Martha Plimpton

Martha Plimpton
Martha Plimpton

Martha Plimpton, May 23, 2010
Born Martha Campbell Plimpton
November 16, 1970 (1970-11-16) (age 41)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1981 – present
Relatives Keith Carradine (father)
Shelley Plimpton (mother)
John Carradine (grandfather)
Carradine family

Martha Campbell Plimpton (born November 16, 1970) is an American actress and singer and former model. Plimpton is a screen, stage and television actress. She first appeared as Jonsy in the feature film River Rats (1984) before rising to prominence in the Richard Donner film The Goonies (1985) portraying the character Stef. She then appeared in The Mosquito Coast (1986) portraying Emily Spellgood.[1] Plimpton's role garnered her further success within the feature film industry. Throughout her career Plimpton has appeared in many feature films including critically successful films Running on Empty (1988), Parenthood (1989), Eye of God (1997), The Sleepy Time Gal (2001), Hair High (2004) and Small Town Murder Songs (2011).[2]

Plimpton has also developed and established a very successful career in stage productions. She has appeared on Broadway and in theatre throughout her career. She is recognised on Broadway for her roles in The Coast of Utopia (2006-2007), Top Girls (2007-2008), Pal Joey (2008-2009) and Shining City (2006-2007). She has performed in theatre productions of The Playboy of the Western World, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Glass Menagerie, Hedda Gabler, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Heidi Chronicles and Uncle Vanya. Off-Broadway, she has appeared in Boston Marriage (2002), Pericles, Prince of Tyre (2002) and Runaways (2002).[3]

Plimpton has appeared in many television roles throughout her career. She has appeared in guest roles on Family Ties (1985), ER (1999), Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (2002), 7th Heaven (2004), Law and Order: Criminal Intent (2006), Surface (2006), The Good Wife (2009 & 2010), Medium (2009), Greys Anatomy (2009), Fringe (2010) and How To Make It In America (2010).[4]

Plimpton currently plays Virginia Chance on the FOX television series Raising Hope. For her role she received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2011.[5]

Plimpton's roles in film and television are very often favourable among viewers and critics. Plimpton has garnered three consecutive Tony Award nominations: A Best Featured Actress in a Play in 2007 for her role in Top Girls. Best Featured Actress in a Play again in 2008 for Coast of Utopia. Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2009 for Pal Joey.[6] Plimpton's roles in television have earned her two primetime Emmy award nominations: In 2002, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for portraying Claire Rinato on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and in 2011 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her critically praised portayal of Virginia Chance on Raising Hope.[7]


Early life

More Information: Carradine family

Plimpton was born and raised in New York City, the daughter of actors Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton. Her parents met while performing in the original Broadway run of Hair. Her paternal grandfather was actor John Carradine and she is the niece of Robert and the late David Carradine. She is a "very distant" cousin of the late writer and editor George Plimpton,[8][9] and, despite the different spelling, cartoonist Bill Plympton.[10] She attended the Professional Children's School in Manhattan.[11] Her first stage appearance was when her mother brought her on stage in costume for the curtain call of the short-lived Broadway play The Leaf People.[12]



Plimpton began her career in modeling, securing an early 1980s campaign for Calvin Klein, making an impression as a sophisticated but tomboyish little girl. She made her screen debut in 1981, when at the age of 11 she had a small part in the film Rollover. In 1984, she appeared in the Deep South independent drama The River Rat opposite Tommy Lee Jones. Her breakthrough performance was as Stef Steinbrenner in the 1985 feature film The Goonies. She also appeared that year in a featured role on the television sitcom Family Ties.

This would begin a trend of Plimpton being typecast in the role of a rebellious tomboy for several years, beginning with her critically lauded performance as the Reverend Spellgood (Andre Gregory)'s daughter in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast, starring Harrison Ford. The critically praised but commercially unsuccessful 1987 film Shy People was followed by a performance in the 1988 ensemble comedy Stars and Bars. This was released shortly before Running on Empty, an Academy Award-nominated film starring River Phoenix, for which she was nominated for a Young Artist Award.

