Williams at the SAG Foundation
brunch in January 2007
Margaret JoBeth Williams
December 6, 1948
|Occupation||Actress, television director|
John Pasquin (m. 1982)
Margaret JoBeth Williams (born December 6, 1948) is an American actress and television director. Her directorial debut with the 1994 short film On Hope earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. Since 2009, she has served as president of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.
Williams rose to prominence appearing in such films as Stir Crazy (1980), Poltergeist (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Day After (1983), Teachers (1984), and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). A three-time Emmy Award nominee, she was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her work in the TV movie Adam (1983) and the TV miniseries Baby M (1988). Her third nomination was for her guest role in the sitcom Frasier (1993–94). She also starred in the TV series The Client (1995–96) and had recurring roles in the TV series Dexter (2007) and Private Practice (2009–11).
Williams was born in Houston, Texas, and is the daughter of Frances Faye (née Adams), a dietitian, and Fredric Roger Williams, an opera singer and manager of a wire and cable company. Williams grew up in the South Park neighborhood of Houston, and attended Jones High School, from which she graduated in 1966.
She graduated from Pembroke College in Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1970, intending to become a child psychologist. Instead, she turned to theater, training with Jim Barnhill and John Emigh, as well as at the Trinity Repertory Company, taking voice lessons to neutralize her Texan accent. Then she moved to New York City and began to appear in television series in the mid-1970s.
Williams's first television role was on the Boston-produced first-run syndicated children's television series Jabberwocky, which debuted in 1972. Her character was named, appropriately enough, JoBeth. She joined the Jabberwocky cast in season two, replacing the original hostess, Joanne Sopko. The series ran until 1978. She was a regular on two soap operas, playing Carrie Wheeler on Somerset and Brandy Shelloe on Guiding Light. Williams's feature-film debut came in 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer as a girlfriend of Dustin Hoffman's character, memorably quizzed by his son after being discovered walking nude to the bathroom.
Williams is perhaps most recognized for her roles in Stir Crazy (1980), with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, and Poltergeist (1982), as suburban housewife Diane Freeling, a character she reprised in a sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, 1986). A year later, she was part of the ensemble comedy-drama The Big Chill (1983). This led to her only major starring role in a studio feature film, American Dreamer (1984), opposite Tom Conti. High-profile co-starring roles in Teachers (1984) with Nick Nolte, Desert Bloom (1986) with Jon Voight, Memories of Me with Billy Crystal (1988), and Blake Edwards's Switch (1991) with Ellen Barkin followed.
She is also known for starring opposite Kris Kristofferson in Oscar-winning director Franklin J. Schaffner's final film, the Vietnam POW drama Welcome Home (1989). In 1992, she re-teamed with The Big Chill director Lawrence Kasdan to portray Bessie Earp in Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner, and starred as Crazy Diane/Sane Diane, a schizophrenic shut-in, in the dark independent comedy, Me, Myself and I.
She also co-starred with Ed O'Neill in the John Hughes-written comedy Dutch (1991), and starred in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) as the police detective/love interest of Sylvester Stallone's character. In 1995, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her 1994 live-action short On Hope, starring Annette O'Toole; the film was Williams's directorial debut. In 1997, she played a domineering lesbian in the independent comedy Little City with Jon Bon Jovi, and an hysterical publishing or in Just Write with Jeremy Piven. In 2005, she appeared in the Drew Barrymore-Jimmy Fallon baseball comedy Fever Pitch.
Williams has also gained critical acclaim for a number of performances in notable television movies, including the nuclear holocaust film The Day After (1983), Murder Ordained (1987), as Lois Burnham Wilson in My Name is Bill W. (1989), and the critically acclaimed Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Ponder Heart (2003) for director Martha Coolidge.
She earned Emmy nominations for starring as real-life characters Revé Walsh (the wife of John Walsh) in the film Adam (1983) and Mary Beth Whitehead in Baby M (1988). In 1993, she anchored the improvised Showtime dramedy Chantilly Lace with Helen Slater and Martha Plimpton.
She also had an Emmy-nominated guest-starring role on Frasier and played Reggie Love in the 1995–1996 CBS series The Client (adapted from the 1994 film of the same title), which lasted only 21 episodes, but gained a wider audience when it was rebroadcast in reruns on the TNT Network.
In 1999, Williams teamed with John Larroquette and Julie Benz for the CBS network situation comedy Payne. The show, which was the American television version of the hit British comedy Fawlty Towers, lasted just 10 episodes.
In 2007, she joined Dexter for a four-episode arc as the serial killer's future mother-in-law. Also, she appeared in a memorable 2009 Criminal Minds listed as Special Guest Star in the episode "Empty Planet" as Professor Ursula Kent, who helps the BAU with a bomb threat in Seattle.
In 2014, she appeared in the CBS science-fiction drama Extant, as Leigh Kern (season one, episode seven).
