Her early experience a testament to the dangers of premature publicity, Gretchen Mol was all but declared Hollywood's new "it" girl before her career had even left the gates. After appearing in only a handful of films, Mol was chosen to star as Matt Damon's girlfriend in John Dahl's Rounders. A highly touted film that also starred Edward Norton, it was endlessly publicized before its 1998 release. Mol was made part and parcel of this publicity, and her blonde, milk-fed looks were the subject of numerous magazine articles, including a memorably provocative Vanity Fair September cover story. Rounders, however, turned out to be a sizable disappointment, and the slavish attention surrounding its female lead virtually evaporated. Mol continued to work steadily though, apparently refusing to disappear with the hype that had initially surrounded her.
Born in Deep River, Connecticut, on November 8, 1973, Mol entertained performing ambitions from a young age, studying musical theatre in addition to receiving a regular public school education. Following her high school graduation, she moved to New York, where she did a stint at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and began performing in a number of stage productions. To support herself, Mol also worked a number of odd jobs, the most fortuitous of which was as a coat-check attendant at a popular industry restaurant. There she was "discovered" by an agent, who subsequently got her work in commercials and on the TV sitcom Spin City.
Mol made her film debut with a supporting role as a phone-sex operator in Spike Lee's Girl 6 (1996) and went on to do bit work in Abel Ferrara's The Funeral (1996), Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco (1997), and Stephen Kay's The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997). Although these projects afforded Mol the opportunity to work with the likes of Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Claire Forlani, and Adrien Brody, she was quickly being typecast into "girlfriend" roles that capitalized more on her looks than acting abilities. She did do more substantial work in Music From Another Room (1998), opposite Jude Law, but the film went virtually unnoticed by critics and audiences.
After 1998, which in addition to the Rounders debacle, also featured Mol as part of the all-star ensemble cast of Woody Allen's much anticipated -- and much lambasted -- Celebrity, the actress continued to work, albeit far from the limelight's glare. She again collaborated with Allen on Sweet and Lowdown (1999), portrayed actress Marion Davies in Tim Robbins' star-studded ensemble drama Cradle Will Rock (1999), and starred opposite Ray Liotta and Joseph Fiennes in Paul Schrader's Forever Mine (1999). Mol also directed some of her energy towards television, portraying Madge Owens in the 2000 remake of Picnic and starring alongside Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Alfonso Arau's 2001 small-screen adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. A turn as one of the most iconic pin-up models of the 1950s followed in Mary Harron's The Notorious Betty Page, an on the heels of a high-profile role on the short-lived cop drama Life on Mars, Mol joined the cast of the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Created by Terence Winter (The Sopranos) and produced by Martin Scorsese, the lavish period crime series earned numerous critical accolades in its first few seasons, including two consecutive Screen Actor's Guild awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, in 2011 and 2012.