An actress who brings wide-eyed introspection and wry humor to her work, Lauren Ambrose first came to the attention of mainstream audiences with her supporting role as Ethan Embry’s reclusive, brainy friend in the teen party flick Can’t Hardly Wait (1998). Ambrose, a native of New Haven, Connecticut — where she attended Rosemary Choate Hall and an arts magnet school — became involved with acting through her training as a singer. After spending many of her summers studying voice at Massachusetts’s prestigious Tanglewood, the aspiring performer branched out in front of the camera, landing supporting work on several episodes of NBC’s Law and Order, which cast her as a mentally retarded teen gang-raped by her classmates. She made her big-screen debut as one of Kevin Kline’s students in In & Out (1997), and a year later won the role in Can’t Hardly Wait.
In 2000 Ambrose had a busy year, starring in both the independent drama Swimming and in the screen adaptation of Charles Busch’s beloved and bawdy off-Broadway musical Psycho Beach Party. The former featured Ambrose as a teenager dealing with faltering friendships and questions surrounding her own sexuality, while the latter saw her inhabit the role of Chicklet, a teenaged tomboy whose seriously split personality compromises her chances for membership in her high school’s in-crowd.
Ambrose’s notoriety increased significantly in 2001, when she took on the character of Claire on HBO’s critically-acclaimed drama series Six Feet Under. The youngest child in a family of funeral-parlor owners, the role led to multiple shared Screen Actors Guild awards for Outstanding Ensemble as well as two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.