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Kate Burton (actress)

Kate Burton
File:Kate Burton August 2014 (cropped).jpg
Burton in 2014
Born Katherine Burton
(1957-09-10) September 10, 1957 (age 58)
Geneva, Switzerland
Occupation Actress
Years active 1969; 1982–present
Spouse(s) Michael Ritchie (m. 1985)
Children Morgan (b. 1988)
Charlotte (b. 1998)
Parent(s) Sybil Burton
Richard Burton

Katherine "Kate" Burton (born September 10, 1957) is a Swiss-born Welsh-American actress and the daughter of actor Richard Burton and Sybil Burton. On television, Burton received critical acclaim for performances in Shonda Rhimes's drama series as Ellis Grey on Grey's Anatomy, and as Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal.[1] She has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and three Tony Awards.[2]

Early life

Burton was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the daughter of producer Sybil Burton (née Williams; 1929–2013) and actor Richard Burton (1925–1984).[3] She was thus the stepdaughter of actress Elizabeth Taylor and of Sybil's second husband Jordan Christopher. In 1979, Burton earned a bachelor's degree in Russian studies and European history from Brown University. She was also on the board of Production Workshop, one of the university's student theatre groups. She furthered her devotion to theatre by studying at Yale University School of Drama, from which she graduated in 1983. In 2007, Burton was given an honorary doctorate from Brown University.


Stage work

Burton's first notable role on Broadway in a 1982 production of the Noël Coward play Present Laughter, which was directed by George C. Scott. The following year, she appeared in the Broadway production of Doonesbury, playing J.J. Several key roles followed, including roles in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter and Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

In 2002, she portrayed two roles and was nominated for a Tony Award for both. She was nominated as Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of the title role in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the role of Pinhead/Mrs. Kendal in the revival of The Elephant Man. This dual nomination made her one of only five actors, along with Amanda Plummer, Dana Ivey, Jan Maxwell and Mark Rylance to be Tony-nominated for two acting awards in the same year.

In 2006 Burton was in the Off-Broadway play opposite Tony Goldwyn in The Water's Edge. The same year she was nominated for Best Leading Actress again in 2006 in W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife. In 2007, she played Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard at Boston's Huntington Theatre. Burton was also part of the cast of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. She started on December 21, 2007 and replaced actress Christine Estabrook in the role of the Adult Women. Kristine Nielsen took over for her on March 2 for a short stint until Estabrook assumed the role again. She played the role of actress Katharine Cornell in "The Grand Manner" during the summer of 2010 at Lincoln Center in New York.

Film and television

Early films of Burton's include Alice in Wonderland, Anne of the Thousand Days, Big Trouble in Little China, The First Wives Club, Life with Mikey and The Ice Storm. Burton has said of these roles that she usually plays "the sweet wife, or the sweet dead wife". Burton has also appeared in a number of roles in independent films.

Burton has been perhaps most prolific in her work on television. She made many appearances in the late 1980s and 1990s on episodic television, including appearances on Spenser: For Hire, All My Children, and Brooklyn Bridge. In 1996, Burton won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance as a mother dying of breast cancer in the ABC Afterschool Special, 'Notes For My Daughter'. More recently, she made guest appearances as recurring characters on Law & Order, The Practice, The West Wing, Judging Amy and Medium. She also appeared on the HBO miniseries Empire Falls.

Her recent recurring television roles both involved a subplot concerning Alzheimer's disease. On the FX cable network's Rescue Me, she played the role of Rose, a friend and possible romantic interest to Chief Jerry Reilly. Reilly's wife is in a facility with the disease and Rose, having cared for her husband who was also an Alzheimer's victim, is hired by Jerry to provide assistance and emotional support. Also, in perhaps her most visible and well-known role to date as the mother of Dr. Meredith Grey (the titular character on the well-known ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy), Burton played Dr. Ellis Grey, the former trailblazing surgeon, who dies of Alzheimer's. In 2006 and 2007, Burton was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Ellis Grey. In 2011, Burton appeared as a veteran monster hunter in the opening episodes of the NBC supernatural drama Grimm. From 2012 until 2014, she played the extreme right-wing Vice President Sally Langston, a secondary antagonist, in the ABC hit show Scandal created by Shonda Rhimes.[4] Burton earned 2015 a leading role in the remake of Martyrs.[5]

Other work

Burton has narrated numerous audiobooks, including works by: Patricia Cornwell, Lisa Scottoline, Iris Johansen, and Dean Koontz.[6] Kate Burton appeared in 1984 with her father Richard Burton in the television mini-series Ellis Island.

