I’m working again with House
creator and executive producer David Shore. It’s one of those sweet circle moments."
The Kominsky Method (2018–)
Edelstein says she was "in happy pants" when she won a recurring role on the Netflix show (premiering November 16) about acting, family and aging, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. Her Phoebe, the daughter of Arkin’s character, "is totally f---ed up, high, drunk and a perpetual liar. I love her!"
Author, physician, hooker — no typecasting for Lisa Edelstein!
In the gallery above, the newest star of The Good Doctor reflects on her career-defining roles. Click through to get her takes on House, Ally McBeal, The West Wing, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce, and more.
The actor got his break on the 1997 series 'Sunset Beach.'
The Good Doctor, Mondays, 10/9c, ABC