Jennifer Westfeldt (born February 2, 1970) is an American actress, screenwriter, director and producer. She is best known for co-writing, co-producing and starring in the 2002 indie film Kissing Jessica Stein, for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay and a Golden Satellite Award for Best Actress - Comedy or Musical; and for writing, producing, starring in and making her directorial debut in the 2012 indie film Friends with Kids, which was included on New York Magazine's Top Ten Movies of 2012 list, as well as NPR's Top 12 of 2012.
|Born||February 2, 1970|
Guilford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Occupation||Actress and writer|
|Partner(s)||Jon Hamm (1997–2015)|
Her television work includes series regular and recurring roles on Grey’s Anatomy, 24, Queen America and Notes from the Underbelly, among others; and memorable guest-starring turns on This is Us and Girls. For the past three seasons, she has portrayed Pauline Turner Brooks on the TVLand show Younger, created by Darren Star.
She made her Broadway debut in 2003 in the revival of Wonderful Town opposite Donna Murphy, for which she received a 2004 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut, and a Drama League Award for her role as Eileen Sherwood. Other notable stage credits include the world premieres of Nell Benjamin's The Explorers Club at Manhattan Theater Club, directed by Marc Bruni; Nicky Silver's Too Much Sun at The Vineyard Theater opposite Linda Lavin, directed by Mark Brokaw; and Scott Z. Burns’ The Library at The Public Theater opposite Chloe Grace Moretz, directed by Stephen Soderbergh.
Upon graduating from Yale University with a B.A. in Theater Studies, Westfeldt started her career as a New York-based theater actress, starring in dozens of regional and Off-Broadway productions, including the long-running Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks. In 1997, she was cast in a series regular role on the 20th Century Fox/ABC sitcom Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place, alongside Ryan Reynolds, Traylor Howard and Richard Ruccolo.
Kissing Jessica SteinEdit
In 1997 Westfeldt co-wrote and co-starred with Heather Juergensen in an Off-Broadway play based on a series of sketches called Lipschtick: The Story of Two Women Seeking The Perfect Shade, which caught the attention of major Hollywood studios. The play was optioned by Radar Pictures to be made into a film, but after two years of studio development, Westfeldt and Juergensen bought the rights back the script and decided to make their film independently.
Kissing Jessica Stein debuted at the LA International Film Festival in 2001, where it won the Audience Award for Best Feature, and a Special Jury Award for Writing and Acting for Jennifer and Heather. The film was snapped up by Fox Searchlight Pictures and was released to critical acclaim in March 2002.
Westfeldt received the Golden Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her role as Jessica, and an Indie Spirit Nomination for Best First Screenplay. The film won the Audience Favorites Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Miami Film Festival, Best Feature at the Louisville Jewish Film Festival, and the GLAAD Media Award, and it was included on more than a dozen top ten lists in 2002.
The film was hailed by critics upon release. Variety wrote, “Kissing Jessica Stein is pure pleasure. A fresh take on sex and the single girl, this buoyant, well-crafted romantic comedy blends pitch-perfect performances with deliciously smart writing.”
In 2014, The Advocate listed the movie as an essential film for LGBTQ+ viewers that "encourages exploration and self-awareness." In 2020, Kvellar writer Mara Reinstein looked back on the impact that this “authentic” and nuanced movie had, writing, “I can’t overstate how much Kissing Jessica Stein pioneered the gay rom-com.”
Other Film WorkEdit
Westfeldt's next feature, Ira & Abby, marked her first solo screenwriting effort. The film debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2006, where it won the Audience Award for Best Feature. It was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and released in the fall of 2007 to strong reviews.
Westfeldt won Best Actress at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen in 2006 for her performance as Abby, where Ira & Abby also took home the Jury Prize for Best Feature. The film won Audience Award for Best Feature at the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
In 2011, Jennifer wrote, produced, starred in and made her directorial debut in Friends With Kids, which was a breakout hit at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions snapped up the rights to the film, and it was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. Westfeldt starred opposite Adam Scott, with a cast including Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd, Ed Burns, Megan Fox and Jon Hamm.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called Friends With Kids “an indelibly funny and touching comedy with a real sting in its tail,” and deemed Jennifer “an actress of rare wit and grace, and now a filmmaker with a keen eye for nuance… In front of the camera and behind it, she’s the live current that pulls us in and makes us care. Westfeldt is the pulse of Friends With Kids, presenting us with life in all of its vibrant, messy sprawl.”
