Kate Burton (actress)

Kate Burton

Burton in 2014
Born Katherine Burton
(1957-09-10) September 10, 1957
Geneva, Switzerland
Occupation Actress
Years active 1969; 1982–present
Spouse(s) Michael Ritchie (m. 1985)
Children Morgan (b. 1988)
Charlotte (b. 1989)
Parent(s) Sybil Burton
Richard Burton

Katherine "Kate" Burton (born September 10, 1957) is a Swiss-born Welsh-American actress, daughter of actor Richard Burton and Sybil Burton. On television, Burton received critical acclaim for performances in Shonda Rhimes's drama series as Ellis Grey on Grey's Anatomy, and as Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal.[1] She has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and three Tony Awards.[2]

Early life

Burton was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the daughter of producer Sybil Burton (née Williams; 1929–2013) and actor Richard Burton (1925–1984).[3] She was thus the stepdaughter of Elizabeth Taylor and of Sybil's second husband Jordan Christopher, both actors. Burton earned a bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and European History from Brown University in 1979, where she was on the board of Production Workshop, one of the university's student theater groups, and a master's degree from Yale School of Drama in 1982. Brown awarded Burton an honorary doctorate in 2007.[4][5]


Stage work

Burton's first notable role on Broadway was in a 1982 production of the Noël Coward play Present Laughter directed by George C. Scott. The following year, she appeared in the Broadway production of Doonesbury, playing J.J. Several key roles followed, including roles in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter and Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane.[6][7]

In 2002, she received Tony Award nominations in separate performance categories: Best Actress in a Play, for her portrayal of the title role in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and Best Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayals of Pinhead/Mrs. Kendal in the revival of The Elephant Man.[7] As of January 2016, she is one of only five actors, including Amanda Plummer, Dana Ivey, Jan Maxwell and Mark Rylance, to be nominated for Tony awards in two different categories in the same year.[8]

Burton in the play The Cherry Orchard

In 2006, Burton starred in the Off-Broadway production of The Water's Edge opposite Tony Goldwyn.[9] That year, she again received a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role in W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife.[7] In 2007, she played Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard at Boston's Huntington Theatre.[10] On December 21, 2007, she joined the cast of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening[7] in the role of the Adult Women when she replaced actress Christine Estabrook.[11] Kristine Nielsen replaced her on March 2, 2008 for a short stint until Estabrook reassumed the role.[12] During the summer of 2010, Burton portrayed actress Katharine Cornell in A.R. Gurney's The Grand Manner at Lincoln Center in New York.[13]

Film and television

Burton's first screen appearance was in the 1969 film Anne of the Thousand Days, starring her father,[14] with whom she later appeared as Alice opposite his White Knight in the 1983 Great Performances broadcast of Alice in Wonderland,[15] and in the 1984 CBS miniseries Ellis Island.[16] Other films include Big Trouble in Little China, The First Wives Club, Life with Mikey, and The Ice Storm.[17] Burton has said of these roles that she usually plays "the sweet wife, or the sweet dead wife."[18]

Burton has been perhaps most prolific in her work on television. She made many television appearances in the late 1980s and 1990s on such episodic shows as Spenser: For Hire, All My Children, and Brooklyn Bridge.[17] About playing the mother, in her late thirties, of David Schwimmer's character in the short-lived 1994 FOX sitcom, Monty, she said, "you don't really start playing moms in Hollywood until you're in your 40s, and usually the kids are almost your age! When I played Schwimmer's mother, I was 37 and he was, I think, 28. . . that happens a lot in TV and film; you really do end up being close in age to your child, which is nonsensical."[19] In 1996, Burton won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance as a mother dying of breast cancer in the ABC Afterschool Special, 'Notes For My Daughter'.[20] More recently, she made guest appearances as recurring characters on Law & Order, The Practice, The West Wing, Judging Amy and Medium. She also appeared on the HBO miniseries Empire Falls.[17]

Her recent recurring television roles have involved subplots concerning Alzheimer's disease. On FX network's Rescue Me, she played the role of Rose, a friend and possible romantic interest to Chief Jerry Reilly. Reilly, whose wife is in a facility suffering from Alzheimer's, hires Rose, a caregiver for her husband who was also a victim, to provide assistance and emotional support. In perhaps her most visible and well-known role to date as the mother of Dr. Meredith Grey (the titular character on the well-known ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy), Burton played Dr. Ellis Grey, the former trailblazing surgeon, who dies of Alzheimer's. In 2008, the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association singled her out for her compelling performances in both shows.[21] In 2006 and 2007, Burton received Emmy nominations for her Grey's Anatomy role.[22] In 2011, Burton appeared as a veteran monster hunter in the opening episodes of the NBC supernatural drama Grimm.[17] From 2012 until 2014, she played extreme right-wing Vice President Sally Langston, a secondary antagonist, in the ABC hit show Scandal, for which she again received an Emmy nomination.[23][22] In 2015 it was reported that Burton was cast in a leading role in the U.S. remake of the French-language film Martyrs, which opened theatrically in January 2016.[24][25]

