It seems appropriate that Julie Bowen, an actress who helps tutor high school students in her spare time and says she usually prefers staying home with a good novel to going out to a party, would rise to fame playing Carol Vessey, the pretty and quick-witted high school teacher on the popular comedy-drama series Ed.
Born Julie Bowen Luetkemeyer in Baltimore, MD, on March 3, 1970, Bowen first acquired a taste for acting as a child, when she began putting on plays with her sisters at home. Bowen developed a more serious interest in the theater while studying at Brown University, where she received a degree in Italian Renaissance studies; she appeared in a number of student theater productions, including Guys and Dolls and Lemon Sky, and in her senior year she was cast in her first film, an independent feature called Five Spot Jewel. After graduating, she began honing her craft by studying at the Actor's Institute, Shakespeare and Company, and Will Geer's Theatricum, and began pursuing a career in television, landing roles in television commercials and eventually winning a supporting role on the daytime drama Loving. She also appeared in a student film directed by Edward Burns, several years before he made his breakthrough independent feature The Brothers McMullen.
In 1995, Bowen became a regular on a short-lived adventure series, Extreme, and the following year she earned a showy role in the hit comedy feature Happy Gilmore. In 1998, Bowen did a nine-episode run on E.R., before debuting on Ed in 2000, receiving enthusiastic reviews and solid ratings, finally earning her an unqualified success on television. TV would offer Bowen several more successful roles over the coming years as well, from recurring roles on Lost and Weeds, to a starring role on the legal comedy/drama Boston Legal. The quirky, humorous vibe of the show showcased Bowen's sharp sense of comedy, leading to a starring role on the hit sitcom Modern Family.