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Laura Elizabeth Metcalf was born on June 16, 1955 in Carbondale, Illinois. She is known for her Tony Award-winning performance as Nora in A Doll's House, Part 2, her Golden Globe-nominated performance as Marion McPherson in Ladybird, and her three-time Emmy Award-winning TV role as Jackie Harris on Roseanne.
Metcalf was raised in Edwardsville, Illinois, and eventually majored in theatre at Illinois State University. She graduated in 1976 with a bachelor of arts and began her acting career with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. She made her Off-Broadway debut in 1984 in a Steppenwolf production of Balm in Gilead, receiving both a Theatre World Award and an Obie Award. After relocating to New York City, Metcalf launched what would become a highly-celebrated stage career. During the 1980s, she starred as Beth in the 1986 Lincoln Center Theater production of Bodies, Rest and Motion and as Rita in the Westside Theatre's 1987 production of Willy Russell's Educating Rita.
On screen, Metcalf's first major film credit came in 1985, when she played Leslie Glass in Desperately Seeking Susan. Her career took off in 1988 after she was cast as Jackie Harris on the long-running ABC sitcom Roseanne. She appeared in a total of 221 episodes between 1988 and 1997, winning three Emmy Awards (from 1992 to 1994), and earning a further Emmy Award nomination (1995) and two Golden Globe nominations (1993 and 1995). Her other major TV credits over the course of her career include Emmy-nominated appearances in 3rd Rock from the Sun, Monk, Desperate Housewives, The Big Bang Theory, Horace and Peter, and as Dr. Jenna James on Getting On. She has also starred in a host of films over the years, including Uncle Buck (1989), Internal Affairs (1990), Pacific Heights (1990), JFK (1991), A Dangerous Woman (1993), Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Dear God (1996), Scream 2 (1997), and Lady Bird (2017), for which she was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. She has also worked in animation, voicing the roles of Sarah Hawkins in Disney's Treasure Planet (2002), Lucille Krunklehorn in Disney's Meet the Robinsons (2007), and Mrs. Davis in Pixar's Toy Story franchise.
On Broadway, after previously making her debut in the short-lived 1995 production of My Thing of Love, Metcalf became a regular on the scene from late 2007. She appeared in a string of roles including three Tony Award-nominated performances in November (2008), The Other Place (2013), and the stage adaptation of Stephen King's Misery (2016), opposite Bruce Willis. She also starred as Kate Jerome in the 2009 Broadway revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs and appeared off Broadway in The New Group's 2010 production of A Lie of the Mind at Theatre Row, the 2011 MCC Theater production of The Other Place (winning both a Lucille Lortel Award and an Obie Award), and the 2013 Lincoln Center Theater production of Domesticated. Metcalf has also appeared on the London stage in the National Theatre's 2001 revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons and as Mary Tyrone in the 2012 West End revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.
In 2017, Metcalf won her first Tony Award for her acclaimed performance as Nora Helmer in Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2, portraying the iconic Ibsen character from March 30 through July 23, 2017. She returned to Broadway to star alongside Glenda Jackson and Alison Pill in Edward Albee's Three Tall Women from February 27 through to June 24, 2018, and took home her second consecutive Tony Award for her efforts at the 2018 ceremony. She then took on the role of Hillary Clinton in Lucas Hnath's new play Hillary and Clinton at Broadway's Golden Theatre, earning yet another Tony Award nomination. The play began performances on March 16 and ran through June 23, 2019.
Her next Broadway venture — marking her record-breaking fifth consecutive season on Broadway — was in the iconic role of Martha in a revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? at the Booth Theatre, which began performances on March 3, 2020. However, the production was forced to close down on March 11 after just nine previews due to the Covid-19 pandemic.