Other work

Burton has narrated numerous audiobooks, including works by: Patricia Cornwell, Lisa Scottoline, Iris Johansen, and Dean Koontz.[26]

Personal life

In 1985, Burton married Michael Ritchie,[27] Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and one of the producers of the Broadway musicals The Drowsy Chaperone and Curtains.[28] They had met in 1982, while Ritchie was stage manager of a revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City in which Burton was playing the character Daphne.[29] They have two children, a son Morgan Ivor (born May 14, 1988), who is an actor,[30][31] and a daughter Charlotte Frances (born January 19, 1989).[32][33]



Year Title Role Notes
1969 Anne of the Thousand Days Serving Maid Uncredited
1984 Ellis Island Vanessa Ogden Television film
1986 Big Trouble in Little China Margo Litzenberger
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Ophelia Television film
1993 Life with Mikey Mrs. Burns
1993 Love Matters Deborah Television film
1996 August Helen Blathwaite
1996 First Wives Club, TheThe First Wives Club Woman in Bed
1996 Mistrial Katherine Donohue Television film
1997 Ice Storm, TheThe Ice Storm Dorothy Franklin
1997 Ellen Foster Abigail Montford Television film
1998 Celebrity Cheryl
2000 Opportunists, TheThe Opportunists Rest Home Sister
2002 Unfaithful Tracy
2002 Swimfan Carla Cronin
2002 Obsessed Sara Miller Television film
2003 Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, TheThe Diary of Ellen Rimbauer Connie Posey Television film
2003 Paper Mache Chase, TheThe Paper Mache Chase Martha Short film
2005 Stay Mrs. Letham
2005 Empire Falls Cindy Whiting Television film
2006 Sherrybaby Marcia Swanson
2007 Lovely by Surprise Helen
2008 What Just Happened Dr. Randall
2008 Quid Pro Quo Merilee
2008 Max Payne Nicole Horne
2009 Kings of Appletown, TheThe Kings of Appletown Aunt Birdy
2009 Spooner Alice Spooner
2010 Remember Me Janine
2010 Consent Susan
2010 127 Hours Aron's Mom
2011 Puncture Senator O'Reilly
2012 Liberal Arts Susan
2012 2 Days in New York Bella
2012 Mariachi Gringo Anne
2013 Adam Shaw Dr. Wilson
2014 Barefoot Mrs. Wheeler
2014 Shiva and May Martha
2015 Martyrs Eleonor


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Great Performances Alice Episode: "Alice in Wonderland"
1985 Evergreen Agatha Bradford Episode: "1.2"
1987–1988 Spenser: For Hire Randy Lofficier 2 episodes
1988 American Playhouse Agnes Bolton O'Neill Episode: "Journey Into Genius"
1992 Law & Order Sister Bettina Episode: "Sisters of Mercy"
1992 Home Fires Anne Kramer 6 episodes
1993 Brooklyn Bridge Susan Lowenberg Jones Episode: "Keeping Up with the Joneses"
1994 Monty Fran Richardson 13 episodes
1994 All My Children Dr. Renee Peters Unknown episodes
1995 ABC Afterschool Special Brenda Gardner Episode: "Notes for My Daughter"
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special
1997–2004 Practice, TheThe Practice A.D.A. Susan Alexander 9 episodes
2001–2009 Law & Order Erica Gardner 4 episodes
2001 100 Centre Street Sheila Byrne Episode: "My Brother's Keeper"
2001 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Stephanie Uffland Episode: "The Pardoner's Tale"
2004 West Wing, TheThe West Wing Sarah Brainerd Episode: "Slow News Day"
2005 Judging Amy Dr. Sheri Jordan Episode: "Silent Era"
2005 American Masters Voice of Novels Episode: "Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea"
2005 Numb3rs Anthropologist Episode: "Bones of Contention"
2005–2006 Rescue Me Rose 6 episodes
2005–present Grey's Anatomy Ellis Grey 17 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2006–07)
2006 Justice Sarah Miller Episode: "Death Spiral"
2007 Supreme Courtships Justice Suzanne Mary Lynch Unsold TV pilot
2008 Medium Bonnie Barrister Episode: "To Have and to Hold"
2009 Eleventh Hour Gepetto / Miranda Cochran Episode: "Pinocchio"
2009 Washingtonienne Joy Episode: "Pilot"
2009–2012 Good Wife, TheThe Good Wife Victoria Adler 3 episodes
2010 Deep End, TheThe Deep End Grace Graham Episode: "Pilot"
2011 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Annette Cole Episode: "Bully"
2011 Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior Deirdre Norris Episode: "Smother"
2011 Closer, TheThe Closer Kate Wycoff Episode: "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"
2011 Grimm Marie Kessler 2 episodes
2012 Veep Barbara Hallowes 2 episodes
2012 Made in Jersey Lorraine Beckett Episode: "Cacti"
2012–present Scandal Vice President Sally Langston 23 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2014)
2013 Revolution Dr. Jane Warren Episode: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"
2014 Rake Holly Phillips Episode: "Hey, Good Looking"
2016 Madam Secretary Maureen McCord Episode:"Invasive Species"
2014-2015 Extant (TV series) Fiona Stanton


