Lily Rabe

Lily Rabe

Rabe in 2015
Born Lily Rabe
(1982-06-29) June 29, 1982
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actress
Years active 2001–present

Lily Rabe (born June 29, 1982) is an American actress. She is well known for playing Portia in the Shakespeare in the Park production of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, for which she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Rabe is also known for her multiple roles on the FX anthology series American Horror Story, and her lead role as Claire Bennigan on the ABC science fiction series The Whispers.

Early life

Rabe was born in 1982 in New York City, New York on the Upper West Side.[1] She is the daughter of playwright David Rabe and actress Jill Clayburgh (1944-2010). She has a younger brother, Michael Rabe, an actor and playwright, and an older half-brother, Jason Rabe, a musician, from her father's first marriage.[2] Her father is Catholic,[3] her maternal grandfather was Jewish, and her maternal grandmother was Protestant.[4] Rabe was raised in Bedford, and moved to Lakeville, Connecticut when she was in the seventh grade.[1] There, she attended the Hotchkiss School.[5]


Early years

Rabe studied dance for ten years. Rabe was teaching ballet at a summer arts program in Connecticut, when she was approached by the program's acting instructor, who asked her to perform a monologue in the final production.[6] Rabe performed a monologue from the play Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley.[6] Rabe stated: “It was that moment, performing that monologue, that made me think, ‘Maybe this is what I wanna do,’ ”[6] Rabe then went on to study acting at Northwestern University. In 2001, Rabe made her screen debut opposite her mother Jill Clayburgh in the film Never Again. In 2002, Rabe made her professional stage debut, again opposite her mother, at the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts. She starred in two one-act plays: Speaking Well of the Dead by Israel Horovitz, and The Crazy Girl by Frank Pugliese.[7] As a result of appearing in the plays, Rabe was able to get an Equity Card.[8] In July 2003, Rabe returned to the Gloucester Stage Company to appear in a production of Proof by David Auburn. The same year, she appeared in the film Mona Lisa Smile. Rabe graduated from Northwestern in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Theatre.[9]

After graduating, Rabe moved back to New York. From September 29 through October 2, 2004, she appeared in White Jesus by Deirdre O'Connor,[10] one of a series of one-act plays presented as The Democracy Project and organized by the Naked Angels Theater Company.[11] On January 21, 2005, she took part in a workshop production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at the Roundabout Theatre Company, which was directed by Joe Mantello.[12] She made her Broadway debut as Annelle in the 2005 revival of Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, directed by Jason Moore.[13] For her performance, Rabe was nominated for a Drama Desk Award.[14] Rabe had been cast in the play Sisters of the Garden but had to drop out after being cast in Steel Magnolias.[15] From September through to October 2005, she appeared in the American premiere of Colder Than Here by the English playwright Laura Wade at the MCC Theater.[16] Jeremy McCarter in New York Magazine listed Rabe's performance as one of the best breakthroughs of 2005.[17] From September to December 2006, Rabe played Ellie Dunn in Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw.[18] In 2007, she appeared in the film No Reservations. In August 2007, she appeared in Crimes of the Heart at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in a production which marked the directorial debut of actress Kathleen Turner.[19]

In 2008, the production transferred to Off-Broadway, presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company and staged at the Laura Pels Theatre, running from February 14 to April 13.[20] During a rehearsal, a piece of the set fell on Rabe, leaving her with a fractured rib.[21] Due to the injury, Rabe missed a week of preview performances and the opening night was moved back a week, from February 7 to February 14.[20] In August 2008, Rabe was cast in the HBO pilot Last of the Ninth, a drama set in the 1970s.[22] Rabe played a plainclothes cop in the pilot, which was written by David Milch and directed by Carl Franklin. In December 2008, it was reported that HBO had decided not to pick the pilot to series.[23] The same year, she appeared in the films What Just Happened and The Toe Tactic, as well as two episodes of Medium. From January to March 2009, Rabe appeared in the Broadway premiere of Richard Greenberg's 1990 play The American Plan at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.[24] In 2010, Rabe made her debut appearance at Shakespeare in the Park in a production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Daniel J. Sullivan, that ran from June 30 to August 1.[25] Rabe was cast as Portia, which she described as "one of the great female roles."[26] Rabe also co-starred in the 2010 film All Good Things.


