Milano at a 2015 book signing for her graphic novel, Hacktivist, at Midtown Comics in Manhattan
|Born||Alyssa Jayne Milano
(1972-12-19) December 19, 1972
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Milano was born on December 19, 1972, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the daughter of fashion designer and talent manager Lin Milano and film-music editor Thomas M. Milano, (who had been an early member of the band Sleepy Hollow but left in 1972). She and her brother, Cory, who is seven years her junior, are of Italian ancestry. Her family remained in Bensonhurst until a neighborhood shooting prompted them to relocate to Great Kills, Staten Island.
Milano began her career at age seven, when her babysitter, without notifying her parents, took her to an audition for one of the four principal parts in a national touring company of Annie. Milano was one of four selected from more than 1,500 girls. During the course of her work in the play, Milano and her mother were on the road for 18 months. After returning to New York, she appeared in television commercials and did several roles in off-Broadway productions, including the first American musical adaptation of Jane Eyre. When accompanying a friend from the Annie production to the office of a New York agent, Milano was introduced to the agent, who began representing her. She does not feel that growing up in front of the camera harmed her childhood, and has said: “I love my family very much – they’ve really backed my career. I consider myself to be normal: I’ve got to clean my room, and help in the kitchen.”
In August 1984, Milano made her film debut in the coming-of-age drama Old Enough, which she recalled as a “great” way for “starting out”. The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won First Prize.
Milano auditioned as Tony Danza‘s daughter on the sitcom Who’s the Boss? After winning the part, she and her family moved to Los Angeles, where the show was produced. It premiered on ABC on September 20, 1984. Throughout Who’s the Boss?, Milano developed a close relationship with co-star Danza. Commenting on their early years together, “She was just the sweetest little girl of all time … She became much like my daughter.” The series established Milano as a teen idol, and provided her opportunities for other roles. Her education was split between school and an on-set tutor with whom Milano would work for three hours a day.
The body type and personality of Ariel, the main character in the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid, were based upon Milano. On stage, she starred in Tender Offer, a one-act play written by Wendy Wasserstein, All Night Long by American playwright John O’Keefe, and the first American musical adaptation of Jane Eyre. She returned to the theater in 1991, producing and starring in a Los Angeles production of Butterflies Are Free from December 26, 1991, to January 19, 1992.
A few years later this film was shown in Japan, prompting a producer to offer Milano a five-album record deal. Milano’s albums, which she described as “bubblegum pop“, scored platinum in the country, though she later showed her discontent in their musical quality. Subsequently, she starred in the children’s film The Canterville Ghost, which did not achieve much praise or attention and Variety magazine noted in its review: “Milano as the catalyzing daughter Jennifer adapts to the ghostly Sir Simon without a qualm; that, of course, is the true charm of the story, but Milano doesn’t exhibit enough presence to match the droll, charming Gielgud”.
Milano starred in two 1988 television films, Crash Course and Dance ’til Dawn. Both projects allowed her to work alongside close personal friend Brian Bloom who worked with his brother Scott with her in episodes of Who’s the Boss; this working camaraderie would later expand in 1993 when Milano made a cameo appearance in Bloom’s film The Webbers. She produced a teen workout video, Teen Steam, and achieved some fame outside the USA with her music career, which lasted until the early 1990s. Even though she scored platinum in Japan, Milano had no interest to pursue a music career in the United States: “I’m not interested in crossing over. I’d much rather have it released where it’s appreciated than laughed at.” Simultaneously, she wrote a weekly column called “From Alyssa, with love” for the teen magazine Teen Machine.
Milano played a teenage prostitute in the 1992 independent film Where the Day Takes You. The film, which focuses on a group of young runaway and homeless teenagers, was shot on and around Hollywood Boulevard. and was met with positive critical reception. It was nominated for the Critics Award at the Deauville Film Festival, and won the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Although Milano feared that viewers would only recognize her as “the girl from Who’s the Boss?“, she was noticed by the media, which helped her land the role of Amy Fisher in the high-profile TV movie Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story, one of three TV films based on Fisher’s shooting of Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Milano said that her portrayal of Fisher in the film, which was based on the Buttafuoco’s point of view, “was the least ‘Alyssa’ of anything [she had] done.” The film was shot from November – December 1992. She welcomed the cancellation of the series, as she was ready to move on to other roles and enthusiastic to “showcase” what she was able to do. Looking back on eight years of playing the same role, Milano commented, “Creatively, it’s been very frustrating. I gave her more of a personality. I changed her wardrobe, cut her hair, anything to give her new life.”
