Elizabeth Kemp

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Elizabeth Kemp
Elizabeth Kemp.jpg
Kemp in 2011
BornNovember 5, 1951
DiedSeptember 1, 2017(2017-09-01) (aged 65)
Alma materAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation(s)Actress, acting coach
Years active1973–2017

Elizabeth Kemp (November 5, 1951 – September 1, 2017) was an American actress and acting coach.

She began her career on the television series Love of Life in 1973, after studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg.[1] She went on to become an acting coach and faculty member of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University.

Early life[edit]

Kemp was born in Key West, Florida, the daughter of Nancy Jean (Haycock) and Joseph Clifton Kemp, a business executive and U.S. Navy officer and test pilot stationed at the Pentagon.[2]

Kemp showed talent as a child painter from age 13–16, and graduated from high school with a special award for creative achievement. At 16 she applied to the Rhode Island School of Design, but was told to wait a year.[citation needed] She instead went to New York City and studied at The Art Students League and American Academy of Dramatic Arts, but dropped out shortly afterward.


Kemp was in the original cast of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which began at the off-Broadway The Actors Studio before moving to Broadway, where it became a long-running hit.[3] Her mentor, Elia Kazan, took Tennessee Williams to see Kemp in the show, when Williams was looking for an actress to play Baby Doll in the world premiere of one of his last plays, Tiger Tail.[4] After the performance, Williams gave her the part, and she worked closely with him in developing the role.[3] In 1978, she appeared on Broadway in a minor part in Once in a Lifetime.[5]

In 1980, Kemp made her feature film debut in the horror film He Knows You're Alone, opposite Caitlin O'Heaney and Tom Hanks.[6] She received the GLAAD Award for her work on L.A. Law (1986). As a director, Kemp was responsible for many productions at The Actors Studio including The Glass Menagerie, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and the world premier of Edward Allan Baker's Free Gift Inside. Internationally, Kemp directed The Stronger and Homesick at Strindbergs Original Intima Theater in Stockholm, and Dreamstories at The Claude LeLouche Theatre Cine 13 in Paris and La Spazia Teatro in Rome.[citation needed] She became a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio in 1975.[7]

After appearing on several television series, including L.A. Law, in the mid-1990s, Kemp left Los Angeles and returned to New York City, where she worked odd jobs, including waiting tables at a restaurant.[3] Soon after, she began teaching acting at the Strasberg Institute, then became a member of the Acting Faculty—and later, chair[8]— of The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University.[3][9]

At the Actors Studio Drama School, Kemp was a mentor to student actors like Bradley Cooper[3][10] and Poorna Jagannathan. She worked across the country at The California Actors Theatre in San Francisco, Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., Center Stage in Baltimore and Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.[citation needed] She was also an artistic associate and tutor at 16th Street Actors Studio in Melbourne, Australia.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Kemp married actor Michael Margotta in New York City in 1984.[12] They separated in June 1991 and later divorced.[a]


Kemp died of cancer[13][14] on September 1, 2017, in Venice, Los Angeles, at age 65.[15] She received several public tributes from former students Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman and Lady Gaga.[15] The 2018 film A Star Is Born is dedicated to her memory.



Year Title Role Notes
1980 He Knows You're Alone Nancy
1982 The Clairvoyant Virna Nightbourne
1988 Sticky Fingers Nancy
1988 Police Story: Burnout Patricia Television film
1990 Family of Spies Kay
1990 Challenger Jane Smith Television film
1991 Murderous Vision Ellen Green Television film
1992 Mom I Can Do It Jane Morris
1992 Venice/Venice Interviewee
1995 Animal Room Shelly's Mom
2005 Pills Margaret Nolan Short film
2012 Thanks Dad Mom Winner: Final 8 "TROPFEST", 2012
2013 Manito: Brother's Sacrifice Lori Short film
2014 Welcome to New York Florence
2015 Emperor of the Free World Olympias
2017 A Crack in Everything Constance Marshall


Year Title Role Notes
1973-1977 Love of Life Betsy Crawford Series regular
1979 Skyways Rosemary Episode: "Bird Strike"
1981 I Can Jump Puddles Receptionist Episode: "Getting Your Breath"
1988 Vietnam War Story Lynn Episode: "Dusk to Dawn"
1990 Thirtysomething Kate Episode: "The Distance"
1990 Eating Nancy
1991 L.A. Law Maggie Barnes Episode: "The Nut Before Christmas"
2001–3 Law & Order Laila Jacobs / Debbie Grimes Episodes: "School Daze", "Blaze"


  1. ^ A 2012 CNN profile notes Kemp's divorce, but a year or date is not given, nor is it available in public records; the New York City Marriage Licenses Index, however, lists Margotta and Kemp's marriage as being in 1984.


  1. ^ Kershaw, Sarah (May 6, 2009). "Actors Use Dreams to Understand Characters They Play - The Role of Their Dreams - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  2. ^ "Elizabeth Kemp Biography". FilmReference.com. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Leopold, Todd (February 13, 2012). "Actress' role of a lifetime: Being a mentor - CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  4. ^ "La Magnani! Arrives Off-Broadway March 22nd at Arclight Theatre". Italian Cultural Institute of New York. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  5. ^ "Once in a Lifetime". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  6. ^ Mastroianni, Armand, and Scott Parker. He Knows You're Alone audio commentary (DVD). Warner Bros. 2004.
  7. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  8. ^ Hornaday, Ann (February 22, 2009). "Special Affects: If the Stars Make You Forget Who They Are, That's Greatness - washingtonpost.com". The Washington Post. Gold Standard. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  9. ^ "About". Elizabeth Kemp Official Site. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  10. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (February 18, 2015). "How Bradley Cooper's Acting Coach Taught Him to "Relax"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  11. ^ "Elizabeth Kemp | 16th Street". www.16thstreet.com.au. Archived from the original on February 1, 2015.
  12. ^ "New York, New York City Marriage Licenses Index, 1950-1995," database, FamilySearch (19 June 2017), Michael J Margotta and Elizabeth Kemp, 1984, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States; from Reclaim The Records, The NYC Marriage Index (http://www.nycmarriageindex.com : 2016); citing New York City Clerk's Office.
  13. ^ "Hugh Jackman and Lady Gaga pay tribute to acting coach". BBC. September 4, 2017. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Donn, Emily (September 4, 2017). "Actress/Teacher Elizabeth Kemp Passes Away at 65". ScreenRant. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Elizabeth Kemp, Actress and Influential Teacher at the Actors Studio, Dies at 65". The Hollywood Reporter. September 4, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.

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