Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, US
Lanei Chapman (born January 23, 1973) is an American actress. She has appeared in a variety of television series and movies, including as the main cast character Lt. Vanessa Damphousse, in Space: Above and Beyond.
Chapman first appeared on television at the age of 13 in a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. She went on to appear in a number of films and television shows, including White Men Can't Jump, Seinfeld, The Wonder Years and China Beach. She made her science fiction television debut in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Ensign Sariel Rager, a recurring character who served as a conn officer in numerous episodes, though she only received an on-screen credit for talking parts in four episodes.
She made her debut in the series Space: Above and Beyond during the pilot episode, playing main cast character Lt. Vanessa Damphousse. While filming the pilot and the early part of the series, Chapman was on a leave of absence from a post-graduate film production programme at the University of Southern California.
She initially auditioned with Randy Stone, senior vice-president of talent and casting at Twentieth Century Fox Television, and then two days later with David Nutter, the director of the pilot. By her own admission, the character didn't have a great deal to do in that initial two-part episode, so much so that when she was required to audition, the lines she read were from a different character as they hadn't yet developed Damphousse. The writers took elements of Chapman's own experiences and backstory and wrote it into the new character's as they were developing her. The series was cancelled after one season, despite an organised fan campaign to renew it.
Chapman is a graduate of Dartmouth College with a degree in Spanish. She had originally chosen to major in Drama, but switched part-way through after discovering the extent of the foreign language programme at the college. She also wrote a short play while there, called Home Run, which she sent to actress Chip Fields to appear in and assist Chapman in directing. She is also a qualified teacher in California, and for a short time taught kindergarten until she chose to pursue acting full-time.