Actress Rita Wilson has played supporting and leading roles on television and in feature films. Her first TV work was the recurring role of Nurse Lacey on the long-running CBS sitcom M*A*S*H. An athletic beauty, Wilson had leading roles in two short-lived series, The Cheerleaders (1976) and The Beach Girls (1977). She made her film debut in Cheech & Chong's Next Movie (1978). Though she could have continued her career playing fluffy roles, Wilson had higher aspirations and accepted an invitation to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. When not studying, Wilson honed her dramatic skills at the Macowan Theatre in London. Upon her return to the U.S., Wilson co-starred with Tom Hanks in Volunteers (1985). A romance flowered between the two and they married three years later. In 1993, Wilson played one of her best-known roles, that of Suzy, the girl who falls to pieces while describing the movie An Affair to Remember in Sleepless in Seattle. Wilson had a rare starring role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the holiday comedy Jingle All the Way (1996). Wilson has subsequently divided her time between films and television work, appearing in Hanks' feature directorial debut That Thing You Do! (1996) as well as such popular sitcoms as Mad About You and Frasier in addition to the acclaimed Hanks-produced miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. After a turn in Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho, Wilson could be seen in such romantic comedy/dramas as Runaway Bride and The Story of Us before her role as Leelee Sobieski's ill-fated mother in The Glass House (2001). In 2002 she had a huge hit as a producer when she helped bring the indie smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the big screen, and she got good reviews playing the wife of sex-addicted celebrity Bob Crane in Paul Schrader's drama Auto Focus. She went on to appear in Raise Your Voice, The Chumscrubber, Old Dogs, It's Complicated, and Larry Crowne, while she scored another success as a producer with the ABBA jukebox musical Mamma Mia!
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Of Greek and Bulgarian ancestry.
- Family changed surname to Wilson after a local street in Southern California.
- Began her modeling career at 14, when she was discovered by a photographer.
- Made a 1981 guest appearance on the sitcom Bosom Buddies as Peter Scolari's Satan-worshipping girlfriend.
- First starring role came in 1985's comedy Volunteers, in which she played a Peace Corps worker, opposite Tom Hanks, whom she married three years later.
- Along with Hanks, served as coproducer for the 2002 hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding; convinced Hanks to produce the movie after seeing Nia Vardalos's one-woman show.
- Debuted on Broadway in 2006 playing murderess Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago.
- Active in several charitable causes and organizations, including the Moffitt Cancer Center.