The film was included on New York Magazine's Top Ten List, as well as NPR's Top 12 of 2012.
Recent film roles include the 2016 short Lemon opposite Noah Bean, which premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and, in 2017, a supporting role in director Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? opposite Melissa McCarthy, which later ended up on the cutting room floor.
In 2017, Westfeldt produced the documentary Circus Kid, based on Lorenzo Pisoni’s life growing up in a circus family, which was bought and distributed by Sundance Now.
After one season on Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place, 20th Century Fox Studios cast Westfeldt as the lead of another series, the short-lived Holding The Baby on Fox.
She went on to star in multiple pilots, including the WB’s The Gene Pool opposite Chris Eigeman; The Untitled Paul Reiser Pilot on F/X; and Steve Levitan's Dante on NBC, opposite Morris Chestnut and Kevin Hart.
In 2006, she was cast as the female lead in ABC’s Notes From the Underbelly, which ran for two seasons. Though the show had middling reviews, Westfeldt received praise for her performance as Lauren. Andrew Johnston wrote in TimeOut: “Jennifer Westfeldt is a total babe, with physical-comedy skills that, if properly honed, could approach Lucille Ball territory. In other words, she was basically born for TV….[Westfeldt] gets to show her serious side, too, and if the series gives her enough exposure to start competing with Hope Davis and Laura Linney for blond-WASP roles, Underbelly will have more than justified its existence.
Her varied TV credits include memorable arcs on Younger, Queen America (opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones), Grey’s Anatomy, 24, Judging Amy and Hack; and guest-starring turns on ABC’s hit drama This is Us, HBO’s Girls, and Childrens Hospital, among others.
Westfeldt made her Broadway debut in the fall of 2003 in the critical and commercial hit Wonderful Town, starring opposite two-time Tony Winner Donna Murphy and directed by three-time Tony Winner Kathleen Marshall. Westfeldt received a 2004 Tony nomination, a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut, and a Drama League Award for her role as Eileen Sherwood.
Of her Broadway debut, John Simon of New York magazine wrote: “Jennifer Westfeldt leaps onto the Broadway stage in full-fledged acting and singing splendor as the adorable Eileen.” Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote, “Jennifer Westfeldt makes a charming Broadway debut as Eileen, Ruth's boy-magnet of a sister”. “Ms. Westfeldt's delightfully un-self-conscious interpretation suggests a virginal answer to the Vargas pinup girls,” he added.
Jennifer's more recent stage work includes the world premieres of Scott Z. Burns’ The Library at The Public Theater opposite Chloe Grace-Moretz, directed by Stephen Soderbergh; Nell Benjamin’s The Explorers Club at Manhattan Theater Club, directed by Marc Bruni; Nicky Silver’s Too Much Sun at The Vineyard Theater opposite Linda Lavin, directed by Mark Brokaw; Cusi Cram’s A Lifetime Burning at Primary Stages, directed by Pam MacKinnon; Joe Gilford’s Finks opposite Josh Radnor at The Powerhouse Theater/NYSAF, directed by Charlie Stratton; Stephen Belber’s The Power of Duff opposite Greg Kinnear at The Powerhouse Theater/NYSAF, directed by Peter Dubois; and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros’ Big Sky at The Geffen opposite Jon Tenney, directed by John Rando.
In 2002, Jennifer, along with her journalist sister Amy, sold a one-hour newsroom drama pitch to Touchstone/ABC, with Westfeldt attached to star. Called The Independent, the series was loosely inspired by her sister's experiences as a career journalist at the Associated Press. Tom Shadyac and Michael Bostick of Shady Acres were attached as EPs.
In 2010, with Alan Ball attached as Executive Producer, she sold a TV dramedy to HBO with her attached to star about the bird's nest custody agreement in divorce.
Westfeldt currently has two screenplays and one TV project in development.
