From Felicity to Foxy Brown, Five Colorado Actresses Who Made Their Name in Hollywood

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Melissa Benoist, Littleton native and Arapahoe High grad, is flying high after being cast as the lead in the new CBS Supergirl series from executive producer Greg Berlanti (CW's Arrow, The Flash). Benoist was already on cloud nine, having spent two seasons on Fox's hit Glee and landing a plum part in the Oscar-nominated film Whiplash, but her role in DC Comic's new spotlight on Superman's famed cousin may finally launch her into the stratosphere.

Where she'll find several other actresses who also got their start in Colorado.

See also: Oscars 2011: Amy Adams' High School Yearbook Photo

5) Keri Russell Everyone's favorite curly-haired college crusher was graduating from Highlands Ranch High in 1991 when she was cast on the "golden" season of The Mickey Mouse Club alongside future powerhouses Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. Three seasons for shucking for the "mouse house" led her to a few films and TV roles, but it was getting cast as the lead in the small-screen hit Felicity that endeared her, and her copious ringlet tresses, to a generation of girls who also dreamed of following their high school crushes to college and narrowly avoiding restraining orders. Russell took home a Golden Globe during her tenure on the show -- and got a cold shoulder from fans when she cut her long locks in the second season -- but she managed to parlay her notable success into numerous film, stage and TV roles over the years. Now she's sitting pretty on The FX's darkly comic, hit show The Americans, where she plays one half of an undercover KGB operative couple living in 1980s USA. 4) Jessica Biel This alum of Boulder's Fairview High School got her big break on another television show, 7th Heaven, where she played a member of the Camden clan, a large family headed by a pastor who prayed their way through life's foibles. The role boxed Biel into safe teen fare but she was certainly angling to bust out and set tongues wagging when she was photographed at seventeen, topless though not exposed, for Gear magazine. Her bad girl decision got her role on Heaven shortened dramatically. No worry, she took that opening to own her sexuality and hit the big screen in adult roles in popular films like Bret Easton Ellis' Rules of Attraction, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and Blade: Trinity. Recently she played actress Vera Miles in a retelling of the making of Psycho in Hitchcock, opposite Anthony Hopkins. Biel has a few films coming out in 2015 but is currently working on the bun in her oven that she shares with pop singer Justin Timberlake; that release date is currently TBD. Keep reading for three more female stars who got their start in Colorado. 3) Sheryl Lee Perhaps the Fairview High grad with the most obsessive fans around the world is Lee, whose big break came when auteur David Lynch cast the aspiring actress as the doomed Laura Palmer in the most talked-about TV show in years, Twin Peaks. Lynch cast Lee as the victim of the show's central murder mystery and planned on filming her only for key flashback scenes -- but he grew fond of the actress and expanded her role as Palmer and the character's doppelganger cousin. When the series was cancelled, Lee was pigeonholed as a "mysterious" woman in a gamut of film and television roles, but soon was able to sink her teeth into a reprisal of Laura Palmer in Lynch's Peaks prequel film, Fire Walk With Me. Since then Lee has flown through many small television and film roles, and picked up a passion for poetry and natural healing. Her new interests even led her back to Boulder for last year's Arise festival, where she was a key speaker and guest. But no matter her level of spirituality, she'll never say goodbye to the role that made her famous: It was just announced that Lee will reprise Laura Palmer in Lynch's return to Twin Peaks for Showtime in 2016. 2) Amy Adams Hailing from Castle Rock, Amy Adams took a cue from Irene Cara's song, "Fame," by taking her passion and making it happen. Moving from community theater to the big screen, Adams pulled herself up from small but meaty roles in silly films like Drop Dead Gorgeous, Psycho Beach Party and Cruel Intentions 2 to stealing scenes in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can and the indie Junebug, which garnered the actress her first Academy Award nomination. Since then, she's added four more Oscar noms, for Doubt, The Fighter, The Master and American Hustle, working alongside Meryl Streep, Christian Bale and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among many others. Recently she dove into bringing artist Margaret Keane to life in Tim Burton's Big Eyes, and now she's snagged a key role in a DC comics franchise: She'll embody this generation's intrepid Lois Lane, which guarantees some fun appearances in the upcoming films Batman V Superman: Justice Begins and The Justice League Part One. Looks like Adams has yet to find her Kryptonite. 1) Pam Grier The most iconic slot on this list goes to the one-and-only Pamela Grier, who has left her bold mark on decades on cinema. After graduating from East High School, Grier moved to Hollywood in 1967, when a receptionist gig for B-movie king Roger Corman's American International Pictures led to a spot in front of the camera. There her bold, assertive personality and good looks landed her leading roles in films that would define an entire genre in the 70s known as Blaxploitation -- which put the ghetto and strong black characters front and center. Grier held the lead female roles in Coffy, Foxy Brown, Sheba Baby and Friday Foster; in the '80s she parlayed her presence into notable mainstream roles in Something Wicked This Way Comes, Above the Law and countless television roles. After a brief dry spell in the '90s, Grier was tapped by her biggest fan, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, for Jackie Brown, a starring role that QT wrote just for her. The success of Jackie Brown led to a main role on Showtime's lesbian drama The L Word, which garnered Grier a whole new cross-section of fans. Now living in Highlands Ranch, Grier has written an autobiography, Foxy, which is currently being turned into a major motion picture. The casting of the young actress who will portray Grier is unknown -- but given Colorado's track record, maybe producers should check out our back yard for the perfect fresh, new talent.

Dear Constant Reader, you can learn more about Keith Garcia on Twitter: @ConstantWatcher

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.