Rabe next starred opposite Al Pacino as Shylock in a performance described as a "smashing break-out".[27] The production transferred to Broadway at the Broadhurst Theater where it ran from October 19 to February 20, 2011.[28] For her performance, Rabe was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.[29] In March 2011, Rabe was cast in the FOX drama pilot Exit Strategy in a role that would be recurring if the pilot was picked up.[30] In July, it was confirmed that FOX had passed on the pilot.[31] Rabe appeared again at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in a production of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, where she played the role of Nora.[32] In August 2011, Rabe was given her first regular role on a television series when she was cast as Nora Montgomery on the FX horror series American Horror Story. She was later cast in the second season as the nun Sister Mary Eunice McKee (a role she later reprised in the fourth season). For the second season, Rabe was nominated for a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries. She also was cast in the third season, as a resurgent witch named Misty Day; the role was written for her by co-creator Ryan Murphy.[33] In the fifth season, she was a special guest star in the "Devil's Night" episode playing Aileen Wuornos. Rabe is one of only three actors to appear in all six seasons of the show.[34]

Rabe signing autographs outside Seminar in 2011
Rabe at PaleyFest 2013

Rabe appeared at the Golden Theatre in the Broadway play Seminar by Theresa Rebeck. It was directed by Sam Gold, and the cast included Alan Rickman, Jerry O'Connell, Hamish Linklater, and Hettienne Park. It opened on November 20, 2011, and closed May 6, 2012. In May 2012, it was announced that Rabe would play actress Mary Pickford in The First, a film based on the book Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood by Eileen Whitfield.[35] She finished work in the Public Theater's production of As You Like It, part of the 50th Season of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theatre. She played the role of Rosalind in the production that opened on June 11, 2012 and closed on June 30, 2012. In October 2012, it was announced that Rabe would appear in We're Just Married, a film written by her father and directed by Rodrigo Garcia. Rabe will also be a producer of the film.[36] In May 2013, Rabe made her Los Angeles stage debut in a production of Miss Julie by August Strindberg that was adapted and directed by Neil LaBute.[37] In September 2013, Rabe was announced to have been cast as Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, the final two installments of The Hunger Games film series, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins.[38] She was later replaced in the films by Gwendoline Christie due to a scheduling conflict.[39]

On February 14, it was announced that Rabe would appear in Much Ado About Nothing as part of the 2014 Shakespeare in the Park season. The production began on June 3 and ran to July 6.[40] In 2014, Rabe appeared in Pawn Sacrifice, a film biopic about chess player Bobby Fischer, playing Fischer's sister Joan Targ.[41] On February 24, it was announced that Rabe will appear with Thomas Jane and Jessica Alba in horror film The Veil.[42] The film was later released on January 19, 2016, through video on demand prior to being released through home media formats on February 2, 2016.[43][44] The same day, it was also announced that Rabe was to star in The Visitors, a drama pilot for ABC.[45] The pilot was later changed to The Whispers and was officially picked up by ABC in May 2014.[46] The series premiered on June 1, 2015,[47] and was subsequently cancelled on October 19, 2015 after the completion of its first season.[48]

In May 2016, it was revealed that Rabe had been cast in Golden Exits directed by Alex Ross Perry.[49]



