January 12, 1968
Worthington, Ohio, USA
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A veteran of the famed L.A.-based comedy troupe, the Groundlings, actress-comedian Rachael Harris first broke into show business doing commercials. A former shill for T-Mobile, Dinty Moore, Quaker Oats, and Geico, Harris became a familiar face in advertising in the mid-to-late 1990s, before making the leap to legitimate acting roles. Harris' Groundlings experience made her a perfect fit with Christopher Guest's stock company for the mockumentaries "Best in Show"(2000), "A Mighty Wind" (2003) and "For Your Consideration" (2006), as well as several guest turns on the improvisational cop comedy series "Reno 911!" (Comedy Central, 2003-09). Inspired work as Kirstie Alley's harried assistant on "Fat Actress" (Showtime, 2005-06) and as Ed Helms' frigid girlfriend in "The Hangover" (2009) also kept her in the public eye. It was, however, her portrayal of the sheltered, guilt-ridden housewife in writer-director Robbie Pickering's acclaimed comedy-drama "Natural Selection" (2011) that at last moved her from supporting player to lead actress. A utilitarian comedic actress who had truly paid her dues, Harris at last enjoyed the recognition she had long deserved with roles that showcased her exceptional talent.
Born Rachael Elaine Harris on Jan. 12, 1968, this future comedian and actress originally hailed from Worthington, OH. An alumni of Worthington High School, she graduated from Ohio's Otterbein College with a major in theater. Moving to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, Harris hooked up with The Groundlings, soon becoming a member of the main company, where she further honed her skills. A gifted mimic, Harris quickly became an invaluable utility player and eventually stayed on as an instructor. Harris made her screen debut as a guest star on a 1993 episode of the undersea sci-fi adventure, "SeaQuest DSV" (NBC, 1993-96). She then followed up with an appearance on another sci-fi mainstay, "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001) and a recurring role as college coed Simone Flosser on the benign family-friendly sitcom, "Sister, Sister" (The WB, 1994-99). Other guest gigs followed, among them "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004), "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006), "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ), "Monk" (USA Network, 2002-09) and "Reno 911" (Comedy Central, 2003-09).
In 2002, Harris landed a breakthrough gig as a correspondent on the Emmy-winning news satire "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central, 1996- ), a major launching pad for gifted comics. This pseudo-journalistic cred led to Harris becoming a contributor on several of VH1's pop culture countdown specials, including "I Love the 80's Strikes Back" (2003), "I Love the 70s" (2003), "I Love the '90s" (2004) and the weekly series, "Best Week Ever" (2004- ). In 2005, Harris won her milestone role on the quasi-reality comedy series "Fat Actress" (Showtime, 2005-06). And though it did not last long, it was her first legitimate acting gig on a show that received its share of publicity and was the first to single out her impeccably snarky comic timing, even against someone as skilled as Kirstie Alley.
Harris' knack for comedic improvisation also came in handy on the feature front. In 1999, she duly impressed actor-director Christopher Guest, who recruited Harris for three of his acclaimed mockumentaries: "Best in Show"(2000), "A Mighty Wind" (2003) and "For Your Consideration" (2006). Harris also showcased her impressive timing with memorable appearances in the Eddie Murphy vehicle "Daddy Day Care" (2003) and the Ben Stiller-Owen Wilson buddy cop farce, "Starsky & Hutch" (2004). Apart from these commercial pics, however, Harris also found time to appear in smaller, more personal projects, most notably a co-starring turn in the comedy short "I'm Not Gay" (2005), written and directed by her husband, actor Adam Paul.
Returning to the small screen in 2007, Harris scored a key supporting role in the ABC mid-season replacement "Notes from the Underbelly," in which Harris portrayed Cooper, best friend and confidante to newlywed Lauren (Jennifer Westfeldt). A romantically jaded divorce attorney, Cooper's penchant for spouting well-intentioned but brutally frank words of discouragement made her character a fast favorite with fans of "Underbelly" - especially those not content to jump on the baby train. After struggling in the ratings throughout its brief run, ABC pulled the plug on "Underbelly" near the end of its second season. Despite the setback, Harris went on to enjoy an exceptionally productive year that included turns opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in the based-on-fact drama "The Soloist" (2009) and as Ed Helms' icy, controlling girlfriend in the hit comedy "The Hangover" (2009). She then joined actresses Cheryl Hines and Megan Mullally for the parental sitcom "In the Motherhood" (ABC, 2009).
The following year, amongst several other appearances, Harris played the well-meaning mom of a smart-aleck sixth grader (Zachary Gordon) in the adaptation of the popular illustrated children's novel "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (2010), and again in its sequel "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" (2011). Then, after 20 years in the business, the actress delivered what would be her breakout performance in the comedy-drama "Natural Selection" (2011). Essaying a sheltered Christian housewife whose world is turned upside down when she discovers that her dying husband (John Diehl) fathered a child out of wedlock via a sperm bank donation decades earlier, Harris' touching portrayal earned her raves on the festival circuit as well as a Best Female Lead nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog DaysSusan Heffley
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick RulesSusan Heffley
Diary of a Wimpy KidSusan Heffley
The SoloistLeslie Bloom
License to WedJanine
For Your ConsiderationMary Pat Hooligan
Kicking & ScreamingAnn Hogan
After the SunsetJune
The Haunted MansionMrs Coleman
Best in ShowOne of Winky's Party Guests