January 20 & 21: Happy Birthday Jill Eikenberry and DeForest Kelley


Today’s headliners both had long and diverse careers, but each is known best for one major television role.

Jill Eikenberry, who celebrates her 71st birthday today, graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1970 and spent a lot of time working on stage in the subsequent decade.  She made her Broadway debut in Michael Weller’s Moonchildren in 1972 and appeared in several Broadway productions during the 1970s.  She has also had an extensive off-Broadway career that includes winning an Obie Award for a production of Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky and receiving a Drama Desk Award nomination for the musical The Kid.

Eikenberry has worked periodically in film, and in the 1980s had prominent roles in Hide in Plain Sight, Arthur, and The Manhattan Project.  She began working in television in the early 1970s.  She made a number of TV movies, but her best known role by far was as Ann Kelsey on L.A. Law.  She received five Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations for the role, winning one of the latter.  She has been retired from screen work since about 2011; one of her final appearances was as a guest star on NUMB3RS.

DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) grew up in Georgia, served in the Air Force in World War 2, and then moved to California to pursue an acting career.  He made his debut starring in a low-budget 1947 film noir titled Fear in the Night, and for a brief time seemed to be being groomed for stardom by Paramount.  However, he soon found himself in supporting roles.  He appeared in a number of noirs, such as Canon City and Illegal.  In the late 1950s he landed prominent roles in several Westerns, such as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (as Morgan Earp), The Law and Jake Wade, and Warlock.

Kelley also did a lot of television work beginning in the late 1950s.  He made several appearances on The Silent Service, an anthology series about the US Navy submarine service, and found a lot of work in Westerns at a time when they were all over the small screen.  He made multiple guest appearances on series like Bonanza, The Virginian, and Death Valley Days.  He also made a pair of pilots which were written by Gene Roddenberry, who went on to give Kelley the role that made him famous.

From 1966 on, Kelley’s career revolved almost entirely around Star Trek and the role of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy—to the point that he reportedly feared that his gravestone would read “He’s dead, Jim.”  He made a few attempts to pursue other parts after the Original Series ended, but found himself being typecast, so he largely retired from acting, other than the six Star Trek feature films starring the original cast, and a guest appearance on the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Other birthdays from yesterday include Canadian actress Crystal Lowe, who turned 37; she is known for the Hallmark Channel’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered series and subsequent TV movies.  Kerri Kenney-Silver, best known for her regular role on Comedy Central’s Reno 911!, is 48.  Sophie Thompson (younger sister of Emma), who celebrated her 56th yesterday, is best known for a stage career that is highlighted by five Olivier Award nominations, with a win as the Baker’s Wife in the 1998 revival of Into the Woods.

Joy Adamson (1910-1980) was an artist and writer who became famous as the author of the book Born Free and her subsequent books about and activism on behalf of African wildlife.

Birthdays today include Michael Wincott, who is 60; his long filmography includes early 1990s remakes of two adventure classics—as Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Rochefort in The Three MusketeersLuke Grimes, know for playing Eliott Grey in the Fifty Shades series, is 34 today.  Charlotte Ross, who is 50, is best known for regular roles on Beggars and Choosers and NYPD Blue, and for two Daytime Emmy nominations on Days of Our LivesKen Leung, who currently plays Karnak on Marvel’s Inhumans on ABC, is 48 today; he was previously a regular on NBC’s The Night Shift.  Fans of iCarly will remember Jerry Trainor, who is 41, for playing Carly’s older brother Spencer Shay.

Headliners on this date one year ago were Geena Davis and Paul Scofield.

Geena Davis, who is 62 today, had a prominent role in the sci-fi drama Marjorie Prime last year, and received a Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination for her role on season 1 of Fox’s The Exorcist.  If you haven’t checked out her WTHH article yet, give it a look.

Robby Benson, who is also 62, will make his first screen appearance in nearly a decade in the upcoming Apple Storm.  He has been doing a lot of teaching in the last couple of decades at places like NYU and Indiana University.  Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova, who is 35, continues to be active in film and television in her home country.  Booboo Stewart, who turns 24, returned to the role of Jay (son of Jafar) in Descendants 2, and also does a lot of voice work.  Craig Roberts, who recently starred in the third and final season of Amazon’s Red Oaks, is 27 today.  Mike Medavoy celebrates his 77th; his latest producing project was the miniseries The Long Road HomeMichael G. Wilson, who is 76, is doubtless involved in the latest, as yet untitled James Bond film.  Former Spice Girl Emma Bunton turns 42; she is active in English radio and was a judge on the music competition series Boy Band.

Last year’s January 20 headliners were David Lynch and George Burns.

David Lynch turned 72 yesterday.  His big project for 2017 was, of course, the return of Twin Peaks to television, on Showtime.  He also had an acting role in Lucky, opposite the late Harry Dean Stanton, and will appear in the upcoming A Fall from Grace, written and directed by his daughter Jennifer.

Tom Baker, who is 84, is the voice of The Bendu on the animated series Star Wars Rebels; fans of his tenure as the Fourth Doctor got a treat when the BBC released the never-before-seen serial ShadaJames Denton celebrates his 55th, and remains a regular on Good WitchMargaret Avery, who turns 74, makes her first feature appearance in nearly ten years in the just-released Proud MaryRainn Wilson, who is 52 yesterday, has made multiple appearances as Harry Mudd on Star Trek Discovery, and was the voice of Gargamel in Smurfs: The Lost VillageSkeet Ulrich, one of our most recent WTHH subjects, turns 48; he currently plays F. P. Jones on RiverdaleEvan Peters, who is 31, will return to the role of Quicksilver in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and starred in last year’s The Pirates of Somalia.  Also slated to appear in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, in an unspecified role, is erstwhile Colossus Daniel Cudmore, who is 37.  Omar Sy, who is 40 yesterday, starred in the French film Knock, and was the voice of Hot Rod in Transformers: The Last KnightPaul Stanley is still an active member of Kiss as he turns 66.

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.


Posted on January 21, 2018, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I normally don’t use a clip of a guest appearance on TV as part of my birthday headliner writeups, but I couldn’t find a good clip of Jill Eikenberry from her L.A. Law days.

    Dr. McCoy is my favorite Star Trek character of all, and he has been well served in both of his “incarnations” (DeForest Kelley and now Karl Urban). I always enjoy going back to films of the late forties and fifties and spotting DeForest Kelley in the cast—he was quite a trooper back in those days.

    Due to my consolidating two days here, we have no less than four cast members from X-Men: Days of Future Past in today’s article—we have Quicksilver, Colossus, Bishop and Warpath.


    • Wow, that’s a lot of mutants!

      I share your affection for Dr. McCoy. Spock was my favorite because his friggin’ Mr. Spock. But McCoy is right up there. The Kirk-Spock-McCoy triangle is something Star Trek has yet to duplicate in many different incarnations.


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