In the early 1990s, Milano auditioned for nearly every film role in her age bracket, including B movies, and finally tried to shed her “nice girl” image by appearing nude in several erotic films targeted at adults, such as Embrace of the Vampire, Deadly Sins and Poison Ivy II: Lily. She said the nude appearances taught her to begin requiring a nudity clause in her contracts giving her “full control” over all her nude scenes. In a 1995 interview, she explained her motivation for some explicit scenes in Embrace of the Vampire: “I’m not going to say that I was manipulated into doing things that I didn’t want to do. I did it because it was a woman director and I felt protected. And I learned a lot as far as knowing where the camera is and what coverage they need so that it’s not all explicit.”
She starred in other roles, such as Candles in the Dark, Confessions of a Sorority Girl, The Surrogate, To Brave Alaska and Fear, which did not receive very positive reviews, although the Los Angeles Times called Milano “very good” in the production.
Milano starred in the lead role in Hugo Pool (1997).
In late 1996, Milano was offered a role of Jennifer Mancini on the drama Melrose Place by producer Aaron Spelling: “We were looking for someone with sparkle. Alyssa was the perfect choice.” She left early in season seven. In 1998, she was cast as Phoebe Halliwell, one of the three lead characters on Spelling’s show Charmed. She and Holly Marie Combs became producers for the show during season four. The series ran for eight seasons, concluding in 2006.
In 2007, Milano’s commercial work included two 2007 television ads for Veet and Sheer Cover. That year, she filmed a pilot for ABC called Reinventing the Wheelers, which was not picked up for the 2007–08 season. That season she appeared in ten episodes of My Name Is Earl.
Milano was part of TBS’s special coverage installment Hot Corner for the 2007 Major League Baseball playoffs. A fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in April 2007, Milano began writing a baseball blog on the Major League Baseball‘s website. That year she reported at Fenway Park during the ALDS between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The same year, she launched her signature “Touch” line of team apparel for female baseball fans, selling it through her blog on Major League Baseball’s website. It also became available in 2009 through a boutique store located in Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets. She has an interest in the Los Angeles Kings, a National Hockey League team, and is involved with a related clothing line. In 2008, she expanded that to NFL football, as a New York Giants fan. Since Milano is from the same hometown as NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, she revealed some of her family’s connections with the Giants. In 2013, Milano expanded “Touch” into NASCAR.
On March 20, 2009 it was announced that Milano voiced Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. In a 2010 interview she told the press that she had ‘a blast’ working on the game, although she recalled it being ‘odd’ having to grunt in a room alone.
On March 24, 2009, her book on her baseball fandom, Safe At Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic, was released. Milano has signed on to star in and produce My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, a romantic comedy in which she plays a woman with a relationship dilemma.
Milano starred in the sitcom Romantically Challenged as Rebecca Thomas, a recently divorced single mother attorney in Pittsburgh who has not dated “since Bill Clinton was president”. The series premiered on ABC on April 19, 2010. The series was canceled after airing four episodes.
In 2013, Milano created the comic book series Hacktivist, which was written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, drawn by Marcus To, and published by Archaia Entertainment. The book, which explores the modern world of hacking and global activism, is described as “a fast-paced cyber-thriller about friendship and freedom in a time of war.” The publication was released digitally in late 2013, while the first print edition issue of the four-issue miniseries was published in January 2014. A hardcover edition collecting all four issues was released in July 2014. The series received positive reviews, as it currently holds a score of 8.1 out of 10 at the review aggregator website Comic Book Roundup.
In June 2013, she played Savannah Davis in ABC drama series Mistresses, which is about the scandalous lives of four girlfriends, but she left the show after season two, due to conflict between filming location and family issue. She signed on as host and judge Project Runway: All Stars beginning with season three. On March 2, 2015, Milano was a guest host on The Talk.
Humanitarian and political causes
In the late 1980s, Milano reached out to Ryan White, a schoolboy ostracized for having AIDS, and a fan of Milano’s. She attended a big party for him, where she sat with him for six hours, making friendship bracelets with him. They appeared together on The Phil Donahue Show, where Milano kissed White, in order to show that she could not catch the disease through casual contact with him.
In October 2004, Milano participated in UNICEF’s “Trick or Treat” campaign as the national spokesperson. She raised approximately $50,000 for South African women and children with AIDS by selling her own and schools’ photo work.
In June 2007, The Sabin Vaccine Institute, named Milano a Founding Ambassador for the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an alliance formed to advocate and mobilize resources in the fight to control neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), to which Milano donated $250,000. She is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the United States of America, Her field work for the organization has included a 2004 trip to Angola to speak with HIV-positive women and people disfigured by land mines during the country’s civil war; a trip to India to meet displaced mothers living in squalor following a tsunami; and a 2010 trip to the settlement of Kolonia in western Kosovo to witness impoverished living conditions. Milano wrote on her blog that the latter trip was “the hardest experience I’ve had on a field visit,” and described a waste dump close to the settlement where children spent time looking for metal to sell or scavenging for food.
