Northwestern University drama student Shelley Long began picking up work in Chicago TV commercials in the mid-1970s. She went on to host the WMAQ-TV "magazine" program Sorting it Out, and honed her comic timing with the Second City troupe. While her actual film debut was in 1980's A Small Circle of Friends, Long prefers to list the 1981 spoof Caveman as her first film. After a handful of TV guest appearances (notably as one of Alan Alda's lady friends on MASH) and an attention-grabbing performance as a freewheeling hooker in Night Shift (1982), Long was cast as the pretentious, garrulous waitress Diane Chambers on the weekly sitcom Cheers. She won an Emmy for this role, but all was not roses on the Cheers set. According to most sources, Diane's overbearing personality spilled over into Long's off-camera behavior; when she left the series in 1987, many of the cast members, especially star Ted Danson, breathed a rather loud and public sigh of relief. Shelley Long's post-Cheers efforts to establish herself as a movie star have thus far fallen short of expectations; her most successful film assignment to date has been as retro housewife Carol Brady in 1995's The Brady Bunch: The Movie. She reprised the role of Carol in the 1996 sequel A Very Brady Sequel.
photo credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
by Hal Erickson biography