Stockard Channing (born Susan Antonia Williams Stockard on February 13, 1944) is an award-winning American actress. She is best known for her portrayal of First Lady Abbey Bartlet in the NBC television series The West Wing, as well as the part of Rizzo in the film Grease.

Early lifeEdit

Stockard Channing was born in New York City, New York, to Lester Napier Stockard, a shipping magnate,[1] and Mary Alice English. She grew up on the Upper East Side and inherited her father's fortune when he died in 1950.[2]. She is an alumna of The Chapin School, a prestigious girls school in Manhattan, and The Madeira School, a Virginia boarding school for girls. Channing then studied history and literature at Radcliffe College, and graduated in 1965. She married her first husband, Walter Channing, when she was 19, and kept the amalgamated name, "Stockard Channing," after they divorced.[3]


Starting outEdit

Channing started her acting career with the experimental Theatre Company of Boston and eventually performed in the group's off-Broadway production of Adaptation/Next. In 1971, she made her Broadway debut in Two Gentlemen of Verona -- The Musical, working with playwright John Guare.[2]

Channing made her television debut on Sesame Street in the role of the The Number Painter's victim. She landed her first lead role in the 1973 television movie The Girl Most Likely To..., a black comedy written by Joan Rivers.[4]

After a few small parts in feature films, Channing co-starred with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols' The Fortune (1975). In 1978, at the age of 33, she took on the role of high school teenager Betty Rizzo in the hit musical Grease. Her performance earned her the People's Choice Awards for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress. That year, she also played Peter Falk's unpretentious but determined secretary in Neil Simon's film, The Cheap Detective.

The 1980sEdit

Channing starred in two short-lived sitcoms on CBS in 1979 and 1980: Stockard Channing in Just Friends and The Stockard Channing Show. Her Hollywood career faltered after these failures, so Channing returned to her theater roots. After a run as the female lead in the Broadway show, They're Playing Our Song (1980-81), she landed the part of the mother in the 1982 New Haven production of Peter Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. She reprised the role on Broadway and won the 1985 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.[2]

Channing continued her successful return to the stage by teaming up again with playwright John Guare. She received Tony nominations for her performances in his plays, The House of Blue Leaves (1986) and Six Degrees of Separation (1990) (for which she also won an Obie). Channing also garnered recognition for her work in television during this time. She was nominated for an Emmy for the CBS miniseries Echoes in the Darkness (1987) and won a CableACE Award for the Harvey Fierstein-scripted Tidy Endings (HBO, 1988).[2]

The 1990sEdit

Channing's film career was re-energized in 1993 when she reprised her lead role as an Upper East Side matron in the film version of Six Degrees of Separation. She was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for her performance. She then made several films in quick succession: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (with Patrick Swayze) and Smoke (with Harvey Keitel) (both 1995); a wordless cameo in The First Wives Club, Up Close and Personal (with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer), and Moll Flanders (all 1996).

Channing kept busy with film, television and stage roles throughout the late 1990s.[2] She starred in the USA Network film An Unexpected Family in 1996 and in its sequel, "An Unexpected Life," in 1998. She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award as Best Supporting Female for her performance as one-half of an infertile couple in "The Baby Dance" (also 1998). On stage, she performed at Lincoln Center in Tom Stoppard's Hapgood (1995) and in the 1997 revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. During this period, Channing even dabbled in voice-over work, voicing the character Barbara Gordon in the animated series, Batman Beyond, and appearing on an episode of King of the Hill.

Channing was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress three times in the 1990s: in 1991, for Six Degrees of Separation; in 1992, for Four Baboons Adoring the Sun; and in 1999, for The Lion in Winter.

The West Wing and beyondEdit


In 1999, Stockard Channing took on the role of First Lady Abbey Bartlet in the NBC television series The West Wing. She was a recurring guest star for the show's first two seasons; she become a regular cast member in 2001. In the seventh and final season of The West Wing (2005-2006), Channing appeared in only six episodes (including the series finale) because she was co-starring (with Henry Winkler) in the CBS sitcom, Out of Practice, at the same time. Out of Practice was cancelled by CBS after one season.

Channing received several awards in 2002. She won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her work on The West Wing. That same year, she also won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Television Movie or Miniseries for her portrayal of "Judy Sheppard" in The Matthew Shepard Story, a docudrama about an openly gay college student who is killed in an act of senseless violence and cruelty. Finally, Channing received the 2002 London Film Critics Circle Award (ALFS) for Best Actress of the Year for her role in the film The Business of Strangers.

In 2005, Channing won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children/Youth/Family Special for Jack, a Showtime television movie about a young man struggling to understand why his father left the family for another man.

Personal lifeEdit

Channing has been married and divorced four times; she has no children.[5] She has been in a long-term relationship with cinematographer Daniel Gillham for more than 20 years.[6] They met on the set of A Time of Destiny.[2] The couple reside in Maine when not working.[5]




Short Subjects:

  • The Lion Roars Again (1975)
  • A Different Approach (1978)
  • From the Bottom Up (2004)

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Stockard Channing at
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Stockard Channing at Yahoo! Movies.
  3. Zoe Williams. "Lousy with dignity," The Guardian, May 11, 2002.
  4. Review, The Girl Most Likely To..., The New York Times.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Clare Rudebeck, "One Tough Cookie," The Independent (London), February 16, 2005.
  6. Polly Vernon, "What I know about men...," The Observer, April 29, 2006.