Camryn Manheim

Active - 1990 - 2018  |   Born - Mar 8, 1961 in Caldwell, New Jersey, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Children's/Family

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

After toiling in minor film roles for years, Camryn Manheim finally attained the fame and respect denied to many overweight women who attempt to make it as actresses in Hollywood. In 1998, Manheim came to the attention of television audiences when she won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for her role as lawyer Ellenor Frutt on David E. Kelley's acclaimed law drama The Practice. Hoisting her award in the air and exuberantly declaring, "This is for all the fat girls!", the actress won over millions of viewers, many of whom may not have been aware of her existence before the awards ceremony.

Born in Caldwell, New Jersey on March 8, 1961, Manheim was raised in Peoria, Illinois and Long Beach California, the daughter of a math professor father and school teacher mother. She developed an interest in acting after attending a Renaissance fair at the age of sixteen, and she went on to get a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University in 1987. After graduating, Manheim made her (credited) screen debut with a miniscule role in Bonfire of the Vanities in 1990. A long series of similarly minor roles in films ranging from Jeffrey (1995) to Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) followed before she was cast in The Practice in 1997. After winning fame and an Emmy for her work on the show, Manheim gained additional exposure and respect with her role as a denizen of Todd Solondz's dysfunctional New Jersey suburbia in the acclaimed Happiness (1998). The following year, in addition to winning a Golden Globe and another Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Ellenor Frutt, Manheim continued to act in films, appearing in Fools Gold and Joe the King, both of which were shown at the 1999 Sundance Festival.

In the decades to come, Manheim would appear in several films, like An Unfinished Life and Slipstream, as well as on several successful TVseries, like The L Word, Ghost Whisperer, and Harry's Law.

In addition to acting, Manheim also authored Wake Up, I'm Fat, a memoir that began life as a one-woman show at New York's Public Theatre. By turns funny and excruciating, it details the actress's transformation from wholesome middle American to tattooed, dozen-earringed California biker, her struggles with those who told her she'd have to lose weight to fit in, and the trials and tribulations of making it in the entertainment industry.

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  • Worked at a Renaissance festival for four years as a teen.
  • Learned sign language at community college and worked at hospitals interpreting for patients.
  • Debuted on the New York stage in 1987 in Hydriotaphia.
  • Made big-screen debut in 1990's The Bonfire of the Vanities.
  • Wrote a one-woman off-Broadway show called Wake Up, I'm Fat! in 1994; a book of the same title followed in 1999.
  • An avid human-rights activist.