What the HELL happened to Kathy Baker?

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  • Boidiva02
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    #271280

    I was reading over the list of Emmy Winners for Best Actress (Drama) from the 1990’s and something was rather shocking to me, Kathy Baker won THREE Emmy’s for “Picket Fences” and then after that series ended, she kind of fell off the face of the earth.

    She really has not been given a strong lead role in a series since then.  Considering the other actresses who won this category in the 90’s have all gone onto other big series or have maintained high-profile careers it seems shocking to me that she has basically been regulated to guest starring roles, bit-parts and supporting performances since her wins.

    I’m just curious why this happened to her career? Do you think it was simply lack of roles available? Lack of interest on her part to commit to another series? Was she simply lucky to win these Emmy’s because of David E. Kelley’s writing?   

    Where do you rank her among her Emmy Winning 1990’s peers?

    Here is a list of all the Best Actress-Drama winners from 1990-1999:

    1990: Patricia Wettig, Thirtysomething
    1991: Patricia Wettig, Thirthysomething
    1992: Dana Delaney, China Beach
    1993: Kathy Baker, Picket Fences
    1994: Sela Ward, Sisters
    1995: Kathy Baker, Picket Fences
    1996: Kathy Baker, Picket Fences
    1997: Gillian Anderson, The X-Files
    1998: Christine Lahti, Chicago Hope
    1999: Edie Falco, The Sopranos

    Personally, I always considered Baker to be among the most talented of this group, followed by Lahti, Ward and Falco.    I am rather stunned that Baker’s career (like Lahti’s) has sort of fallen off.  To my knowledge neither one has really been given another lead role to showcase their many talents.      Lahti had “Jack & Bobby” but that didn’t last nearly long enough for her to get a Emmy nod.   

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    sorcery
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    #271282

    I loved her on Picket Fences. She should have won for season two as well–she was that good. I never saw all of season four but Kelley left the show and there was a dramatic decline in quality. Baker and Ray Walston were still good despite the weak material they were being given, which explains their Emmy repeats. Emmy voters also seemed to be fans of the show–it beat out NYPD Blue for Drama Series in 1994 and won multiple acting Emmys every year it was on the air. Walston actually thanked the blue-ribbon panelists in his 1996 acceptance speech.

    Baker is a very good actress who was fortunate to be working with David E. Kelley at his peak–I still think Picket Fences is his best show. I believe part of the reason she didn’t commit to another series is that she wanted to raise her children and spend time with her family.

    What’s strange to me is that the series never managed to garner nominations for writing or directing. Part of it was NYPD Blue (undeservedly) sucking up the scene, I’m sure, but you’d think a show so beloved by Emmy voters could have managed a single writing nomination!

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    vinny
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    #271283

    I wonder if she just got tired of acting. It always seems like at one point or another every actor reaches a point where he or she says “I’m done for a while”

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    Alijah Purdy
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    #271284

    Last year she had a supporting role in a Lifetime show that was later cancelled. I forgot the name of the show, but I think she played the mother of a woman who, raised by a family of cops, gets a job with IEB. I think Lifetime cancelled it after six episodes.

    Then she guest starred on an episode of Criminal Minds last year. But I noticed she never got enough credit for that guest role. She was very good in it, and she was almost nominated for a SMART TV award for it. But it took some deep digging to find her name in the episode. She wasn’t listed as “Guest Star Kathy Baker” on Wikipedia, and I don’t remember if she was even mentioned during the opening credits of the show. The only place I could find her listed was on IMDB.

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    Madson Melo
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    #271285

    2 for Delany, 3 for Baker, 2 for Wettig, but 0 for Lansbury. oh, hell!

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    Jake
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    #271286

    I remember her from “Grey’s Anatomy” season 5 opening episodes where she and Bernadette Peters gave fantastic performances. Among the best the show ever saw, really, especially considering how over the top the screenplay was there at places (Meredith’s dream, Cristina’s fall and “dream”, Rose’s exit, yeah…). 