Year Title Role Notes
2001 Never Again Tess
2003 Mona Lisa Smile Art History Student
2006 A Crime Sophie
2007 No Reservations Bernadette
2008 What Just Happened Dawn
2008 The Toe Tactic Mona Peek
2010 Weakness Katharine Browne
2010 All Good Things Deborah Lehrman
2011 Letters from the Big Man Sarah
2012 Redemption Trail Anna Cole
2013 Aftermath Samantha
2014 Pawn Sacrifice Joan Fischer
2016 The Veil Sarah Hope
2016 Miss Stevens Rachel Stevens
2017 Golden Exits In post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2005 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Siena Boatman Episode: "Scared Crazy"
2006 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Nikki Episode: "Recall"
2008 Nip/Tuck Lanie Ainge Episode: "Kyle Ainge"
2008 Medium Joanna Wheeler 2 episodes
2009 Last of the Ninth Mary Byrne Unsold TV pilot
2010 Saving Grace Sarah Cullen Episode: "You Can't Save Them All, Grace"
2010 Law & Order Andrea Wheaton Episode: "Crashers"
2011–15 The Good Wife Petra Moritz 3 episodes
2011 Exit Strategy Natalie Clayton Unsold TV pilot
2011 American Horror Story: Murder House Nora Montgomery 7 episodes
2012–13 American Horror Story: Asylum Sister Mary Eunice McKee 10 episodes
2013–14 American Horror Story: Coven Misty Day 10 episodes
2014 American Horror Story: Freak Show Sister Mary Eunice McKee Episode: "Orphans"
2015 The Whispers Claire Bennigan 13 episodes
2015 The Walker Sarah Episode: "How to Deal with a Frenemy"
2015–16 American Horror Story: Hotel Aileen Wuornos 2 episodes
2016 American Horror Story: Roanoke Shelby Miller 10 episodes
2016 The Wizard of Lies Catherine Hooper Television film


Year Title Role Notes
2005 Colder Than Here Jenna
2005 Steel Magnolias Annelle
2006 Heartbreak House Ellie Dunn
2008 Crimes of the Heart Babe Botrelle
2009 The American Plan Lili Adler
2010–11 The Merchant of Venice Portia
2011–12 Seminar Kate
2011 A Doll's House Nora
2012 As You Like It Rosalind
2013 Miss Julie Julie
2014 Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice
2015 Cymbeline Imogen

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
2005 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Steel Magnolias Nominated
2011 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actress in a Play The Merchant of Venice Nominated
Tony Awards Best Actress in a Play Nominated
2013 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries American Horror Story: Asylum Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Award Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
2014 Online Film & Television Association Award Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries American Horror Story: Coven Nominated
2016 SXSW Film Festival Awards[50] Special Jury Recognition for Best Actress Miss Stevens Won