Personal life

In June 1985, Burton married Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and one of the producers of the Broadway musicals The Drowsy Chaperone and Curtains. They had met in 1982, while Ritchie was stage managing a revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City in which Burton was playing the character Daphne. They have two children, a son Morgan Ivor (born May 14, 1988) and a daughter Charlotte Frances (born January 19, 1998).[7][8]



Year Title Role Notes
1969 Anne of the Thousand Days Serving Maid Uncredited
1984 Ellis Island Vanessa Ogden Television film
1986 Big Trouble in Little China Margo Litzenberger
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Ophelia Television film
1993 Life with Mikey Mrs. Burns
1993 Love Matters Deborah Television film
1996 August Helen Blathwaite
1996 First Wives Club, TheThe First Wives Club Woman in Bed
1996 Mistrial Katherine Donohue Television film
1997 Ice Storm, TheThe Ice Storm Dorothy Franklin
1997 Ellen Foster Abigail Montford Television film
1998 Celebrity Cheryl
2000 Opportunists, TheThe Opportunists Rest Home Sister
2002 Unfaithful Tracy
2002 Swimfan Carla Cronin
2002 Obsessed Sara Miller Television film
2003 Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, TheThe Diary of Ellen Rimbauer Connie Posey Television film
2003 Paper Mache Chase, TheThe Paper Mache Chase Martha Short film
2005 Stay Mrs. Letham
2005 Empire Falls Cindy Whiting Television film
2006 Sherrybaby Marcia Swanson
2007 Lovely by Surprise Helen
2008 What Just Happened Dr. Randall
2008 Quid Pro Quo Merilee
2008 Max Payne Nicole Horne
2009 Kings of Appletown, TheThe Kings of Appletown Aunt Birdy
2009 Spooner Alice Spooner
2010 Remember Me Janine
2010 Consent Susan
2010 127 Hours Aron's Mom
2011 Puncture Senator O'Reilly
2012 Liberal Arts Susan
2012 2 Days in New York Bella
2012 Mariachi Gringo Anne
2013 Adam Shaw Dr. Wilson
2014 Barefoot Mrs. Wheeler
2014 Shiva and May Martha


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Great Performances Alice Episode: "Alice in Wonderland"
1985 Evergreen Agatha Bradford Episode: "1.2"
1987–1988 Spenser: For Hire Randy Lofficier 2 episodes
1988 American Playhouse Agnes Bolton O'Neill Episode: "Journey Into Genius"
1992 Law & Order Sister Bettina Episode: "Sisters of Mercy"
1992 Home Fires Anne Kramer 6 episodes
1993 Brooklyn Bridge Susan Lowenberg Jones Episode: "Keeping Up with the Joneses"
1994 Monty Fran Richardson 13 episodes
1994 All My Children Dr. Renee Peters Unknown episodes
1995 ABC Afterschool Special Brenda Gardner Episode: "Notes for My Daughter"
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special
1997–2004 Practice, TheThe Practice A.D.A. Susan Alexander 9 episodes
2001–2009 Law & Order Erica Gardner 4 episodes
2001 100 Centre Street Sheila Byrne Episode: "My Brother's Keeper"
2001 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Stephanie Uffland Episode: "The Pardoner's Tale"
2004 West Wing, TheThe West Wing Sarah Brainerd Episode: "Slow News Day"
2005 Judging Amy Dr. Sheri Jordan Episode: "Silent Era"
2005 American Masters Voice of Novels Episode: "Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea"
2005 Numb3rs Anthropologist Episode: "Bones of Contention"
2005–2006 Rescue Me Rose 6 episodes
2005–present Grey's Anatomy Ellis Grey 17 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2006–07)
2006 Justice Sarah Miller Episode: "Death Spiral"
2007 Supreme Courtships Justice Suzanne Mary Lynch Unsold TV pilot
2008 Medium Bonnie Barrister Episode: "To Have and to Hold"
2009 Eleventh Hour Gepetto / Miranda Cochran Episode: "Pinocchio"
2009 Washingtonienne Joy Episode: "Pilot"
2009–2012 Good Wife, TheThe Good Wife Victoria Adler 3 episodes
2010 Deep End, TheThe Deep End Grace Graham Episode: "Pilot"
2011 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Annette Cole Episode: "Bully"
2011 Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior Deirdre Norris Episode: "Smother"
2011 Closer, TheThe Closer Kate Wycoff Episode: "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"
2011 Grimm Marie Kessler 2 episodes
2012 Veep Barbara Hallowes 2 episodes
2012 Made in Jersey Lorraine Beckett Episode: "Cacti"
2012–present Scandal Vice President Sally Langston 23 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2014)
2013 Revolution Dr. Jane Warren Episode: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"
2014 Rake Holly Phillips Episode: "Hey, Good Looking"


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