With the Academy Awards about to rear its big bald head, it’s time to check back into our A-to-Z (or in the case of this round: H to N) comprehensive list of celebrities the “liberty and prosperity” state has spawned. Here is part two of The Definitive List of Actors from NJ.
Critics have hailed the following compilation as “The Godfather: Part II of Jersey-themed….uh…list sequels.” What? Their words, not ours. (And don’t miss The Definitive List of Actors from NJ: Part 1.)
Despite growing up in one of the more affluent towns in Essex County, Handler’s humor has always been more…how do we put this?…inclusive. Fans of Handler’s dearly departed E! talk show, Chelsea Lately, take heart: The stand-up superstar’s NetFlix docu-series, Chelsea Does, debuts later this year.
The prolific actor from NJ is best known for playing hard-nosed characters forced to make tough decisions amidst impossible odds. Perhaps the most famous example was when this son of a Bergen County bookstore employee was on the receiving end of Tom Hanks’s famous Apollo 13 understatement, “Houston, we have a problem.” As always, Ed saved the day. (When Houston has problems, Jersey provides solutions.)
Hathaway’s faced a lot of trials and tribulations over the course of her 17-year career. She married a gay cowboy, (Brokeback Mountain), was the unwilling underling to a boss from hell (The Devil Wears Prada), had to chop her hair off (for her Oscar-winning role in Les Miserables) — but perhaps most impressively, she was forced to decode Batman’s severe speech impediment (The Dark Knight Rises).
The Greatest Generation might remember the late actor as the face of many early television shows such as ’60s hit Family Affair and the aptly named The Brian Keith Show. Boomers will no doubt recall his portrayal of the befuddled divorced dad of two precocious twins (played by one Hayley Mills) in 1961’s The Parent Trap. Anyone younger may remember his cameo as Buckshot Roberts in 1988’s Young Guns…if they recall him at all. Which is a shame, because this former Marine/WWII vet was as tough and reliable as his Gateway Region upbringing would suggest.
This late Hollywood Renaissance man was an accomplished producer, comedian, composer, and actor from NJ perhaps best known for hosting NBC’s The Ernie Kovacs Show, a comedy-variety show widely considered to have paved the way for shows like Saturday Night Live and Monty Python.
She’s won a Tony Award for her work on Broadway’s Nine, and many will deservedly remember Krakowski’s brilliant, Emmy-nominated run as Jenna Maroney in NBC’s 30 Rock as a career highlight — but who can forget her turn in the comedy classic, Vacation? Yep, that’s Krakowski as Cousin Vicki, with arguably one of the most memorable lines in the movie. Most recently, she earned another Emmy nomination (her fifth!) for the Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Hometown: Jersey City
Broadway is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Lane’s hometown — and the actor has owned the street ever since he starred in Present Laughter way back in 1982. Since then, he’s won two Tony Awards (for The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Lane’s also conquered the small and silver screens, winning Daytime Emmys for reprising his Lion King role in Disney’s Timon and Pumbaa — and, of course, he played Robin Williams’s more flamboyant half in 1996’s The Birdcage. One does want a hint of color, sir. One does indeed.
Hometown: Union Township
This former all-county third baseman found comedic success on Mad TV and the Howard Stern Show — and in recent years has rebounded after a public struggle with depression and addiction, recounting his battles in the best-selling book, Crash and Burn.
Equally comfortable on stage or in front of a camera (after all, he’s got three Tony Awards and an Oscar nomination), this legendary thespian’s career has spanned six decades. Up next: The HBO drama All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston and Anthony Mackie.
Hometown: Cherry Hill
This model turned actress (or “mactress,” as they’re totally not known in the industry) has appeared in virtually everything from NBC’s Heroes to Reese Witherspoon’s Legally Blonde to Beyoncé’s Obsessed. But no matter what career moves this Camden County cutie continues to make, she’ll always be known for her infamous whipped cream bikini in the 1999, anti-Friday Night Lights flick, Varsity Blues. Say it with us now: I… don’t…want…yer…liiiife.
France’s patron saint of comedy hails from Essex County — and the prolific actor and comedian has not one, but two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one honors his television accomplishments, the other pays tribute to his work in film). He famously teamed up with Dean Martin for the comedy duo Martin and Lewis before going solo, where he found success as an actor (in films like The Nutty Professor and The King of Comedy) before taking a break from acting, returning to the craft in 2013 with Max Rose.
His turn as gangster Henry Hill in the instant classic Goodfellas was so good that Liotta admitted he was typecast for awhile and mostly offered tough guy roles. The actor, who also appeared in beloved films like Field of Dreams, can now be seen alongside Jennifer Lopez in the NBC cop drama Shades Of Blue — playing a character on the right side of the law.
He’s since left acting for a career as a racecar driver, but this Bergen County original was one of the most prolific (and stable!) child stars of recent years. In addition to the TV hit Malcolm in the Middle, Muniz starred in several successful movies, like the Agent Cody Banks series and Big Fat Liar. And as he famously wrote in one of Twitter’s more infamous burns, Muniz was worth $40 million by the time he was 19.
This Tony award-winning actress has been a Broadway baby for so many years that, well, we probably shouldn’t be referring to Bebe as a “baby” anymore. But for those that remember when NBC’s Thursday night lineup actually meant something; she’s recognizable as the Lilith to Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier — a role that also put two Emmys on her shelf.
Hometown: Neptune City
Forget the courtside Laker seats and onmipresent sunglasses and other hallmarks of L.A.; Nicholson is a Jersey boy who was even named Class Clown when he graduated from Manasquan High School. It’s almost as illustrious an achievement as winning three Academy Awards. He is also the most-nominated male actor of all time (with twelve of them).
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our series, The Definitive List of Actors from NJ — and don’t miss Part 1 here!
Hero (Top) Feature Image: Witchblue / Wikimedia
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Chelsea Handler: David Shankman / Wikimedia Commons
Jane Krakowski: WatchwithKristin / Wikimedia Commons
Jerry Lewis: Wikimedia Commons
Jack Nicholson: Wikimedia Commons