Jill Hennessy

Jill Hennessy Headshot

Actress

Birth Date: November 25, 1968

Age: 55 years old

Birth Place: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Raven-haired actress Jill Hennessy's self-confidence and maturity led to early success as a cast member of the enduring crime drama series "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010), in the role of Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid for three seasons. Perhaps due in part to the nomadic nature of her childhood, Hennessy refused to limit her creative output, picking up parts in feature films like Ron Howard's ensemble drama "The Paper" (1994) and a supporting role in the indie biopic "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1995). After her departure from "Law & Order," she had more small turns on the big screen in projects such as the romantic-comedy "A Smile Like Yours" (1997), as well as the cliché-ridden action movie "Most Wanted" (1997). Hennessy made a return to television in the historical miniseries "Nuremburg" (TNT, 2001), as an attorney assisting Nazi war crimes prosecutor Alec Baldwin, prior to starring in a series of her own, "Crossing Jordan" (NBC, 2001-07). As driven medical examiner Jordan Cavannaugh, she doggedly pursued justice for those no longer able to secure it for themselves. After "Crossing Jordan" completed its run, there were more film roles for Hennessy, such as the critically panned, but commercially successful, "Wild Hogs" (2007) and the independent family melodrama "Lymelife" (2008). While never a major marquee name, Hennessy's talent and likability allowed her to continue to work on projects both pragmatic and personal.

Born on Nov. 25, 1968 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to parents John and Maxine, Jillian Noel Hennessy moved frequently as a child, due to the nature of her father's job as a meat salesman and marketing executive. In 1982, Hennessy's mother abruptly left the family, requesting not to have contact with her husband or children ever again, prompting her grandmother to step in and assist in the rearing of Jill and her two siblings. It was around this time when the future actress began looking to performance as a vocation. In her teens, Hennessy performed with a local Canadian improvisational troupe before moving to the city of Toronto at the age of 18. There she supported herself as a bartender, waitress and street performer, employing her natural gifts as a singer and learning to play guitar. Looking for acting opportunities, Hennessey and her twin sister, Jacqueline, made their film debut as twin prostitutes in director David Cronenberg's psycho-sexual thriller "Dead Ringers" (1988), which, like many of Cronenberg's films, was shot in Toronto. After a series of small spots in various Canadian-produced television series, Hennessey auditioned for a role in a high-profile musical theater production on a whim. Due to a combination of her musicality, onstage presence, and the fact that she spoke Spanish, the young performer was cast as Marie Elena, wife of the rockabilly icon in "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story," thus leading to her Broadway debut and relocation to New York City.

By the time the run of "Buddy" had ended, Hennessy had joined a band named The New Originals, with whom she played at many New York clubs. She reluctantly bid goodbye to her band mates, however, when she landed the prestigious role of Assistant D.A. Claire Kincaid, opposite veteran actor Sam Waterston, on the long-running police/courtroom procedural "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) in 1993. The show had been running for several seasons, and while personnel changes were nothing new for the series, it would take an actor with true gravitas to join the established cast without being overshadowed. Fortunately, Hennessy's coolly confident manner and natural ability meshed well with her more experienced co-stars. That same year, she appeared in her first prominent role in a feature film with the cheaply-produced sci-fi/action sequel "Robocop 3" (1993), starring as a robotics expert who helps out the mechanized hero. Hennessy found herself in markedly better company, surrounded by an exceptionally respectable ensemble cast in Ron Howard's paean to the newshound films of yore, "The Paper" (1994), playing the feisty daughter of a newspaper editor-in chief (Robert Duvall). She also had a brief turn as a reporter in the critically lauded independent biopic "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996), starring Lily Taylor as the woman who pulled the trigger and Jared Harris as the King of Pop Art.

After three seasons playing a buttoned-down lawyer on "Law & Order," Hennessy asked to leave the series in 1996 in order to pursue more work in feature films. Her first effort was in the thankless role of a woman with designs on Lauren Holly's husband (Greg Kinnear) in the tepid romantic-comedy "A Smile Like Yours" (1997). Hennessy followed up in the fall of that year with Keenan Ivory Wayans' hokey action film "Most Wanted" (1997). After a short run of direct-to-video projects like the crime thriller "Dead Broke" (1998), Hennessy took a supporting role in the barely-seen drama "Molly" (1999), as a doctor who performs a radical - and initially successful - treatment on a severely autistic woman (Elisabeth Shue). Next, she joined the cast of the indie dramedy "Chutney Popcorn" (2000), as the distressed girlfriend of an Indian-American lesbian woman who decides become a surrogate mother for her sister. The actress returned to TV as a lawyer, this time assisting in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the acclaimed basic cable miniseries "Nuremberg" (TNT, 2000), co-starring Alec Baldwin and Christopher Plummer. Hennessy next portrayed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the miniseries "Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot" (NBC, 2001) and was seen on the big screen as a tough lady cop in the hyperkinetic Steven Seagal actioner "Exit Wounds" (2001).

In the fall, Hennessy returned to the weekly series grind, this time headlining her own series in the forensic drama "Crossing Jordan" (NBC, 2001-07). Cast as a feisty, unconventional medical examiner who returns to her hometown of Boston, MA, Hennessy's Jordan Cavannaugh was a dedicated, if impetuous, professional who often went beyond the call of duty in her efforts to uncover the truth. Working well with a veteran cast that included Ken Howard as her father and Miguel Ferrer as her boss, the actress had a chance to create a complex, intelligent female character who audiences embraced, keeping the show afloat for a number of years. Although committed to the small screen, Hennessy still managed to seek out intriguing feature roles, as well. She co-starred in "Love in the Time of Money" (2002), an uneven romantic comedy set during the Nasdaq boom of the late 1990s. Back on television, Hennessy and the "Crossing Jordan" crew were enlisted for several cross-over appearances on the glitzy drama "Las Vegas" (NBC, 2003-08), starring James Caan and Josh Duhamel.

Even as "Crossing Jordan" was coming to an end, Hennessy gained wider exposure in "Wild Hogs" (2007), an insipid - yet astonishingly successful - comedy about four middle-aged buddies (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy), each going through their own mid-life crisis, who decide to embark on a cross-country motorcycle trip to prove their collective manhood. In another thankless role, Hennessy played the devoted wife of Allen, a dentist trying to look cool for his son. The actress followed with a more fleshed out portrayal in the independent film "Lymelife" (2008). In the dysfunctional family drama set in late-1970s Long Island, Hennessy played the frustrated wife of a philandering husband (Alec Baldwin), and mother of a teenager (Rory Culkin) simultaneously dealing with his own emerging sexuality and the disintegration of his parents' marriage. In a return to her musical roots, the actress-singer-songwriter fulfilled a life-long dream when she released her first full-length CD "Ghost in My Head" in 2009, making several live concert appearances in support of the album with such acts as The Indigo Girls.

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