An actress who first earned her critical laurels (and reeled in a substantial television fanbase) as Dr. Alison Cameron on the blockbuster medical drama House (2004), Jennifer Morrison grew up well outside the realm of Hollywood, in a middle-class family in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a preteen and teenager, Morrison entered showbusiness via modeling, appearing in innumerable print campaigns and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids at one point; after wrapping up high school, she attended Loyola University as a theater major (reportedly graduating in only three years) and subsequently trained with the legendary Steppenwolf theatrical ensemble, onetime home to such stars as John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, and Glenne Headly.
From there, Hollywood fame was merely a short leap away; by the time of her Loyola graduation, Morrison had already officially debuted onscreen, with a small part as the daughter of Richard Gere and Sharon Stone in the psychological drama Intersection (1994) and a more significant role as a missing girl who psychically haunts Kevin Bacon in the supernatural thriller Stir of Echoes (1999). Morrison signed for her first lead with a role that many felt unworthy of her talents and intelligence: that of Amy Mayfield, a young film student who gets in way over her head amid a thesis project on urban legends, in John Ottman’s slasher outing Urban Legends: The Final Cut (2000). Subsequent projects included Michael Davis’s teen-oriented romantic comedy 100 Women (2002), Casey La Scala’s teen comedy Grind (2003), and — as something of a nadir — the critically despised holiday gross-out fest Surviving Christmas (2004), in which she played Ben Affleck’s snotty girlfriend.
As indicated, House represented Morrison’s breakthrough and the role that finally brought her public attention. The long-running Fox drama told of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a diagnostician with an astounding degree of medical knowledge and an absolute dearth of social skills. As Dr. Cameron (an immunologist with a not-so-secret crush on the physician), Morrison brought a much-needed dose of warmth and vulnerability to the series.
Morrison subsequently made headlines in 2007, when she was tapped to appear as Winona Kirk, James T. Kirk’s mother, in J.J. Abrams’s much-anticipated 11th installment of the Star Trek series.