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    outsider
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    #271287

    She was also great as Michael Shannon’s mother in “Take Shelter” and Patricia Arquette’s mother-in-law on “Medium”. Even in small roles, you get the feeling you’re watching a special actress.

    It’s unfair to say she disappeared after “Picket Fences”. She was in her mid-40s when the show ended. When a working actress starts approaching 50, things become more difficult.

    She also received three additional Emmy nominations: as a guest actress for “Touched By An Angel” and “Boston Public” and for her moving supporting performance in the tv movie “Door to Door”.

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    Boidiva02
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    #271288

    I remember her from “Grey’s Anatomy” season 5 opening episodes where she and Bernadette Peters gave fantastic performances. Among the best the show ever saw, really, especially considering how over the top the screenplay was there at places (Meredith’s dream, Cristina’s fall and “dream”, Rose’s exit, yeah…). 

    It’s funny you mention that… It was that very episode where I said “Crap, where has she been since Picket Fences”. I recall her stint on Boston Public, but after that she kind of just vanished.  

    I know she’s been on the Emmy radar a lot post-Fences, but I’m shocked she never committed to another full-time series role. Especially considering that people like Sela Ward, Edie Falco, etc went onto other series.

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    uncreativename
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    #271289

    She was in a few episodes of “Saving Grace” — towards the end of the third season I believe. Not really a high profile role but the show did have Emmy nominations to its name thanks to Hunter.

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    Graeme O’Neil
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    #271290

    Yeah, I love when people counteract the argument of “women can’t get roles after 50” with Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep is one actress. There are tons of actresses that were huge in movies and television in the 1990s that have totally disappeared. 
     

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    uncreativename
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    #271291

    Yeah, I love when people counteract the argument of “women can’t get roles after 50” with Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep is one actress. There are tons of actresses that were huge in movies and television in the 1990s that have totally disappeared. 
     

    I don’t think that is necessarily because of age — there are just a lot of actors/actresses in general who were big in the 90’s that disappear. I can think of a handful of actresses over 50 that find work…I personally believe it is all matter of luck and who translates better into the changing tastes of audiences.

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    Choice Chayawat
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    #271292

    After Picket Fences ended, she continued to work constantly – guest starring role on TV series and supporting role on films/TV films. Maybe she didn’t want to commit full time to another TV show. Her latest one, Against the Wall, offered her a cushy supporting role that might have allowed her to pursue other projects. I just don’t believe she would have a hard time landing a TV gig if she wanted to, at least for supporting roles. Leading roles for an actress of her age may be hard since they usually go to film actresses and TV big names. But I can totally see her as Nora Walker in Brothers & Sisters if the role hadn’t gone to Sally Field.

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    Denis
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    #271293

    I remember her from “Grey’s Anatomy” season 5 opening episodes where she and Bernadette Peters gave fantastic performances. Among the best the show ever saw, really, especially considering how over the top the screenplay was there at places (Meredith’s dream, Cristina’s fall and “dream”, Rose’s exit, yeah…). 

    THAT!

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    sorcery
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    #271294

    Sharon Gless talked about this in her Archive of American Television interview. She said that nowadays mulitple Emmy-winning actresses of the 1980s and 1990s are struggling to get leading roles on TV shows because of the competition from film actors.

    To the poster who brought up Angela Lansbury: she never deserved to win over Baker. Nor did she stand much of a chance against her, Delany or Wettig. China Beach and thirtysomething were more respected than Murder, She Wrote. Yes, MSW was and remains popular with viewers (of a certain age) but China Beach and thirtysomething always had much more critical support (and thirtysomething in particular was very zeitgeisty). Lansbury probably came closest in her show’s early years, when it was still being nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, but had the bad luck of competing against the two leads of Emmy favorite Cagney & Lacey. Looking back, yes, Lansbury probably should have won at least once over the C&L ladies (and the vast majority of TV critics and historians would probably argue that St. Elsewhere definitely should have beaten C&L out for Drama Series in 1985 and 1986) but what’s done is done.

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