Philadelphia-born actress Holland Taylor majored in drama at Bennington College, and arrived in New York in 1966, hoping to take the theater world by storm. That didn't quite happen, despite Taylor making her Broadway debut in The Devils, starring Anne Bancroft, and working with Alan Bates in Butley (she was also in that notorious failure, Moose Murders). A protégée of legendary acting teacher Stella Adler, Taylor endured 14 years of disappointments interspersed with the occasional success, and played in one heavily hyped television series (CBS's Beacon Hill) that failed in less than a season, all of it broken up by work in the daytime drama The Edge of Night.
Finally, in 1980, lightning struck when Taylor was cast in the series Bosom Buddies in the role of Ruth Dunbar, the acid-tongued advertising agency executive employing the two protagonists of the program, played by Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari. Taylor accepted the part despite some initial reluctance, mostly thanks to Adler's urging, but she proved almost as much of a breakout personality onscreen as Hanks and Scolari. Taylor took lines written with venom and added her own wry twists to their meanings and inflections, and made all of her scenes memorable. The series only lasted two full seasons, but when it folded, Taylor was being offered television and movie roles on a steady basis. Most of her subsequent series didn't last more than a season each, but Taylor's parts, usually as charmingly acerbic middle-aged women, stayed big and got larger, up through programs such as The Naked Truth, starring Téa Leoni.
Taylor's big-screen appearances have included supporting roles in such diverse films as The Truman Show, Spy Kids 2, Legally Blonde, George of the Jungle, Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, How to Make an American Quilt, Fame, She's Having a Baby, and To Die For. She's also had some choice parts in made-for-television movies, including playing Nancy Reagan in The Day Reagan Was Shot, but Taylor's most successful medium remains the television series. In recent years, she has proved a mainstay of producer David E. Kelley's stable of actors, taking on the recurring role of Judge Roberta Kittleson, a Boston jurist whose sex-drive is a match for her legal intellect, in the series The Practice (with a cross-over appearance in the same role on Ally McBeal), winning an Emmy for her work on the show's 1999 season. That series, which has included an episode featuring Taylor in a semi-nude scene, has not only given the middle-aged actress a chance to explore sides of her screen persona that other producers never even considered, but has transformed her into a sex symbol among the ranks of mature actresses, right up there with Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson in the stage version of The Graduate.
As the new century began she continued to work steadily in both movies and TV in projects such as Happy Accidents, playing the first-lady in The Day Reagan Was Shot, Legally Blonde, and Spy Kids 2. She returned to series television with a recurring role on Two and a Half Men, which was the most-watched sitcom on TV during part of its successful run. She also appeared in the big screen comedy Baby Mama.