JoBeth Williams

JoBeth Williams

Williams at the SAG Foundation
brunch in January 2007
Born Margaret JoBeth Williams
(1948-12-06) December 6, 1948
Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Occupation Actress, TV director
Years active 1974–present
Spouse(s) John Pasquin (1982–present; 2 children)

Margaret JoBeth Williams (born December 6, 1948) is an American film, television and stage actress. Her directorial debut with the 1994 short film On Hope earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. Since 2009, she has served as president of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

Williams rose to prominence appearing in such films as Stir Crazy (1980), Poltergeist (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Day After (1983), Teachers (1984), and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). A three-time Emmy Award nominee, she was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her work in the TV movie Adam (1983) and the TV miniseries Baby M (1988). Her third nomination was for her guest role in the sitcom Frasier (1993–94). She also starred in the TV series The Client (1995–96) and had recurring roles in the TV series Dexter (2007) and Private Practice (2009–11).

Early life

Williams was born in Houston, Texas, and is the daughter of Frances Faye (née Adams), a dietitian, and Fredric Roger Williams, an opera singer and manager of a wire and cable company.[1] Williams grew up in the South Park neighborhood of Houston,[2] and attended Jones High School.[3]

She graduated from Pembroke College in Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1970, intending to become a child psychologist. Instead, she turned to theater, training with Jim Barnhill and John Emigh as well as at the Trinity Repertory Company, taking voice lessons to neutralize her Texan accent. Then she moved to New York City and began to appear in television series in the mid 1970s.


Early career

Williams's first television role was on the Boston-produced first-run syndicated children's television series Jabberwocky, which debuted in 1972. Her character was named, appropriately enough, JoBeth. She joined the Jabberwocky cast in season two, replacing the original hostess, Joanne Sopko.[4] The series ran until 1978. She was a regular on two soap operas, playing Carrie Wheeler on Somerset and Brandy Shelloe on Guiding Light. Williams's feature film debut came in 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer as a girlfriend of Dustin Hoffman's character, memorably quizzed by his son after being discovered walking nude to the bathroom.[4]

Motion pictures

Williams is perhaps most recognized for her roles in Stir Crazy (1980), with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, and Poltergeist (1982), as suburban housewife Diane Freeling, a character she reprised in a sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, 1986).[4] A year later she was part of the ensemble comedy-drama The Big Chill (1983). This led to her only major starring role in a studio feature film, American Dreamer (1984), opposite Tom Conti. High-profile co-starring roles in Teachers (1984) with Nick Nolte, Desert Bloom (1986) with Jon Voight, Memories of Me with Billy Crystal (1988), and Blake Edwards's Switch (1991) with Ellen Barkin followed.

She is also known for starring opposite Kris Kristofferson in Oscar-winning director Franklin J. Schaffner's final film, the Vietnam POW drama Welcome Home (1989). In 1992 she reteamed with Big Chill director Lawrence Kasdan to portray Bessie Earp in Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner, and starred as Crazy Diane/Sane Diane, a schizophrenic shut-in, in the dark independent comedy, Me, Myself & I.

She also co-starred with Ed O'Neill in director John Hughes's comedy Dutch (1991) and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) as the police detective/love interest of Sylvester Stallone's character. In 1995, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her 1994 live-action short On Hope, starring Annette O'Toole; the film was Williams's directorial debut. In 1997, she played a domineering lesbian in the independent comedy, Little City, with Jon Bon Jovi, and a hysterical publishing editor in Just Write with Jeremy Piven. In 2005 she appeared in the Drew Barrymore-Jimmy Fallon baseball comedy Fever Pitch.

In October 2011 she appeared with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones, and Jack Black in the bird-watching comedy, The Big Year, for Twentieth Century Fox.

Television work

Williams has also gained critical acclaim for a number of performances in notable television movies, including the nuclear holocaust film The Day After (1983), Murder Ordained (1987), as Lois Burnham Wilson in My Name is Bill W. (1989), and the critically acclaimed Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Ponder Heart (2003) for director Martha Coolidge.[5]

She earned Emmy nominations for starring as real-life characters Revé Walsh (the wife of John Walsh) in the film Adam (1983) and Mary Beth Whitehead in Baby M (1988). In 1993, she anchored the improvised Showtime dramedy Chantilly Lace with Helen Slater and Martha Plimpton.

She also had an Emmy-nominated guest-starring role on Frasier[4] and played Reggie Love in the 1995–1996 CBS series The Client (adapted from the 1994 film of the same title), which lasted only 21 episodes but gained a wider audience when it was rebroadcast in reruns on the TNT Network.[6]

Williams appeared on a 2006 episode of 24 as Christopher Henderson (Peter Weller)'s wife, Miriam, who literally takes a (nonfatal) bullet for her husband.

