Elizabeth Kemp

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Elizabeth Kemp
Elizabeth Kemp.jpg

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Kemp in 2011
Born November 5, 1951

Died September 1, 2017(2017-09-01) (aged 65)

Venice, California, U.S.
Alma mater American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actress, acting coach
Years active 1973–2017
Website www.elizabethkemp.com

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

She began her career appearing in the television series Love of Life in 1973, after having studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at 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 Navy Officer/Test Pilot who was stationed at the Pentagon.[2]

She demonstrated talent as a child painter from the ages of 13 to 16, graduating from high school with a special award for Creative Achievement. At age 16, she traveled 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 Actors Studio off-Broadway before it transferred to Broadway and became a long-running smash hit.[3] Her mentor, Elia Kazan, took Tennessee Williams to see Kemp in this production and when Williams was looking for the 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; an experience that proved to be most extraordinary, in that she worked closely with Tennessee Williams daily 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] Kemp 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 Free Gift Inside (by Edward Allan Baker). 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 at La Spazia Teatro in Rome.[citation needed] Kemp became a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio in 1975.[7]

After having appeared on several television series, such as 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] Shortly after, Kemp began teaching acting at the Strasberg Institute, and shortly after 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 actor and student Bradley Cooper.[3][10] Kemp 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]

Kemp was 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] The couple separated in June 1991 and were divorced at an undetermined date.[a]


Kemp died of cancer[13][14] on September 1, 2017 in Venice, Los Angeles, aged 65.[15] Several public tributes were made to Kemp from her former students, including 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”