An earthy strawberry blonde who has skirted typical leading lady roles to build a respectable career out of commendable supporting performances, talented Kathy Baker has time and again proven her cinematic worth with indispensable turns in such films as Edward Scissorhands (1990) and The Cider House Rules (1999). A native of Midland, TX, who received a degree in French from the University of California at Berkley, Baker studied briefly at the California Institute of Arts before abandoning her further education to reside in Paris for a number of years.
After returning stateside to make a name for herself on stage and screen, Baker found 1983 to be a pivotal year for her career when she won an Obie for her role in Sam Shepard's Fool for Love and made a lasting impression in director Philip Kaufman's space program drama The Right Stuff. Subsequent roles as a prostitute in Street Smart (1987) and a recovering alcoholic and victim of domestic abuse in Clean and Sober (1988) proved a testament to Baker's considerable onscreen skills; her performance in Street Smart earned her Best Supporting Actress awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics as well as an Independent Spirits awards nomination.
Baker was increasingly prevalent in quirky dramas throughout the 1990s, but it was her work on the small screen that earned Baker the majority of her recognition in that decade. Her winning performance as a small-town doctor and family woman proved a key component in the success of the small-screen drama Picket Fences during the show's 1992-1996 run, and though she would focus her attention on the series, Baker still made time to appear in such theatrical releases as Mad Dog and Glory (1993) and To Gillian in Her 37th Birthday (1996).
Frequently alternating between high-profile releases and independent efforts, no matter what the quality of the films, Baker's performances were consistently solid. The new millennium once again found Baker scoring a hit with her role in the popular television comedy drama Boston Public, and though she only served a two-season stint on the series, she soon returned to television work with Murphy's Dozen on 2003. Her role as an overbearing mother tackled the issue of teenage pregnancy to surprising effect in the 2002 made-for-television effort Too Young to Be a Dad. Following a supporting performance in Robert Duvall's Assassination Tango (also 2002), Baker could be spotted in director Anthony Minghella's eagerly anticipated Civil War romance Cold Mountain (2003).