|1979||Kramer vs. Kramer||Phyllis Bernard|
|1980||The Dogs of War||Jessie Shannon|
|1982||Endangered Species||Harriet Purdue|
|1983||The Big Chill||Karen Bowens|
|1984||American Dreamer||Cathy Palmer / Rebecca Ryan|
|1986||Desert Bloom||Lily Chismore|
|1986||Poltergeist II: The Other Side||Diane Freeling|
|1988||Memories of Me||Lisa|
|1992||Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot||Lt. Gwen Harper|
|1992||Me, Myself and I||Diane|
|1994||Wyatt Earp||Bessie Earp|
|1997||Jungle 2 Jungle||Dr. Patricia Cromwell|
|1997||Just Write||Sidney Stone|
|1997||When Danger Follows You Home||Anne Werden|
|2002||The Rose Technique||Dr. Lillian Rose|
|2005||Fever Pitch||Maureen Meeks|
|2007||In the Land of Women||Agnes Webb|
|2011||The Big Year||Edith Preissler|
|2017||What the Night Can Do||Bettye Sue Dryer|
|2018||Alex & the List||Mrs. Stern|
|1974||Great Performances||Constance Wilde||"Feasting with Panthers"|
|1976||Somerset||Carrie Wheeler||"Another World: Somerset", "31 December 1976"|
|1977–1981||Guiding Light||Brandy Schlooe||Recurring role|
|1978||The World Beyond||Marian Faber||TV film|
|1980||Fun and Games||Laura Weston||TV film|
|1980||The White Shadow||Paula Harris||"Reunion: Parts 1 & 2"|
|1981||The Big Black Pill||Tiffany Farrenpour||TV film|
|1983||Adam||Reve Walsh||TV film|
|1983||The Day After||Nancy Bauer||TV film|
|1985||Kids Don't Tell||Claudia Ryan||TV film|
|1986||Adam: His Song Continues||Reve Walsh||TV film|
|1987||Murder Ordained||Lorna Anderson||TV film|
|1989||My Name Is Bill W.||Lois 'Lo' Wilson||TV film|
|1990||Child in the Night||Dr. Hollis||TV film|
|1990||Timeless Tales from Hallmark||Bettina (voice)||"The Elves and the Shoemaker"|
|1991||Victim of Love||Tess Palmer||TV film|
|1991||The Legend of Prince Valiant||Queen Ilene (voice)||"The Secret of Perilous Garde"|
|1992||Fish Police||Angel Jones (voice)||Main role|
|1992||Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted||Ginny Moore||TV film|
|1993||Jonny's Golden Quest||Jade Kenyon (voice)||TV film|
|1993||Sex, Love and Cold Hard Cash||Sarah Gallagher||TV film|
|1993||Chantilly Lace||Natalie||TV film|
|1993||Final Appeal||Christine Biondi||TV film|
|1993||Gloria Vane||Gloria Vane||TV film|
|1993||Frasier||Danielle (voice)||"Beloved Infidel"|
|1994||Frasier||Madeline Marshall||"Adventures in Paradise: Parts 1 & 2"|
|1994||Batman: The Animated Series||May / June (voice)||"Sideshow"|
|1994||Parallel Lives||Winnie Winslow||TV film|
|1994||Voices from Within||Nancy Parkhurst||TV film|
|1995||A Season of Hope||Elizabeth Hackett||TV film|
|1995–96||The Client||Reggie Love||Main role|
|1996||Ruby Jean and Joe||Rose||TV film|
|1996||Breaking Through||Pam Willis||TV film|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||Marge Slayton||"The Original Wives Club"|
|1998||A Chance of Snow||Madeline 'Maddie' Parker-Hill||TV film|
|1998||Stories from My Childhood||Queen Hildegard (voice)||"The Wild Swans"|
|1999||Payne||Constance 'Connie' Payne||Main role|
|1999||Justice||Jane Newhart||TV film|
|1999||It Came from the Sky||Alice Bridges||TV film|
|2000||Trapped in a Purple Haze||Sophie Hanson||TV film|
|2000||The Norm Show||Claire Stackhouse||"Norm vs. Youth: Part 2"|
|2001||The Ponder Heart||Edna Earle Ponder||TV film|
|2002||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Mrs. Rawley||"Waste"|
|2003||Judging Amy||Gemma Lawnsdale||"Judging Eric"|
|2003||Skin||Dr. Sara Rose||"Endorsement"|
|2003||Miss Match||Lianne Fox||"Pilot", "Jive Turkey", "Most Hopeless Romantics"|
|2005||14 Hours||Jeanette Makins||TV film|
|2005||Into the Fire||June Sickles||TV film|
|2005||Las Vegas||Liz||"The Real McCoy"|
|2006||24||Miriam Henderson||"Day 5: 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m."|
|2006||Numb3rs||Margaret Eppes||"Hot Shot"|
|2006||Criminal Minds||Prof. Ursula Kent||"Empty Planet"|
|2006||Worst Week of My Life||Libby||"Pilot"|
|2006||Twenty Good Years||Kate||"Remember the Alimony"|
|2006||Stroller Wars||Roberta||TV film|
|2006–07||The Nine||Sheryl Kates||"Outsiders", "Confessions"|
|2007||Sybil||Hattie Dorsett||TV film|
|2007||Dexter||Gail Brandon||Guest role (season 2)|
|2008||Life in General||Mary Kate Walton||Webseries|
|2009||Uncorked||Sophia Browning||TV film|
|2009–2011||Private Practice||Bizzy Forbes||Guest roles (seasons 3–4)|
|2011||NCIS||Leona Phelps||"One Last Score"|
|2011||Law & Order: LA||Mrs. Walker||"Benedict Canyon"|
|2011||Love's Christmas Journey||Mrs. Beatrice Thompson||TV film|
|2011–2015||Hart of Dixie||Candice Hart||Guest role (seasons 1–4)|
|2012||Scandal||Sandra Harding||"Hell Hath No Fury"|
|2013||Mistresses||Janet||"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"|
|2013–2015||Perception||Margaret Pierce||"Neuropositive", "Brainstorm"|
|2014||In My Dreams||Charlotte Smith||TV film|
|2014||Extant||Leigh Kern||"More in Heaven and Earth", "Incursion"|
|2014–15||Marry Me||Myrna Schuffman||Recurring role|
|2015||Your Family or Mine||Ricky Weston||Main role|
|2016||Rizzoli & Isles||Tilly Dunn||"For Richer or Poorer"|
|2018||The Good Doctor||Ruth||"She"|
|2018||Living Biblically||Diana||"Let Us Pray"|
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