She appeared in one episode of the 1998 TV miniseries From the Earth to the Moon as Marge Slayton, the wife of Deke Slayton. The episode is part 11 of the series and titled "The Original Wives Club."

In 1999, Williams teamed with John Larroquette and Julie Benz for the CBS network situation comedy Payne. The show, which was the American television version of the hit British comedy Fawlty Towers, lasted just ten episodes.

In 2007, she joined Dexter for a four-episode arc as the serial killer's future mother-in-law. Also, she appeared in a memorable 2009 Criminal Minds listed as Special Guest Star in the episode "Empty Planet" as Professor Ursula Kent, who helps the BAU with a bomb threat in Seattle.

She has played the recurring role of Bizzy Forbes-Montgomery, mother of Kate Walsh's Addison, on ABC's Private Practice since 2009.

In 2014, she appeared in the CBS sci-fi drama Extant, as Leigh Kern (season 1, episode 7).

Personal life

She is married to TV and film director John Pasquin (with whom she worked on Jungle 2 Jungle); they have two children.


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Jabberwocky JoBeth
1977–1978 Guiding Light Brandy Shelloe
1979 Kramer vs. Kramer Phyllis Bernard
1980 Stir Crazy Meredith
Dogs of War, TheThe Dogs of War Jessie Shannon
1982 Poltergeist Diane Freeling Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actress
Endangered Species Harriet Purdue
1983 Big Chill, TheThe Big Chill Karen
Adam Revé Walsh Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Day After, TheThe Day After Nurse Nancy Bauer
1984 Teachers Lisa Hammond
American Dreamer Cathy Palmer/Rebecca Ryan
1985 Kids Don't Tell Claudia Ryan
1986 Desert Bloom Lily Chismore
Poltergeist II: The Other Side Diane Freeling
Adam: His Song Continues Revé Walsh
1987 Murder Ordained Lorna Andersen
1988 Memories of Me Lisa the Christian
Baby M Mary Beth Whitehead Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
1989 My Name Is Bill W. Lois Bernham Wilson
1990 Welcome Home Dee Mobley
Child in the Night Dr. Hollis
1991 Switch Margo Brofman
Dutch Natalie Standish
Victim of Love Dr. Tess Palmer aka Raw Heat
1992 Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot Lt. Gwen Harper
Me, Myself & I Crazy Diane/Sane Diane
Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted Ginny Moore
Fish Police Angel 6 episodes, voice
1993 Chantilly Lace Natalie
1993–1994 Frasier Madeline Marshall 3 episodes
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
1994 Wyatt Earp Bessie Earp
On Hope Nominated — Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
Parallel Lives Winnie Winslow
1995 Hallmark Hall of Fame: A Season of Hope Elizabeth Hackett aka The Lemon Grove
1995–1996 The Client Regina 'Reggie' Love 21 episodes
1996 Ruby Jean & Joe Rose
1997 When Danger Follows You Home Anne Werden
Little City Anne
Jungle 2 Jungle Dr. Patricia Cromwell
Just Write Sidney Stone
1998 Chance of Snow, AA Chance of Snow Maddie Parker
From the Earth to the Moon Marge Slayton Episode 11: The Original Wives Club
1999 It Came From the Sky Alice Bridges
Payne Constance 'Connie' Payne 9 episodes
2000 Trapped in a Purple Haze Sophie Hanson
2001 Masterpiece Theatre: The Ponder Heart Edna Earle Ponder
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mrs. Rawley 1 episode
2005 Into the Fire June Sickles
crazylove Mrs. Mayer
14 Hours Jeanette Makins
Fever Pitch Maureen Meeks
2006 24 Miriam Henderson 1 episode
2006–2007 The Nine Sheryl Kates 2 episodes
2007 Sybil Hattie
Dexter Gail Brandon 4 episodes
2009 TiMER Marion
Uncorked Sophia Browning
Criminal Minds Ursula Kent 1 episode
2009–2011 Private Practice Bizzy Montgomery 6 episodes
2011 NCIS Leona Phelps 1 episode
Love's Christmas Journey Charlyn
Big Year, TheThe Big Year Edith Preissler
2012 Scandal Sandra Harding 1 episode
2011–2012 Hart of Dixie Candice Hart 3 episodes
2013 Mistresses Janet 1 episode
Perception Margaret
2014 In My Dreams Charlotte TV film
2014–2015 Marry Me Myrna Recurring role
2015 Your Family or Mine Ricky Series regular


  1. JoBeth Williams Biography (1948?-)
  2. Shilcutt, Katharine. "Still Standing." Houston Press. Wednesday January 12, 2011. 1. Retrieved on January 13, 2011.
  3. "Distinguished HISD Alumni," Houston Independent School District'. Retrieved on January 13, 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 JoBeth Williams- Biography, Yahoo! Movies
  5. "JoBeth Williams' 'THE CLIENT' begins encore run on TNT". The Houston Chronicle. March 14, 1999.
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