  1. Team TVLine (2013-12-12). "Kate Burton in 'Scandal': 'A Door Marked Exit' — Performer of the Week". TVLine. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  2. The Broadway League. "Kate Burton | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  3. "Kate Burton Film Reference biography". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  4. "Yale School of Drama Board of Advisors | drama.yale.edu". drama.yale.edu. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  5. "Biographies of Alumni Trustees". Brown Alumni Association. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  6. Pogrebin, Robin (November 6, 2001). "A Sudden Breakout Moment, And Kate Burton Is Loving It". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Kate Burton Performer". Playbill Vault. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  8. "HISTORY". Tony Awards. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  9. Hernandez, Ernio (June 14, 2006). "Hath No Fury: Kate Burton and Tony Goldwyn Open The Water's Edge Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  10. "Kate Burton | Huntington Theatre Company". www.huntingtontheatre.org. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  11. "Kate Burton, Blake Bashoff to Join Broadway's Spring Awakening". TheaterMania.com. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  12. "Nielsen Joins Broadway's Spring Awakening March 4". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  13. Hetrick, Adam (June 2, 2010). "Gurney's The Grand Manner, with Gaines, Burton, Steggert and Wehle, Arrives Off-Broadway". Playbill.
  14. Jarrott, Charles (1969-12-18), Anne of the Thousand Days, retrieved 2016-01-20
  15. Browning, Kirk (1983-10-03), Alice in Wonderland, retrieved 2016-01-20
  16. Ellis Island, 1984-11-11, retrieved 2016-01-20
  17. 1 2 3 4 "Kate Burton". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  18. Warren, Larkin (November 18, 2001). "Finding Her Inner Hedda". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  19. "'Grey's Anatomy's' Kate Burton on Her 16 Famous 'Children'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  20. "Daytime Emmy Awards (1996)". Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  21. "Fall 2008 Newsletter- "Forget-Me-Not" Gala Acknowledges". www.alznyc.org. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  22. 1 2 "Kate Burton | Television Academy". Television Academy. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  23. "'Scandal': 'Grey's Anatomy' veteran Kate Burton joins Shonda Rhimes' new show - Zap2it". Blog.zap2it.com. 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  24. "Bailey Noble, who played Adilyn Bellefleur on "True Blood," toplining with "Pretty Little Liars" star Troian Bellisario. Kate Burton (Stay, Big Trouble in Little China) and Blake Robbins (Rubber) round out the cast of Martyrs".
  25. Catsoulis, Jeanette (January 21, 2016). "Review: 'Martyrs,' a Slashing Remake, Centers on Two Friends". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  26. "Audioeditions". Audioeditions. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  27. "Times Daily - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  28. "Michael Ritchie" (PDF). Center TheatreGroup of Los Angelies. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  29. Pincus-Roth, Zachary. "Kate Burton and Michael Ritchie: L.A.'s Theater Power Couple Keeps the Drama Onstage". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  30. "Ritchie '10 enters family trade with major acting 'debut'". Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  31. Douglas, Hillary. "Richard Burton's lookalike grandson plants his Hollywood star". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  32. Hetrick, Adam (2007-07-03). "Kate Burton Makes Williamstown's The Corn Is Green a Family Event". Playbill. Philip S Birsh. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  33. "Kate Burton Biography". Yahoo Movies. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
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