She Played Jill on "Picket Fences." See Kathy Baker Now at 71.
The actor won three Emmy awards for the unusual '90s drama.
Kathy Baker's experience playing one of the wacky residents of the candy-colored, cookie-cutter suburb that sat at the foot of an eccentric inventor's mansion in director Tim Burton's 1990 cult classic Edward Scissorhands made her a natural choice for the beloved CBS series Picket Fences, created by David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Big Little Lies). For four seasons, from 1992 to 1996, Baker played Jill, the wife of the sheriff (Tom Skerritt) of the very odd town of Rome, Wisconsin, where unexplainable things were a regular occurrence. Her performance earned her three Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild award, and her career hasn't slowed down since. Keep reading to see what she's been doing since Picket Fences ended, and where she is today, at age 71.
She continued working with David E. Kelley.
After Picket Fences ended in 1996, Baker continued to work with series creator Kelley on a number of his other shows. She appeared as a guest star in his legal shows Ally McBeal and The Practice and was cast in a recurring role on Boston Public playing Meredith Peters, a disgraced former teacher who is rehired by the struggling school district during a teacher shortage.
Baker appeared in 12 episodes of Boston Public during the show's first and second seasons, during which her character was subject to unexpected plot twists, including cutting off her own hand with a chainsaw—a wild ride that earned her an Emmy nomination. Kelley, for his part, knew she was up to the task of playing the over-the-top character. "Once we decided to chop off a body part, Kathy immediately came to mind," Kelley told Entertainment Weekly. "It's always been a personal dream."
She's been acting non-stop in films and on television.
Since her award-winning run on Picket Fences, Baker has never been away from the screen for long. Even before that series, she had appeared in movies including The Right Stuff and Jennifer 8. Since, she's been in more than 30 other movies, including The Cider House Rules, Cold Mountain, 13 Going on 30, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Art of Racing in the Rain.
In 2013, Baker appeared in Boulevard, the late Robin Williams' final movie. The film tells the story of the breakdown of a decades-long marriage when the husband, played by Williams, begins living authentically as a gay man.
"We didn't see too much of the manic, crazy, funny Robin," she told DuJour of working with her co-star. "Obviously he was funny all the time, but in a quiet way. He was just quiet and tender and dedicated and professional."
On television, she frequently pops up in guest roles, appearing on Touched by an Angel, Chicago Hope, Monk, Nip/Tuck, Medium, Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, and Private Practice. She also appeared in 46 episodes of the Netflix comedy The Ranch, starring Ashton Kutcher, from 2016 to 2020.
She lives in southern California with her husband.
In 2003, Barker married television director Steven Robman, who has directed episodes of many series she appeared in, including Boston Public. The pair live in South Pasadena, California. Baker has two adult children from her previous marriage to Donald Camilleri, a stuntman; the two were married from 1985 to 1999.
Baker blamed the stress of a career in Hollywood for the end of her first marriage. "It's incredibly hard to be an actress…and have a family," she told Believer in 2013. "I think that's incredibly hard. And to keep your intact family—you know, the original husband and father of the family. I was not successful at that. I think two careers, kids, travel, location work…just the nature of our business, it's really really hard."
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She's pining for a Picket Fences reunion.
In a 2021 interview with Southern California's KFROG 95.1, Baker admitted she's been hoping for a return to Picket Fences after more than 25 years. "I always kind of wished Picket Fences would have a reunion," she said. "Tom [Skerritt] and I are kind of old and creaky, but it would be interesting to play grandparents at this point."
It helps that she and Skerritt have stayed friends all these years. "He's so wonderful," she said of her former onscreen husband. "If you're working with him, he just makes life easy. He brings you a cup of tea, brings you a chair to sit down, wants to talk, wants to share, constantly complimenting and encouraging and supporting."
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