She began what became a career trend, mixing small independent film appearances with supporting roles in big-budget films. She appeared in the 1989 Woody Allen film Another Woman; that year, she co-starred with Jami Gertz as a cancer patient in the German film Zwei Frauen (released in America as Silence Like Glass). The film was nominated for Outstanding Feature Film at the German Film Awards. Plimpton shaved her head bald to play a cancer patient in Zwei Frauen, and her reputation for playing rebellious teenagers secured her the role of the indignant teenage daughter (who shaves her head) of Dianne Wiest in Parenthood. Plimpton appeared alongside Joaquin Phoenix (then credited as Leaf Phoenix), the younger brother of her former boyfriend, River, who portrayed her on-screen brother. Parenthood grossed over $126 million dollars and received two Academy Award nominations, making it her most successful movie performance to date since The Goonies.

Plimpton attending the 61st Academy Awards, 1989


In 1991, Plimpton appeared in the Robert De Niro film Stanley & Iris in a supporting role. In 1992, Plimpton appeared as a lesbian terrorist in the independent film Inside Monkey Zetterland. She played the starring role in the film Samantha.

The success of Samantha garnered Plimpton a variety of roles in 1993. She appeared with Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the television film Daybreak and was a part of the mostly improvised television film Chantilly Lace. She had a featured role in the big-budget films Josh and S.A.M. and played the lead in the critically blasted film adaptation of the Carolyn Chute novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine. Plimpton also appeared that year as herself in the independent film My Life's in Turnaround, a movie about filmmakers trying to make a movie. Plimpton continued to make appearances in featured roles in both independent films and mainstream movies from 1994 through 1997, most notably as a close friend of radical feminist Valerie Solanas in the film I Shot Andy Warhol.

In 1997, the Showtime Network cast Plimpton as the female lead in a television film called The Defenders: Payback. The show was a retooling of the classic television show by the same name, and the characters were descendants of character Lawrence Preston, a role reprised by actor E.G. Marshall. The intent was to spin the program off into a series akin to Law & Order, but Marshall died in 1998. Two additional episodes (The Defenders: Choice of Evils and The Defenders: Taking the First) were aired as specials that year. The decision was made to not continue production (despite high ratings and critical praise) due to Marshall's death.[citation needed]

Plimpton became involved with The Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago where she appeared in Hedda Gabler (2001) among others.[13] In 1998 she appeared in the John Waters film Pecker; the film was lambasted but Plimpton's work was praised. This also occurred with her appearance in the 1999 crafty 200 Cigarettes. In 1999, Plimpton had a recurring role in the television drama ER as Meg Corwyn.


In 2001, she co-starred with Jacqueline Bisset in The Sleepy Time Gal, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival.

In 2002, she appeared in the documentary film Searching for Debra Winger and was nominated for an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on the television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Plimpton was the voice of Miss Crumbles in the 2004 animated film Hair High by Bill Plympton. In 2004, she also guest-starred on an episode of 7th Heaven; she received her first writing credit for a different episode of the show that year entitled "Red Socks". She continues to act in television, film and on stage. She had a recurring role on the NBC show Surface (2005–06).[citation needed]

Plimpton attending the 63rd Tony Awards, 2009

From October 2006 until May 2007, she was in The Coast of Utopia, a trilogy of plays by Tom Stoppard that played at the Lincoln Center. For her work in this play she won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony award. In October 2007 Plimpton completed a starring role in A Midsummer Night's Dream on Broadway in New York City. She then began rehearsals for the play Cymbeline. She co-founded a production company, Everything is Horrible, which has produced a number of short films for the internet.

Plimpton received her second nomination for a Tony Award in 2008, Best Performance by a Featured Actress In a Play, for her work in Top Girls at the Biltmore Theater.[14]

In November 2008, she earned rave reviews as Gladys Bumps in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of the classical Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey on Broadway and garnered her third consecutive Tony nomination, this time for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Plimpton appeared in the 2008 Entertainment Weekly photo issue spread as one of "The Hardest Working Actors In Showbiz." In the spread she appears with Lance Reddick, Celia Weston, John Slattery, Bobby Cannavale, James Rebhorn, Lynn Cohen, Matt Servitto and Bob Balaban. Plimpton says in the write-up about her "I went to jury duty the other day, and somebody said, 'You always play drug addicts!' I've played a few on TV, and I imagine because the shows get replayed, it seems like more. But yeah, people tend to see me as this pregnant teenage heroin addict."[15]


In November 2009, Plimpton signed on as a main cast member on the Fox sitcom Raising Hope. The show premiered on September 21, 2010, receiving strong reviews for both Plimpton and the pilot itself. The New York Times called Raising Hope "the most promising" of "the best new fall shows,"[16] and said "Plimpton isn't the only reason 'Raising Hope' could be the best new sitcom of the season, but she is the main reason."[17] On July 14, 2011, Plimpton was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal as Virginia Chance in Raising Hope and submitted the episode "Say Cheese" on her behalf.

