Harboring an awesome wellspring of determination, Australian émigré actress Poppy Montgomery moved from down under to Los Angeles in 1993 (at the tender age of 18) and, with no connections or leads to her name, bought a copy of a book called How to Make it in Hollywood. In that text, Montgomery read an anecdote about one of Julia Roberts’ early managers, who had helped engineer some of the actress’ early successes. Montgomery searched diligently until she found the manager’s telephone number, then so plagued him with calls, one after another, that she ultimately wore down his resistance; he put Montgomery in touch with a manager who helped launch her career. The self-assurance evident in this “breakout strategy” had taken root early in Montgomery’s life; born June 19, 1975, in Paddington, New South Wales, Australia (a suburb of Sydney), Montgomery realized as a young girl that she only wanted to spend her life acting. Once in Hollywood, she refused to be snubbed or overlooked. As an ingenue in Los Angeles, Montgomery sustained smaller turns for seven years, including a role on NYPD Blue and performances in the Eddie Murphy comedy Life and the Garry Marshall tearjerker The Other Sister, until late 2000, when she landed the highly coveted lead role of Marilyn Monroe in the autobiographical miniseries about the superstar, Blonde, adapted from the book by esteemed belletrist Joyce Carol Oates. Though critics felt the telemovie uneven, most singled out Montgomery and raved over her interpretation.
This unique, inherent ability to reach down deep into a character and understand her on the most intuitive level shone through again and again in Montgomery’s work, and doubtless enabled her to land a recurring role on the CBS drama Without a Trace, about the day-to-day searches of a missing-persons unit headed by Anthony LaPaglia. When she received the call about Without a Trace, Montgomery had contributed exemplary work to two otherwise unsuccessful series — Elizabeth Waclawek in The Beat (2000) and Ellie Sparks in Glory Days (2002) — and needed a boost. The program, of course, became a massive hit, thanks in no small part to Montgomery’s fine work. In the series she portrays FBI agent Samantha Spade with marked believability. As one season of Without a Trace after another unfolded, Montgomery worked with equal emphasis in film and television. Her cinematic roles included Allison in the Gen-X indie comedy How to Lose Your Lover (2004) and Nadine Roberts in David Ocañas’ metaphysical thriller Between (2004); in 2005, Montgomery played Generosa Rand, the issue-ridden (and possibly homicidal) wife of wealthy investment banker Ted Ammon, in the made-for-television true crime saga Murder in the Hamptons.