  1. 1 2 Lawrence, Vanessa (July 15, 2010). "Lily Rabe Talks "Merchant of Venice"". Women's Wear Daily. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  2. Miller, Griffin (22 May 2013). "Celebrity Profile: Lily Rabe". Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  4. Bloom, Nate. "The Plame game, Jill Clayburgh: a Jew?, Gyllenhaal and Lambert". Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  5. Smith, Krista (January 24, 2013). "Opening Acts". Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 "When Lily Met Babe". Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  7. Wallenberg, Christopher (July 17, 2011). "Her parents' legacy, her own spotlight". Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  8. Hernandez, Ernio (February 12, 2008). "PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Lily Rabe". Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  9. "Lily Rabe". October 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  10. "Democracy: An Issues Project". Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  11. Kilian, Michael (September 23, 2004). "New York playwrights getting political". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  12. "Playreading: Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The". Roundabout Theatre Company. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  13. Ennis, Connor (May 12, 2005). "Broadway newcomer is impressive in debut play". Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  14. Murray, Matthew (May 22, 2005). "2005 Drama Desk Awards Presented". Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  15. Rizzo, Frank (March 3, 2005). "Fabrique To Play Ella Fitzgerald At Theaterworks". Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  16. Hernandez, Ernio (July 14, 2005). "Judith Light and Lily Rabe To Star in MCC Theatre's Colder Than Here Off-Broadway". Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  17. McCarter, Jeremy. "Theater". New York. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  18. Hernandez, Ernio (December 17, 2006). "Heartbreak House, Starring Philip Bosco and Swoosie Kurtz, Ends Run on Broadway". Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  19. Hetrick, Adam (July 20, 2007). "Full Cast Announced for Williamstown's Crimes of the Heart; Kathleen Turner Directs". Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  20. 1 2 Hernandez, Ernio (January 29, 2008). "Roundabout Shifts Crimes of the Heart Opening to Valentine's Day". Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  21. O'Driscoll, Sean (February 25, 2008). "Actresses Find Their Way Into 'Heart'". Fox News. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  22. Andreeva, Nellie (August 8, 2008). "Threesome step in for HBO 'Ninth'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  23. Andreeva, Nellie (December 17, 2008). "HBO picks up 'Hung'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  24. "The American Plan". Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  25. Hetrick, Adam (June 30, 2010). "The Merchant of Venice, With Al Pacino, Lily Rabe, Byron Jennings, Opens in Central Park June 30". Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  26. Steinberg, Julie (June 16, 2010). "Shakespeare in the Park's Lily Rabe Wants You to Throw Peonies at Her". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  27. Brantley, Ben (June 30, 2010). "Railing at a Money-Mad World". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  28. Hetrick, Adam (February 20, 2011). "The Merchant of Venice, With Al Pacino, Ends Broadway Run Feb. 20". Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  29. "Lily Rabe – Tony Awards 2013 Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play Nominee". Key Brand Entertainment. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  30. Andreeva, Nellie (March 10, 2011). "TV CASTINGS: Slew Of Actors Join Pilots". Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  31. Andreeva, Nellie (July 5, 2011). "Midseason Status Report: 'Breaking In' Stays Alive With Cast Options Pickup, 'Common' & 'Album' Keep Some Actors,'Smothered' Dead". Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  32. "A Doll's House". Williamstown Theatre Festival. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  33. Dos Santos, Kristin (August 22, 2011). "Which Famous Actress' Daughter Is Getting an "Ungodly" Role in American Horror Story?". E! Online. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  34. Neumyer, Scott (January 22, 2014). "How the Ethereal Lily Rabe Found Success on 'American Horror Story'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  35. Tartaglione, Nancy (May 17, 2012). "Lily Rabe To Play Mary Pickford". Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  36. Fleming Jr, Mike (October 24, 2012). "Rodrigo Garcia To Helm Lily Rabe In 'We're Just Married'". Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  37. Ng, David (March 8, 2013). "Lily Rabe: Driving 'Miss Julie'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  38. "Lily Rabe Joins 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay'". September 16, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  40. "Breaking News: 'MUCH ADO' with Lily Rabe, Hamish Linklater & KING LEAR with John Lithgow Set for The Public's 2014 Shakespeare in the Park Season". Broadway World. February 13, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  41. "Lily Rabe Boards Bobby Fischer Pic 'Pawn Sacrifice'". October 13, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  42. Kit, Borys (February 24, 2014). "'American Horror Story's' Lily Rabe to Star in Jason Blum's 'The Veil' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  43. Disgusting, Mr (January 8, 2016). "Universal's 'The Veil' Going Straight to Video". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  44. "The Veil". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  45. Ausiello, Michael (February 24, 2014). "Pilot Scoop: American Horror Story Vet Lily Rabe Joins ABC's Alien Drama The Visitors". TVLine. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  46. Andreeva, Nellie (May 8, 2014). "ABC New Series Pickups". Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  47. Weinstein, Shelli (April 8, 2015). "ABC's Summer Schedule: Find Out When The Whispers, Mistresses and More Premiere". TV Guide. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  48. "The Whispers: Cancelled by ABC; No Season Two". TVSeriesFinale. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  49. Hipes, Patrick (May 3, 2016). "Alex Ross Perry Pic 'Golden Exits' Set With Ensemble Cast". Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  50. "SXSW: Complete List of Winners at the 2016 Film Awards". Indiewire. Indiewire. Retrieved March 15, 2016.

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