Plimpton performed "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch of Game 3 of the 2010 World Series in Texas on Fox, October 30, 2010.

On December 15, 2010, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre announced that Plimpton will be the guest of honor at their second-annual "Salute to Women in the Arts".[18]

In 2010, starred in Ed Gass-Donnelly's independent, crime, thriller Small Town Murder Songs, and was given the trophy for best actress by the Whistler Film Festival.[19]

Other work

Plimpton is friends with singer Lucy Wainwright Roche. In 2008, she performed a duet with Roche on the E.P. 8 More singing the Bruce Springsteen song Hungry Heart. In 2010 she sang another Springsteen song, this time Thunder Road, on the public radio program Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, accompanied by acclaimed whistler Eric Gilliland.[20] She has appeared multiple times as a featured guest on public radio's The Leonard Lopate Show, and performed in a roast of Lopate celebrating the 25th anniversary of his radio program.[21]

Plimpton sits on the board of directors of The Players,[22] a New York City social club founded in 1888 by actor Edwin Booth. In 2009 she was profiled by The New York Times for their "A Night Out With..." series, in which Plimpton hosted an evening of poker at The Players.[23]

In January 2010, she performed a one-woman show called Martha Plimpton Sings? for the Lincoln Center's American Songbook program.[24] The show explored her experiences growing up in 1970s New York City. Her performance, well received by critics,[25] included such songs as "Jolly Coppers on Parade", "Woman Is the Nigger of the World", and The Smiths's "Ask" tied together with humorous monologues.

Plimpton also narrates audiobooks, notably the novels Diary by Chuck Palahniuk and Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh.

Media references

She is referenced in the Lawrence Arms song "Light Breathing (Me and Martha Plimpton in a Fancy Elevator)," a song detailing the singer unexpectedly stepping into an elevator with her and being unable to overcome shyness to ask her out.

Personal Life

River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton on the red carpet at the 61st Academy Awards, 1989

Plimpton is a member of the Carradine family.[26]

Plimpton's high-profile relationship with River Phoenix, including their appearance together at the Academy Awards, overshadowed her work. Their relationship would later end due to Plimpton's objection to his recreational drug use, from which he died in 1993.[27]

Plimpton was engaged to stage actor Jon Patrick Walker in March 1995. The couple were planning to wed in April 1996, according to Plimpton's spokeswomen, who said, "She [Plimpton] is just extraordinarily pleased", "Her [Plimpton's] immediate reaction was to call everyone she knew". Shortly thereafter the couple announced they would not be proceding with their nuptials.[28]


Year Film Role Other notes
1981 Rollover Fewster's Older Daughter
1984 The River Rat Jonsy
1985 The Goonies Stef Steinbrenner Nominated, Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress- Motion Picture, Young Artist Award
1986 A Life in the Day
The Mosquito Coast Emily Spellgood Nominated, Best Young Female Superstar in Motion Pictures, Young Artist Award
1987 Shy People Grace Nominated, Best Supporting Female, Independent Spirit Award
1988 Stars and Bars Bryant
Running on Empty Lorna Phillips Nominated, Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama Young Artist Award
Another Woman Laura
1989 Zwei Frauen Claudia Jacoby
Parenthood Julie Buckman-Higgins
1990 Stanley and Iris Kelly King
1992 A Blink of Paradise Mother
Inside Monkey Zetterland Sofie
Samantha Samantha
1993 The Perfect Woman
Josh and S.A.M. Alison (The Liberty Maid)
My Life's In Turnaround Herself
1994 The Beans of Egypt, Maine Earlene Pomerleau
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Jane Grant
1995 Last Summer in the Hamptons Chloe
1996 I Shot Andy Warhol Stevie
Beautiful Girls Jan
I'm Not Rappaport Laurie Campbell
1997 Colin Fitz Ann
Eye of God Ainsley Dupree
1998 Music from Another Room Karen Swan
Pecker Tina
1999 200 Cigarettes Monica
2001 The Sleepy Time Gal Rebecca
2004 Hair High Miss Crumbles Voice
2006 Marvelous Gwen
2007 Dante's Inferno Celia
2008 Gone to the Dogs Leslie
Puppy Love Leslie
2010 I Thought About You Gloria
Small Town Murder Songs Sam
Remember Me Helen Craig


