Here’s a word that won’t come to mind after a look at the extensive career of Gail O’Grady: Vanilla. There are, however, many other words capable of describing her body of work thus far: Colorful, varied, daring and skilled to mention just a few. A closer look at the roles Gail has played, both on screen and off, reveals a woman willing to tackle the challenges they pose without hesitation, never giving ‘less than’ to either aspect of her life – personal or professional.
Gail grew up in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, and graduated from Wheaton North High School in Illinois. Starting out relatively small, she began her career posing in front of a camera as a model for both Sears and Montgomery Ward advertisements. Her beauty may have given her a start, helping her land modeling jobs, but her career wasn’t built on her looks; her first film role cast her as a victim, dead in a Volkswagen for the movie Werewolf. As well as her job as a working actress, Gail is also a loving mother and is well acquainted with meeting the challenges of the many roles women must play today.
Doctor, judge, real estate agent, teacher, singer, single mother, schemer and more, Gail’s performances also run the gamut of genres: romance, drama, horror and comedy. The viewers’ responses to her portrayals are as seemingly varied as the multitudes of roles themselves, a testament to the talent Gail possesses to bring substance to those characters, be they sympathetic, endearing, sexy or downright bitchy. Her ability to take on a wide variety of roles are apparent, seen in characters such as a receptionist on NYPD Blue, a mother inspired by her sharing her battle with breast cancer to fulfill a lifelong dream in Living Out Loud, a sharp-tongued judge on Boston Legal… All are reflections of just how well Gail O’Grady can take a part and wear it, making the viewer feel as though it’s not just a performance. The effort and professionalism she brings in creating a portrayal as authentic as possible takes viewers past a familiar face on the screen, allowing them to accept her in the new skin she’s wearing.
Throughout her career, Gail has cultivated a knack for taking what, at times, seems to be similar character types, and turning out a performance which ends up avoiding pigeon-holing her as a sexy siren; from the tender Donna Abandando on NYPD Blue with her demure and somewhat subdued sex appeal, to Emily Marshall, recovering from a mastectomy and wondering if she’ll still appeal sexually to her husband. Gail breathes life into the many scripted facets of being a woman and leaves the audience wondering what skin she’ll wear next.