The Info List - Kathleen Chalfant

Kathleen Ann Chalfant (née Bishop; born January 14, 1945) is an American actress.

Life and career

Chalfant was born Kathleen Ann Bishop[1][2] in San Francisco, California, and was raised in her parents' boarding house in Oakland. Her father, William Bishop, was an officer in the Coast Guard. She studied acting in New York with Wynn Handman, who was a protégé of Sanford Meisner[3] and with Alessandro Fersen in Rome.[4]

Chalfant worked as a Production Coordinator at Playwrights Horizons in the mid-1970s, beginning with Demons: A Possession by Robert Karmon.[5] She made her Off-Broadway acting debut in Cowboy Pictures in June 1974.[6] She has since appeared in over three dozen Off-Broadway productions. In 2015, she appeared in the Women's Project Theater production of Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl[7] and as Rose Kennedy in the Nora's Playhouse production of Rose by Laurence Leamer.[8]

Chalfant was nominated for the 1993 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) in Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. She earned the Outer Circle Critics, Drama Desk, Obie and Lucille Lortel awards for her performance as Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit in 1998; she shaved her head for the role.[9] During her work with Wit, she incorporated her experiences dealing with terminal cancer of her half-brother, Alan Palmer, who died in 1998.[10]

For her 2003 performance in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads,[11] Chalfant won a second Obie award. In 2009, Chalfant performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film[12] utilizing dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

Chalfant has played recurring roles in a number of television series including House of Cards, Law & Order, Rescue Me, and The Guardian. Her roles in feature films have included Isn't It Delicious and Kinsey.

Chalfant currently plays Margaret Butler in The Affair on Showtime.

Personal life

In 1966, Chalfant married Henry Chalfant, a photographer and documentary filmmaker. They have a son, David Chalfant, who was the bass player for the folk-rock band, The Nields, and a daughter, Andromache, a set designer in New York.

Social justice and political activism

Chalfant has spoken widely about the role of art and artists in advocating for civil rights and social justice issues,[13] and "theater as a platform for social change."[14] She has been hosted by the Center for Constitutional Rights, as part of the Guantanamo Lawyers Panel[15] and was among a group of artists endorsing a cultural boycott of Israel to advocate for Palestinian rights. The group noted the precedent of cultural boycott in apartheid-era South Africa.[16]



Year Title Role Notes
1987 Five Corners Mrs. Fitzgerald
1989 Miss Firecracker Miss Lily
1990 Tales from the Darkside: The Movie Dean Segment: "Lot 249"
1991 Dangerous Music Therapist Short
1991 Out of the Rain Ruth
1992 Bob Roberts Constance Roberts
1996 MURDER and murder Mildred
1998 Last Days of Disco, TheThe Last Days of Disco Zenia
1998 Side Streets Nanda
1999 QM, I Think I Call Her QM Dr. Ruth Fielding Short
2000 Company Man Mother Quimp
2000 Woman Found Dead in Elevator Woman Short
2002 Book of Kings Nina Short
2004 Kinsey Barbara Merkle
2007 First Born Mrs. Kasperian
2007 Perfect Stranger Elizabeth Clayton
2007 The Last New Yorker Mimi
2008 Second Guessing Grandma Jean Short
2009 Duplicity Pam Frailes
2012 Lillian Lillian Manning Short
2013 Isn't It Delicious Joan Weldon
2013 Bath, TheThe Bath Liz Short
2013 Dream of Flying, AA Dream of Flying Old Woman Short
2016 They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief Mabel Elliot Documentary
2017 Class Rank Editor in Chief
2017 In the Studio Ilene Post-production
2017 Before/During/After Olga Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1991 American Playhouse Mrs. Hauser "The Hollow Boy"
1992 L.A. Law Marlene Branson "Zo Long"
1994 All My Children Rae Ella 1 episode
1997 Spin City Mother Superior "Hot in the City"
1997–00 Prince Street TV series
1999 Storm of the Century Joanna Stanhope TV miniseries
2000 Beat, TheThe Beat Mrs. Waclawek "Someone to Watch Over Me"
2000 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mrs. Nash "Noncompliance"
2001 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Priscilla Van Acker "Smothered"
2001–09 Law & Order Lisa Cutler "Phobia", "Shrunk", "Illegitimate"
2001–04 Guardian, TheThe Guardian Laurie Solt Main role
2002 Benjamin Franklin Silence Dogood TV miniseries documentary
2002 Death in the Family, AA Death in the Family Aunt Hannah TV film
2005 Lackawanna Blues Mrs. Carmichael TV film
2006 Book of Daniel, TheThe Book of Daniel Catherine Webster Regular role
2007 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Bessie Holland "Bombshell"
2007 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Judge Cutress "Haystack"
2009 Rescue Me Sean's Ma Recurring role
2009 Georgia O'Keeffe Mrs. Stieglitz TV film
2009 Mercy Mrs. Borghouse "Can We Get That Drink Now?"
2012 NYC 22 Ginny Williams "Pilot"
2013 Elementary Mrs. Clennon "An Unnatural Arrangement"
2013 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight Ethel Harlan TV film
2013–16 House of Cards Margaret Tilden Recurring role
2014 Americans, TheThe Americans Aunt Helen "The Walk-In"
2014 Good Medicine Coco LaRue "Raj"
2014 Forever Gloria Carlyle "The Art of Murder"
2014–15 Strain, TheThe Strain Abraham's Grandmother "Runaways", "BK, NY"
2014–15 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit President Roberts "Pornstar's Requiem", "Devastating Story"
2014–present Affair, TheThe Affair Margaret Butler Recurring role
2015–16 Madam Secretary Dean Ward "The Ninth Circle", "Unity Node", "Render Safe"
2017 Doubt Margaret Brennan 5 episodes


  1. ^ Search: Kathleen Bishop at familytreelegends.com; accessed April 3, 2014.
  2. ^ California Birth Records info.; accessed April 3, 2014.
  3. ^ Ryzik, Melena (May 20, 2007). "Nearly 60 Years and Counting, Working on the Art of Theater". Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Sturner, Lynda (24 March 2000). "Brit Wit". TheaterMania. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  5. ^ "Demons: A Possession". Internet Off-Broadway Database. Lucille Lortel Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  6. ^ "Cowboy Pictures". Internet Off-Broadway Database. Lucille Lortel Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  7. ^ Dear Elizabeth lortel.org, accessed December 18, 2015
  8. ^ Lloyd Webber, Imogen (14 September 2015). "Kathleen Chalfant Will Headline Laurence Leamer's Rose Off-Broadway". Broadway.com. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  9. ^ Vincent Canby (October 18, 1998). "Battered and Broken, So That She May Rise". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  10. ^ Robin Pogrebin (October 20, 1998). "A Brother's Death Helps Bring a Performance to Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  11. ^ Ben Brantley (April 7, 2003). "Life a Bit of a Mess? Just Carry On, Dear". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  12. ^ "The People Speak". howardzinn.org. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  13. ^ Steketee, Martha Wade (4 April 2013). "Kathleen Chalfant: Practicing 'Political Performance'". Urban Excavations. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  14. ^ "Kathleen Chalfant to Join Playwrights Panel on January 31". Aspen Institute. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  15. ^ "Guantanamo Lawyers Panel with CCR's Gitanjali Gutierrez and actress Kathleen Chalfant". Center for Constitutional Rights. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  16. ^ Norton, Ben (24 November 2015). "'Amplify your voice for justice': Roger Waters and prominent artists call for boycott of Israel in new video". Salon.com. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 

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