Jennifer is the daughter of Constance "Connie" Perelson, a therapist, and Patrick McLoskey Westfeldt, Jr., an electrical engineer. Her stepfather is Michael Perelson, also a therapist. Her older sister is journalist Amy Westfeldt, who is the mother of Jennifer's twin nieces. Westfeldt grew up in Guilford, Connecticut, where she attended Guilford High School. She then attended Yale University, where she received a B.A. in Theater Studies. While at Yale, she starred in numerous plays and musicals and sang in the a cappella group Redhot & Blue. Jennifer was in a longtime relationship with the actor Jon Hamm from 1997 to 2015. She divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles.
|2001||See Jane Run||Unknown||Film debut|
|2001||Kissing Jessica Stein||Jessica Stein||Also co-producer/writer|
Los Angeles IFP/West Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay
Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Nominated - Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay
|2004||How to Lose Your Lover||Val|
|2005||Keep Your Distance||Melody Carpenter|
|2006||Ira & Abby||Abby Willoughby||Also executive producer/writer|
Boston Jewish Film Festival Award for Audience award
US Comedy Arts Festival Award for Best Actress
|2011||Friends with Kids||Julie Keller||Also director/producer/writer|
|2016||10 Crosby||Elegant Woman||Short film|
|2017||Circus Kid||Documentary; Producer|
|2018||Can You Ever Forgive Me?||Deleted scenes|
|1998||Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place||Melissa||television debut|
series regular; 13 episodes
|1998-2001||Holding the Baby||Kelly O'Malley||series regular; 13 episodes|
|1999||Snoops||Irene Hollis||Episode: "Separation Anxiety"|
|2000||Judging Amy||Leisha Eldon||3 episodes|
|2001||The Gene Pool||Jane Anderson||Television Movie|
|2003||Hack||Emily Carson||2 episodes|
|2003||Untitled New York Pilot||Catherine||Television Movie|
|2005||Numb3rs||Dr. Karen Fisher||Episode: "Man Hunt"|
|2007||Wainy Days||Nora||Episode: "Dorvid Days"|
|2007-2010||Notes from the Underbelly||Lauren Stone||series regular; 23 episodes|
|2009||Private Practice||Jen Harmon||Episode: "Ex-Life"|
|2009||Before You Say 'I Do'||Jane Gardner||Television Movie|
|2009||Grey's Anatomy||Jen Harmon||3 episodes|
|2010||24||Meredith Reed||recurring role; 6 episodes|
|2012||Martha Speaks||Kit (voice role)||Episode: "Cora! Cora!/Cora Encore!"|
|2012||Childrens Hospital||Jessica Meetcher||Episode: "Behind the Scenes"|
|2014||Girls||Annalise Pressler-Goings||Episode: "Only Child"|
|2017-2020||Younger||Pauline Turner-Brooks||recurring role; 12 episodes|
|2018||Queen America||Mandi Green||recurring role; 3 episodes|
|2019||Mad About You (Reboot)||Donna Lawson||Guest Star; Episode: “Real Estate for Beginners”|
|2020||This is Us||Claire||Guest Star; Episode: “A Hell of a Week: Part Two”|
|2003-2004||Wonderful Town||Eileen Sherwood||Broadway musical|
|2008||Finks||Natalie Meltzer||The Powerhouse Theater/NYSAF|
|2009||A Lifetime Burning||Emma||Primary Stages|
|2011||Three Sisters||Masha||LA Theaterworks|
|2012||The Power of Duff||Sue||The Powerhouse Theater|
|2013||The Explorers Club||Phyllida Spot-Hume||Manhattan Theater Club|
|2014||Too Much Sun||Kitty||The Vineyard Theater|
|2014||The Library||Elizabeth Gabriel||The Public Theater|
|2016||Big Sky||Jen||The Geffen|
|2016||The Money Shot||Karen||LA Theaterworks|
Awards and nominationsEdit
|2003||Golden Satellite Award||Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy||Kissing Jessica Stein||Won|
|2003||Independent Spirit Awards||Best First Screenplay||Kissing Jessica Stein||Nominated|
|2003||Los Angeles International Film Festival||Special Jury Prize for Writing and Acting||Kissing Jessica Stein||Won|
|2004||Tony Awards||Featured Actress in a Musical||Wonderful Town||Nominated|
|2004||Theater World Award||Outstanding Broadway Debut||Wonderful Town||Won|
|2004||Drama League Award||Wonderful Town||Won|
|2007||HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival||Best Actress||Ira & Abby||Won|
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- Jennifer Westfeldt steps behind the camera for Friends With Kids, Backstage, February 2012
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...the 36-year-old Jewish-raised, Yale-educated actress...
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