Year Series Role Episode and other notes
1985 Family Ties Jessie Black "You've Got a Friend"
1999 ER Meg Corwin "Humpty Dumpty"
"The Peace of Wild Things"
"Truth and Consequences"
"Sins of the Fathers"
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Claire Rinato "Denial" (Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series)
2003 Karen Sisco Chelsea Wentworth "The One That Got Away"
Hack Louise O'Connor "Black Eye"
2004 7th Heaven Venus "Regret to Inform"
2006 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Jo Gage "Blind Spot"
Surface Mr. Big/Dr. Morris "Fugitives on the Run"
"Experiment Gone Awry"
2009 The Good Wife Patti Nyholm "Crash"
Medium Rosemary Widdick "Pain Killer"
Grey's Anatomy Pam Michaelson "Good Mourning"
2010 Fringe Sheriff Ann Mathis "Northwest Passage"
How to Make It in America Edie Weitz "Never Say Die"
"Keep on Truck'n"
"Big in Japan"
"Unhappy Birthday"
"Paper, Denim + Dollars"
The Good Wife Patti Nyholm "Heart"
2010–present Raising Hope Virginia Chance Series Regular
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (2011)
  • Plimpton wrote the 2005 7th Heaven episode "Red Socks."



  • Top Girls Nominated, Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
  • The Coast of Utopia Nominated, Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play; Won Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play; Won Outer Critic's Circle for Best Featured Actress in a Play
  • Cymbeline
  • Pal Joey Nominated, Tony Award, Best Featured Actress in a Musical; Nominated, Drama Desk Award, Best Featured Actress in a Musical
  • Sixteen Wounded
  • Shining City

The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Off Broadway

Seattle Repertory Theatre

New York Philharmonic

Awards and recognition

Plimpton has garnered three consecutive Tony Award nominations: In 2007 for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in Top Girls, in the same category in 2008 for Coast of Utopia, and for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2009 for Pal Joey. In 2002 she received an Emmy Award nomination for her performance in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She received another Emmy nomination in 2011 for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy for her work in the first season of Raising Hope. She submitted the episode "Say Cheese."

Plimpton won the 2001 Obie Award for Outstanding Performance for Hobson's Choice. She also won the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critic's Circle Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 2008 for her role in Coast of Utopia, and was nominated again for a Drama Desk Award in 2009 for Pal Joey.

In film, Plimpton has been nominated for three Young Artist Awards: Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress for Goonies, Best Young Female Superstar in Motion Pictures for The Mosquito Coast, and Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture for Running on Empty. She was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the Best Supporting Female category for her performance in Shy People.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Adams, Cindy "Cousins Who Miss, Kiss, Hiss and Dismiss" The New York Post, July 24, 2009 "Martha Plimpton on cousin George Plimpton: "There was no Plimpton competition. We encouraged each other. People see the Plimptons as stodgy, but there's this whole other Plimpton branch that's different. We're not all bankers."
  9. ^
  10. ^ Plympton, Bill "But through my beautiful and talented cousin, Martha Plimpton (the star of Broadway), David, her uncle, was kind enough to do a starring voice in my wonderful film "Hair High."
  11. ^ Ryzik, Melena. "So Odd, but Lately in Classic Fashion", The New York Times, November 25, 2007. Accessed November 25, 2007. "ON a break from rehearsals for “Cymbeline” at Lincoln Center Martha Plimpton dashed outside for a cigarette and immediately ran into a classmate from her alma mater, the nearby Professional Children’s School."
  12. ^ "Working in the Theatre" – April 2004 panel discussion at American Theatre Wing
  13. ^ Steppenwolf Theatre website company list
  14. ^ – The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards
  15. ^,,20232072_2,00.html
  16. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (September 9, 2010). "‘Raising Hope' and ‘Outsourced' Embrace Malaise". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ New York Times review of Raising Hope
  18. ^ Theatre in Chicago website
  19. ^ "Small Town Murder Songs". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (February 1, 2009). "Old Hand, New Hands". The New York Times. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Suskin, Steven (January 18, 2010). "Martha Plimpton Sings?". 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^,,296443,00.html

External links

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