Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
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. She has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and three Tony Awards.
Burton was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the daughter of producer Sybil Burton (née Williams; 1929-2013) and actor Richard Burton (1925-1984). 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.
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. Burton also appeared as Alice in Eva Le Gallienne's Alice in Wonderland on Broadway, produced by The Mirror Theater Ltd's Sabra Jones. Several key roles followed, including roles in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter and Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
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. 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.
In 2006, Burton starred in the Off-Broadway production of The Water's Edge opposite Tony Goldwyn. 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. In 2007, she played Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard at Boston's Huntington Theatre. On December 21, 2007, she joined the cast of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening in the role of the Adult Women when she replaced actress Christine Estabrook. Kristine Nielsen replaced her on March 2, 2008 for a short stint until Estabrook reassumed the role. During the summer of 2010, Burton portrayed actress Katharine Cornell in A.R. Gurney's The Grand Manner at Lincoln Center in New York.
Burton's first screen appearance was in the 1969 film Anne of the Thousand Days, starring her father, with whom she later appeared as Alice opposite his White Knight in the 1983 Great Performances broadcast of Alice in Wonderland, and in the 1984 CBS miniseries Ellis Island. Other films include Big Trouble in Little China, The First Wives Club, Life with Mikey, and The Ice Storm. Burton has said of these roles that she usually plays "the sweet wife, or the sweet dead wife."
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. 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." 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'. 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.
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. In 2006 and 2007, Burton received Emmy nominations for her Grey's Anatomy role. In 2011, Burton appeared as Marie Kessler, a veteran monster hunter, and the aunt of Nick Burkhardt in the opening episodes of the NBC supernatural drama Grimm. From 2012 until 2014, she played Vice President Sally Langston in the ABC hit show Scandal, for which she again received an Emmy nomination. 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. In March 2017 she reprised her role as Aunt Marie Kessler in the series finale of Grimm.
In 1985, Burton married Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and one of the producers of the Broadway musicals The Drowsy Chaperone and Curtains. 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. They have two children, a son Morgan Ivor (born May 14, 1988), who is an actor, and a daughter Charlotte Frances (born January 19, 1989).
|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||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|
|2000||Opportunists, TheThe Opportunists||Rest Home Sister|
|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||Empire Falls||Cindy Whiting||Television film|
|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|
|2010||127 Hours||Aron's Mom|
|2012||2 Days in New York||Bella|
|2013||Adam Shaw||Dr. Wilson|
|2014||Shiva and May||Martha|
|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||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"|
|2009-2012||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"|
|2011-2017||Grimm||Marie Kessler||3 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
|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|