Acting Class...



Born Jillian Hennessy, on November 25, in Edmonton, Canada, just as the 1960's were coming to an end. She was one-half of a matching set, the fact of which probably helped launch her professional career twenty years later when the never dull cult director David Cronenberg (The Fly and Scanners) cast the Hennessy twins in his doppelganger-concept film Dead Ringer which featured Jeremy Irons in dual roles as twins with a strange co-dependent relationship.

Quite an auspicious start, despite the small amount of screen time, for the twin girls from Canada. But, it also marked the first and only appearance of this sister act, as while the acting bug had bitten Jillian big-time, it didn't seem to strike the fancy of her sister, Jacqueline (for whom we can find no publicity pictures or further credits in film, TV or stage)...

Jillian shortened her name to plain, old Jill and began studying comedy with a troupe in Toronto, before moving in with the famous Second City ensemble. She soon landed a role with the Broadway-bound "Buddy Holly Story" and then moved back to feature films with a very major role as Dr. Lazarus in Robocop 3 , who takes care of "Murphy" for the Police Department, going rogue with him when all hell breaks loose. Hennessy also played Robert Duvall's hostile, estranged daughter in Ron Howard's film, The Paper, which featured an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Marissa Tomei and Randy Quaid. Her part in that movie was that of an Assistant District Attorney, a part she'd continue to play for the next three years in the Emmy award winning dramatic cornerstone on NBC: Dick Wolf's Law and Order. Between 1993 and 1996 television viewers would come to know Jill Hennessy as Assistant New York District Attorney Claire Kincaid, playing opposite a cast including the original star of television's Mission Impossible Steven Hill (who played the Patriarchal District Attorney), Michael Moriarity and Sam Waterston (her fellow Assistant District Attorneys) plus the two time Tony award winner, Jerry Orbach.

Since her departure from network television she's been in a string of feature films including several independent and experimental ones made by women directors, such as Joan Chen's Autumn In New York (2000), Mary Herron's, I Shot Andy Warhol and Nisha Ganatra's Chutney Popcorn (2000) in addition to the Robert Redford/Sundance Lab Project Nine Scenes About Love, plus some traditional studio offerings like Molly (1999), Most Wanted (1997), Smile Like Yours, A (1997), Row Your Boat, The Florentine and Two Niņas which put her in the company of Winona Ryder, Elisabeth Shue, Richard Gere, Lauren Holly, Jon Voight, Greg Kinnear, Joan Cusack, Paul Sorvino (another Law and Order alumni), Eric Roberts, Mary Beth Hurt, Tom Sizemore, rocker Jon Bon Jovi and most recently with action star Steven Segal, rapper DMX and comedian Tom Arnold in Exit Wounds.

Her husband of almost two years, Paolo Mastropietro, has appeared with her in several films, including Exit Wounds and a feature written, produced and co-directed by Hennessy: The Acting Class.

Working with Smith College alumni Elizabeth Holden (Hennessy and Holden share credit on The Acting Class for the creative and production aspects -- they also play two Smith College acting students) in this comedy send-up of the acting teacher as guru, Hennessy is now exploring the world behind the camera on the creative end of the business (a general trend with some actors that has, over the years, seen Jerry Paris, Ivan Dixon, Vince Edwards, Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall, Jonathan Frakes, Levar Burton, Robert Redford, William Shatner and Anne Hech, among other actors, walk behind the camera to work on projects). This small film was well received on the film fest and college circuit -- featuring guest shots from Hennessy's Law and Order family including Chris North and Jerry Orbach.

The International Press Academy bestowed their Golden Satellite award for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie" to Hennessy for her work in TNN's Nuremberg with Alec Baldwin. She also played Jacqueline Kennedy in the NBC mini-series Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot.

This year she has returned to network television to star in her own series as the hot-tempered, abrasively stubborn Boston Medical Examiner, Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, in the NBC Monday night drama Crossing Jordan.

Says Hennessy of her no-nonsense character: "Jordan had to confront a lot of difficult things when she was very young, including the unsolved murder of her mother, so consequently she's unafraid of how people will react to her. She just immediately lets people know what's on her mind. She will take on anybody because she's used to living on the edge and not censoring herself..." Some may also say it's to be expected from Dr. Cavanaugh's hot-blooded Irish heritage!

Hennessy, herself, is part Irish, with some Italian, Swedish, French and Ukrainian put into the mix. She speaks four languages: English, French, Spanish and Italian and has the distinction of a song named for her that was written by the Mollycuddle - "The Ballad of Jill Hennessy".

Watch Jill Hennessy starring in Crossing Jordan Mondays at 10 pm on NBC. Photo Courtesy NBC



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