Robin Tunney

Active - 1992 - 2020  |   Born - Jun 19, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Mystery

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Born June 19th, 1972, actress Robin Tunney became known in the 1990s for her work in a number of teen and independent films. A native of Chicago's South Side, where she attended Catholic high school, Tunney studied acting at the Chicago Academy for the Performing Arts. She spent her summers performing in such stage productions as Bus Stop and Agnes of God. At the age of 18, Tunney moved to Los Angeles, where she began finding work on various television shows.

The actress made her screen debut in the 1992 Brendan Fraser/Pauly Shore comedy Encino Man. She had her first lead role in the teen ensemble film Empire Records (1995), playing a suicidal record store employee who announces her presence in the film by walking into the store and shaving her head. A year later, Tunney starred as a member of a group of high school misfits who use witchcraft to take revenge on their tormenters in The Craft. Sort of a Sixteen Candles meets Carrie, the film proved to be a cult hit, particularly with teenage girls.

Tunney subsequently made her name in independent dramas and mainstream films alike, doing particularly strong work in Niagara Niagara, earning the Venice Film Festival's Volpi Cup for Best Actress, for her portrayal of a young woman with Tourette's Syndrome. In 1999, she entered into the realm of bloated budgets and equally bloated plot premises, starring as Satan's intended bride alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days. That same year, she played a 22nd century paramedic in Supernova, a sci-fi thriller that had her racing against time to escape from an exploding star. After braving icy mountains in the adventure nail-biter Vertical Limit (2000) Tunney would turn-up as a fantasy prone animator placed under house arrest after the mysterious hit and run death of a police officer in the comedy thriller Cherish (2002).

In the wake of The In-Laws, Tunney would carry an impressive collection of independent thrillers including Paparazzi, Runaway, and The Zodiac, with a continuing role on the popular television drama Prison Break serving well to offer steady employment while letting her chose her film roles as she saw fit. A supporting role in frequent television director Allen Coulter's feature debut Hollywoodland found Tunney joining an impressive cast that included Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, and Adrien Brody to explore the mysterious last days of television Superman George Reevs.

Tunney became most recognizable for her starring role on The Mentalist as CBI Senior Special Agent Teresa Lisbon, who leads the Special Crime Unit and works directly with the show's protagonist, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). The Mentalist first aired in 2008 on CBS and ran through 2015.

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  • Began her acting career in commercials as a child in Chicago.
  • Studied acting at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and at the Second City Players Workshop, also in Chicago.
  • Wore a wig in The Craft (1996) because she shaved her head for her previous film, Empire Records (1995).
  • Won the Best Actress-Cuppa Volpe at the 1997 Venice Film Festival for her role in Niagara, Niagara.
  • Appeared with Luke Wilson in the music video for Tom Petty's 1999 single "Swingin'."
  • Underwent five weeks of mountaineering training before filming Vertical Limit (2000).
  • Appeared in the pilot episode of House as the patient of the week.
  • Competed in the eighth tournament of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, losing to Jason Alexander in the Championship game.