For her 37th birthday, which occurred on December 19, 2009, Milano ran an online fundraising campaign for Charity:Water. Her original goal was to raise $25,000, but a donation from her husband put her over the $75,000 mark on December 18. The fundraiser ran until December 26. In September 2013, Milano released a viral tape on Funny or Die that drew attention to the Syrian civil war.
Milano has dyslexia. In a 2004 interview, she explained how she deals with the disorder:
I’ve stumbled over words while reading from teleprompters. Sir John Gielgud, whom I worked with on The Canterville Ghost years ago, gave me great advice. When I asked how he memorized his monologues, he said, “I write them down.” I use that method to this day. It not only familiarizes me with the words, it makes them my own.
After one year of dating, Milano became engaged to Creative Artists Agency agent David Bugliari in December 2008, and they married on August 15, 2009 at Bugliari’s family home in New Jersey. They have a son and a daughter.
|1989||Speed Zone||Lurleen||a.k.a. Cannonball Fever|
|1992||Where the Day Takes You||Kimmy|
|1993||Candles in the Dark||Sylvia Velliste|
|1993||Conflict of Interest||Eve|
|1994||Double Dragon||Marian Delario|
|1995||Embrace of the Vampire||Charlotte Wells|
|1995||Deadly Sins||Cristina Herrera|
|1996||Poison Ivy II: Lily||Lily Leonetti||Direct-to-video|
|1996||Jimmy Zip||Francesca||Short film|
|1997||Below Utopia||Susanne||Also producer|
|1997||Hugo Pool||Hugo Dugay|
|2001||Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure||Angel (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|2002||Buying the Cow||Amy|
|2002||Kiss the Bride||Amy Kayne|
|2003||Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star||Cyndi|
|2005||Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone||26 (voice)|
|2007||The Blue Hour||Allegra|
|2010||DC Showcase: The Spectre||Aimee Brenner (voice)||Short film|
|2010||My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend||Jesse Young||Also producer|
|2011||Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2||Biminy (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|2011||Hall Pass||Mandy Bohac|
|2011||New Year’s Eve||Nurse Mindy||Segment: “Hospital Story”|
|1984–1992||Who’s the Boss?||Samantha Micelli||196 episodes|
|1986||The Canterville Ghost||Jennifer Canterville||Television film|
|1988||Crash Course||Vanessa Crawford||Television film (a.k.a. Driving Academy)|
|1988||Dance ’til Dawn||Shelley Sheridan||Television film|
|1989||Living Dolls||Samantha Micelli||2 episodes|
|1993||Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story||Amy Fisher||Television film|
|1993||At Home with the Webbers||Fan||Television film (cameo)|
|1993||Candles in the Dark||Sylvia Velliste||Television film|
|1994||Confessions of a Sorority Girl||Rita Summers||Television film|
|1995||The Surrogate||Amy Winslow||Television film|
|1995||The Outer Limits||Hannah Valesic||Episode: “Caught in the Act“|
|1996||Mr. Show with Bob and David||Audience member||2 episodes|
|1996||To Brave Alaska||Denise Harris||Television film|
|1997, 2001||Spin City||Meg Winston||2 episodes|
|1997–1998||Melrose Place||Jennifer Mancini||40 episodes in seasons 5–7|
|1998||Goldrush: A Real Life Alaskan Adventure||Frances Ella ‘Fizzy’ Fitz||Television film|
|1998||Fantasy Island||Gina Williams||Episode: “Superfriends”|
|1998–2006||Charmed||Phoebe Halliwell||178 episodes; also producer (seasons 5–8)|
|2001||The Diamond Hunters||Tracy Van der Byl||Miniseries|
|2001||Family Guy||Herself (live-action)||Episode: “Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington“|
|2004||The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius||April the Gorlock (voice)||Episode: “Win, Lose and Kaboom“|
|2007–2008||My Name Is Earl||Billie Cunningham||10 episodes (season 3)|
|2008||Wisegal||Patty Montanari||Television film; also producer|
|2010||Castle||Kyra Blaine||Episode: “A Rose for Everafter“|
|2010||Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil||Scarlett Rosetti (voice)||Episode: “Frame Story/And… Action!”|
|2010||Sundays at Tiffany’s||Jane Claremont||Television film; also producer|
|2010, 2011||Romantically Challenged||Rebecca Thomas||6 episodes|
|2011||Young Justice||Poison Ivy (voice)||Episode: “Revelation”|
|2011, 2012||Breaking In||Amy||2 episodes|
|2013–2014||Mistresses||Savannah “Savi” Davis||Main role (26 episodes in seasons 1 & 2)|
|2013–||Project Runway: All Stars||Herself/host||Judge|
|2014||Hollywood Game Night||Herself||Episode: “Things That Go Clue-Boom in the Night”|
|2015||Rupaul’s Drag Race||Herself||Herself/Judge|
|2017||Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later|
|2009||Ghostbusters: The Video Game||Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn|