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Currently starring as "Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh" on NBC's drama series "Crossing Jordan". “Jordan is used to living on the edge and not censoring herself. She immediately lets people know what’s on her mind,” says Jill Hennessy, describing the character of medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh in the NBC series “Crossing Jordan.” Hailing from Edmonton, Canada, Hennessy began her acting career in Toronto, appearing in the feature film “Dead Ringers.” She studied improvisational comedy with the famed Second City and also worked with a Toronto-based improv comedy troupe before landing a role in the Broadway-bound production of “The Buddy Holly Story.” Once in New York, Hennessy starred in Ron Howard’s feature film “The Paper.” Her additional film credits include “I Shot Andy Warhol,” “Chutney Popcorn,” “Most Wanted,” “A Smile Like Yours,” “Dead Broke,” “Row Your Boat,” “The Florentine,” “Two Ninas,” “Molly,” “Autumn in New York” and the box-office hit “Exit Wounds.” Hennessy also performed in “The Acting Class,” a documentary style depiction of the dark side of the teacher/student relationship, which she also wrote and co-directed. Most recently, she was seen in the Robert Redford/Sundance Lab project, “Love in the Time of Money.”
Prior to the success of “Crossing Jordan,” television audiences knew Hennessy from the years (1993-96) she spent playing the role of assistant district attorney Claire Kincaid on the Emmy-winning NBC drama series “Law & Order.” She returned to NBC by starring as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the miniseries “Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot'. For her work on “Crossing Jordan” in its premiere season, Hennessy received a People’s Choice Award nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series. She has also received a Golden Satellite Award (Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television) from the International Press Academy for her work in the cable movie “Nuremberg.” Hennessy and her husband, Paolo Mastropietro, have two kids, Paolo (b.October1, 2000) and Marco ( b. September 17, 2003). The family divides their time between their homes in Los Angeles, California and Manhattan, NY.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on November 25, 1969, Jillian Hennessy came into this world three minutes after her twin sister Jacqueline was born. Understandably very close to her sister, their frequent time together as children produced the moniker "Jacq and Jill." Moving almost every three years because of their father's job as a meat salesman, Jill and her sister relied on each other for support during a time when friends and towns would come and go.
After her parents separated when the Hennessy twins were 13, Jill began to turn toward her education as a way of dealing with the pain, and loved playing music, reading and baking. She even won several awards in school for her musical prowess. Living in Toronto, Jill began to model at 15 years old with the support of her grandmother and after some success, she decided to concentrate on acting, a natural gift that had begun to emerge.
Giving up her studies before officially graduating from high school, Jill got her first break when she starred alongside her sister as twin call girls in the 1988 film, Dead Ringers. After that, she dabbled in several projects, landing small parts in shows like War of the Worlds, The Hitchhiker and Flying Blind. More importantly, she was involved in the Broadway musical Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story, as well as another off-Broadway production
It wasn't until 1993 that Jill finally realized her dream of true stardom, however. She was cast as A.D.A. Claire Kincaid on Law and Order, a major role on a big-time television show. Popular because of her strong character and good looks, the role lasted until 1996. By then, she was a full-fledged star, although her experience outside the show was limited to a few unsuccessful gigs (Robocop 3, for example). In the late '90s, Jill landed roles in semi-popular movies like Most Wanted, Molly and A Smile Like Yours alongside Greg Kinnear. Although she admits it was tough not having the stability of a character on television or starring in a truly successful film, Jill kept plugging along. She starred in several independent films, including The Acting Class, which she also wrote and co-directed.
By 2000, Jill had a banner year, personally as well as career-wise. On October 1st she married fellow actor Paolo Mastropietro. She also starred in the hit TV miniseries Nuremburg with Alec Baldwin, for which she received well-deserved acclaim. Jill followed up that performance with roles in the films Exit Wounds and Nine Scenes About Love. During these busy times, she returned to NBC as the star of what is now the very popular drama, Crossing Jordan.
A small-time star to some, Jill Hennessy has all the qualities that could help her eventually headline major motion pictures. Interested in satisfying her own acting desires rather than settling for big money, she has proven that she is not just another pretty face in the crowd.
Hennessy Lures Bernhard to 'Crossing Jordan'
Given the way this season of "Crossing Jordan" has progressed, it's difficult not to feel like Jill Hennessy is some sort of powerful puppetmaster in addition to being the show's star.
Earlier this season, "Crossing Jordan" got an audience boost and a change of scenery courtesy of a crossover with "Las Vegas," a gambit that Hennessy casually suggested to producers. This Sunday (Feb. 13), the forensic drama gets a shot of casting adrenaline in the always compelling Sandra Bernhard, who begins a three-episode guest starring arc, a stint she was recommended for by none other than Ms. Hennessy.
"I always give it up to my friends and people who help me, that's never been an issue for me," Bernhard chuckles, crediting Hennessy. "I don't have that kind of an ego and it's always great when another actress, another woman in this business, is not threatened. A lot of people, they make promises and you'll never hear from them again, but Jill really came through with her word and it was pretty impressive."
Hennessy and Bernhard met several years back through Broadway star Lea DeLaria, a mutual friend. She recommended Bernhard for a "Crossing Jordan" role a couple seasons ago, but there were scheduling conflicts. Even though Hennessy had the power to bring her friend into the fold this time, she wasn't able to get any scenes with Bernhard in Sunday's Kinks-dominated "You Really Got Me." Bernhard's Detective Roz Framus hits the morgue just as Hennessy's Jordan heads off to Los Angeles to try saving a convicted killer from execution. The duo does, however, get to test their on-screen chemistry in subsequent episodes.
"I think Jordan is actually tickled and thrilled to work with somebody who is sorta similar," Hennessy explains. "She's a tough gal. She's funny. She doesn't have a facade. What you see is what you get. As a viewer, it's just so nice to see two female characters on television like that."
In the interim, "Jordan" fans will be amused by the dynamic between Bernhard's cop, who towers above the rest of the cast in red boots, and Ravi Kapoor's normally restrained Bug. The two characters have an intimate enough past for Roz to call Bug "Buggles," and their interaction spices up even chilly autopsy scenes.
"To see him paired with Sandra is so hilarious," Hennessy laughs. "I keep hearing comments from the editors saying, 'Did you see the scene with Ravi and Sandra? Oh my God, we were cracking up in the editing suite. You gotta check it out. Scene 33-B,' or whatever. So I know they're liking it in editing."
Although she's no stranger to playing tough girls on the stage and big and small screens, Bernhard admits that she was nervous about the show's occasionally icky morbidity.
"These actors'll be laying on the table with these weird body appliances on top of guts spilling out and it's just like, 'Whatever,'" she says. "When you're there, it's just surreal and funny. There's nothing really scary about it, which was a big relief."
Bernhard's character doesn't end her three-episode run as a corpse, so the two actresses seem eager to get her a regular "Crossing Jordan" gig.
"As far as Sandra's future, I can definitely tell you that she does not leave in a bodybag," Hennessy says. "She's very much alive and frisky at the end of the last episode and looking rather hot as well."
"Get busy, Jill," Bernhard snaps, almost entirely in jest. "You don't have enough on your plate. Make sure I come back as a regular, dammit."
More Fun Stuff about Jill Hennessy
She has Irish, Italian, Swedish, French and Ukrainian ancestry.
Jill father, John, was a meat salesman, which required considerable travel and resulted in frequent moves. Her mother, Maxine, left the family when Jill was small. She also has a younger brother, John Jr.
She graduated from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada's Grand River Collegiate (high school).
She speaks Italian, French and Spanish and is fluent in German.
She loves to cook, and husband, Paolo opened Hennessy, a tavern in Northvale, New Jersey in 1999 & named it after her. The Tavern serves "comfort food."
She also loves riding motorcycles with her husband.
She had a second marriage ceremony in January 2001 at New York City Hall with Rudolph Giuliani officiating.
She used to busk (play the guitar and sing for money) in the New York City subway.
Sometimes makes appearances at music events as a guest guitarist where she will usually performs barefoot
She is such a fan of the folk duo Indigo Girls that a poster of the act hangs in the kitchen set of her character in "Crossing Jordan" (2001).
Described by Miguel Ferrer as being a non-angry version of her _Crossing Jordan (2001)_ character Jordan Cavanaugh.
She voted one of the "Fun and Fearless Females" by Cosmopolitan Magazine (2002.)
Jill Hennessy starts her third season in NBC's hit
“Crossing Jordan” returns for its third season with a cadre of coroners eager to offer their forensic skills to the police in order to bring murderers to justice and to bring closure to the families of victims.
Under the guidance of Dr. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer, “Traffic”), Jill Hennessy (NBC’s “Law & Order”) stars as Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, a sexy, smart and fearless Boston medical examiner with a checkered career past. Working alongside Cavanaugh is Dr. Peter Winslow (Ivan Sergei, “The Opposite of Sex”), whose own past lapses in work ethic make this job his last chance in his chosen profession. New to the Massachusetts State Coroner’s Office this season is pathology resident Dr. Devan Maguire (two time daytime Emmy-winner Jennifer Finnigan in a recurring role), whose eagerness to learn the ropes pushes her colleagues to their limits.
While using science to gather microscopic clues, the coroners rely on Detective Woody Hoyt (Jerry O’Connell, “Kangaroo Jack”) to put in the legwork to hunt down the life-size perpetrators of the crimes they investigate. As the Wisconsin native endeavors to follow the letter of the law in performing his duties, Hoyt must struggle not to give in to Cavanaugh’s unorthodox work methods for the sake of gaining her trust.
As a medical examiner, A.D.A. or model, Jill is always pleasing to the eye. The Canada native has slowly gained notoriety after her big-time debut on Law and Order in 1993. Frustrated males aware of Jill's natural gifts tuned in every week to see if she would finally shed her conservative clothes for something more revealing.
Unlike so many others, Jill did not have to rely on her body to snag roles on film and the small screen. Her acting abilities were enough to land solid roles while her looks became an added bonus. Wooing the media with her warm personality, Jill was voted by Cosmopolitan as one of the "Fun and Fearless Females" of 2002. One would think that someone with a great combination of looks, ability and character would be all over the Hollywood gossip columns, but Jill has had a laid-back career.
Still on her way up, Jill has progressively increased her exposure on film in between seasons of her hit TV show. Our panel agrees that much of her appeal comes from her teasing nature and down-to-earth personality. A gem in an industry where many use their image for their own detriment, Jill Hennessy is certainly a wonder to behold. Jill has a unique appreciation for her profession. She truly relishes every moment on screen and has not become a different person after having gained fame. Her love of the industry and at times girlish joy toward her success is a refreshing outlook after listening to many of her famous peers. Once we heard about her love of cooking and riding motorcycles, we could not believe we neglected Jill for this long.
Talent-wise, Jill is quite versatile. She started out as a 15-year-old model in Toronto, Canada, but caught the acting bug soon after. In our opinion, and according to her numerous fan sites, many would agree that a career in modeling was quite realistic (just take a look at her incredible pictures). A serious guitar player, Jill starred in a few independent films and has made her own movie as well, on top of her notable Hollywood hits. In addition to her on-screen skills, Jill is fluent in five languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German.
Blessed with a great body, Jill can make grown men cry after posing for the camera, often wearing nothing but a T-shirt (sometimes wet!) and bikini bottom. Ready and willing to tease us with amazing photos, Jill has the goods to keep photographers knocking at her door.
With movies such as Exit Wounds, Love in the Time of Money and Autumn in New York under her belt, Jill can certainly be considered a rising star on the big screen, continuing her television success. Still, most of her notoriety stems from TV, coming from her lead role in NBC's hit Crossing Jordan, as a controversial medical examiner.
Jill usually plays it sexy yet conservative and certainly has not committed a major faux pas as of yet. She's aware of her sexiness and doesn't mind showing it off, while still gaining respect for her selection of clothes. However, while on a photo shoot, she seems to shed many inhibitions and can become quite daring. Either way, she scores major points with us.
She will take on anybody because she’s used to living on the edge and not censoring herself," says Jill Hennessy, describing the character of medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh in the NBC series "Crossing Jordan." "Jordon had to confront a lot of difficult things when she was very young, including the unsolved murder of her mother, so consequently she’s unafraid of how people will react to her. She just immediately lets people know what’s on her mind."
Crossing Jill Hennessy
When the 2003 television season started, fans of the popular forensic drama Crossing Jordan were surprised to find the show was not on NBC's schedule. Many asked if the show been canceled. How could that be? The show had strong ratings and a passionate following. Where was Crossing Jordan?
They needn't have worried. NBC hadn't given up on the series, which stars Jill Hennessy as Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, a beautiful-but-neurotic Boston Medical Examiner. (Picture Quincy M.E. if Jack Klugman were a young, attractive, but totally screwed-up woman.) In fact, the network gave the show an extraordinary vote of confidence. Hennessy had been playing the role for two seasons; it was her return to series television after spending four seasons on Law & Order as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid. Towards the end of the last season, the actress became pregnant. During the time the show would normally be filming the new season's episodes, Hennessy would be getting ready to give birth. NBC and the series' producers went out of their way to make sure that the star and the show were accommodated.
"I discussed it with them, and they were wonderful about it," Hennessy explains. "But, you know, there’s always the concern. I know I’m putting a wrench in the machinery here. Being the lead of a one-hour drama is probably the most rigorous schedule you can have in the entertainment business. You’re working consistent twelve to eighteen hour days. Five days a week, plus doing publicity on the weekends. So, number one, how do you balance having a child with that kind of schedule? For yourself, but also for the people working on the show. They immediately came up with a great plan. They decided right up front to finish our season. We shot our regular season last year, season two. What was great was [NBC President] Jeff Zucker decided, hey, let’s shoot the first six episodes of season three right after season two. Jeff announced at that point that we’d be back by January because of my pregnancy. It was wonderful to be where I could have that leeway and where people had that kind of generosity of spirit and respect for the whole process of motherhood. But, it’s really nice to be back, I have to say. You get away from these people for a while and you realize how much of a family you really are.”
So the show returned to the air a little late, in March of 2004. When it did, the always popular series overcame a deadly timeslot (Sunday at 10:00 p.m., which had already killed Rob Lowe’s The Lyon’s Den and the critical favorite Boomtown that season.) to become even more of a breakout success in its third season. New episodes were shown twice a week (bonus episodes ran on Friday night) and the condensed season was an unqualified success.
Well, in this CSI-obsessed world where crime is put under the microscope (figuratively and literally) and scrutinized to the tiniest nano-particle, the world has become DNA-mad. However, unlike the cold and somewhat sterile investigators of the CSI franchise, the doctors, cops and scientists of Crossing Jordan are messy, passionate and often rather funny. This is a real plan that the writers and producers came up with. They recognized that the show had gotten a little too serious in the first two seasons as well.
“You’re going to be seeing a lot more of that, which is so nice to do. It’s always good to balance the heavy drama with some levity. That’s one thing I missed, too, as an actor, is playing the comedic aspect of this character. That's one of the
things I love about Jordan, that you’ve got this really intense side which is juxtaposed with this kind of zany, a little over-the-edge type personality. She takes herself seriously, and then she can flip and not take herself seriously at all. You’re going to be seeing a lot of that. I think we’ll be dwelling a lot less on her personal trauma with her relationship with her father and mother, and getting a little more involved in, you know, some very recognizable cases.”
After all, Hennessy has never been one to take herself too seriously, why should her character? Well over a decade into her acting career, she still considers herself a frustrated musician. In her early New York days, she’d open her guitar case and stand on a corner, playing for tips and tourists.
“I loved playing guitar on the streets,” Hennessy laughs. “That was one of the best jobs I ever had. Would I be content to do that…? Well, it would be hard to support a child. Let’s put it that way. I tell you, I loved doing it. Even when I was on this break, I ended up finding a little open-mike club, and singing there once a week. It was one of my favorite things to do. It’s always been a toss-up between acting and singing. I really miss singing. Doing this job, too, it sort of takes you away from being able to find any kind of open-mike setting at all.”
Her first major acting gig was a role on an Off-Broadway musical version of The Buddy Holly Story. “I ran with it for nine months. That was great for me. But I ended up getting a film after nine months, so I left the show… What’s funny is, I love musical theater. I wish I could sing musical theater a lot better than I do. I’m much more comfortable with a guitar protecting me. Believe me, I hear these musical theater singers and actors, who are just so talented. Triple threats; they dance, they act, they sing beautifully. I don’t know whether I just don’t have the confidence in myself to belt out a Broadway tune. But, I tell you, give me a Bob Dylan or a Tracy Chapman song and I will do that with gusto and love. It’s just such a different style of singing.”
The movie that she left the show for was David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. After that, she made movies like Robocop III and The Paper and also guested several times on the syndicated series Friday the 13th, The War of the Worlds and The Hitchhiker. Everything really exploded though, when she was cast as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid on the long-running crime drama Law & Order. She spent four seasons on the show, as arguably the most popular ADA in a series that has also hired Angie Harmon, Carey Lowell, Richard Brooks and Elisabeth Rohm in the same position.
When she decided to leave the show, the producers made it very final. The program, which has a long history of having characters retire or be transferred or just fade into the background, reserved a particularly grisly fate for Kincaid. She was killed when a drunk driver plowed into the car she was riding in with Det. Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). She did several movies after leaving the series, including I Shot Andy Warhol, A Smile Like Yours and Autumn in New York. Then TV came calling again.
There was a new series being developed about the complicated life of a female coroner in Boston. However, Hennessy was not worried that she’d have to carry the series. In fact, she always has seen Crossing Jordan as an ensemble effort.
“When I first joined the project, it wasn’t even called Crossing Jordan. It was called The Tim Kring Project. There was such a strong ensemble with this show. All of the other actors were so wonderful. Kathryn Hahn, Steve Valentine, Ravi Kapoor, Miguel Ferrer and Ken Howard. When you’re surrounded by such great actors, I could fade into the woodwork and things would go beautifully, because these people are so great to watch. So I wasn’t really worried about that. If anything, I’m surprised that I ended up doing so well that they ended up calling it Crossing Jordan. Which was great, I was like, hey, thank you so much. I get to play with people that I really respect everyday, and have a good time. And people are liking this.”
So as the show gets ready to return for a fourth season, to what does Hennessy attribute its surprising popularity? “I guess I can only speak for myself and what I like about it,” Hennessy says. “I’d have to say that crime drama is always fascinating, but when you combine that with characters who are very colorful, and yet easy to relate to, who don’t take themselves too seriously and who are very distinctive, you get a very compelling finished product. I think that’s what I have to credit our writers with here. They’re doing even more this year, the cases that we’re working on are much more recognizable. I think the audience will come to the table with very strong feelings at the forefront, as soon as they recognize what these cases are. It’ll make for much more compelling drama. Having that coupled with characters that they know so well and who are so specific and distinctive, I know that for me it’s so much fun to work on a show that has all those elements. Because, I’m moved by what I’m doing, and I also love the people that I work with.
“I know it was something that NBC was really interested in doing for a while. So were we, actually. I know the producers were playing with how much leeway we have with really dealing with the characters and the quirkiness of the characters? And balancing that with the hardcore procedural plotlines. I like to think that one of the things that makes our show stand out is the fact that we do have such involving, easy-to-relate-to cases, as well as characters that are always interesting. That always have such distinctive voices. [They] really aren’t cookie cutter. Each actor contributes so much that is so particular to themselves. As opposed to having a whole bunch of actors who basically could interchange their dialogue and nobody would even notice. So I was very happy to see that we were becoming more procedural and that the added police element to it sort of legitimizes what’s happening. It legitimizes the efforts to investigate a case. There are certain arenas where medical examiners cannot go. It wouldn’t be too realistic to have Jordan jumping into all kinds of situations where she wouldn’t be allowed to enter. So, the cop element really brings a lot of validity to the investigation aspect.”
One nice thing for Hennessy is that in Crossing Jordan, she can also tap into her musical talents. The producers have in the past set up a few opportunities for Jordan to sing in her father’s club. This led to a respected soundtrack album, which Hennessy was excited to be a part of. On it, she sang versions of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and Tom Waits’ “Innocent When You Dream.”
“They submitted a few songs to me to look at,” Hennessy says. “The ones that just hit me the most were Tom Waits and the Bob Dylan, because, that’s sort of what I was raised with. Living in New York for so long, too, I’m a huge fan of Tom Waits. I just think Dylan is one of the Gods of our time, to be honest. So that’s the issue of how it comes about. We all try to work together and come up with something that moves us the most.
“That was thrilling. That was just great to work with people like T-Bone Burnett and Craig Street,
The end product was phenomenal. I don’t know if you heard about it, but Alison Krauss was on it, Lucinda Williams, oh gosh, Cassandra Wilson… It was just a brilliantly done album. We were really well reviewed, which was the biggest thrill for me. So, I’d love to see us delve more into the music side of things, especially with, as you said, different storylines where Jordan has to go undercover in an open-mike club. To find out what really happened…”
Now that she had to spend some time away from the show for maternity leave (she had a boy, whom she and her restauranteur husband named Marco), she just relishes the opportunity to work even more. “I guess I really appreciate that I can have a job and have a child at the same time,” she says. “Everything just feels a lot richer now. Let’s put it that way. I can go to work with people I love, be a creative individual, and see this beautiful human being who smiles every time they see me. It’s so wonderful to be able to incorporate both into my life.”
It was very gratifying to know that people missed the show while it was off the air. “What’s funny is, especially when I was pregnant, walking the streets of New York, I got very interesting comments,” Hennessy recalls. “I kept saying, we’re coming back, we're coming back. And then there were a lot of people who would say… I guess they hadn’t realized that Catherine Zeta-Jones had had her baby, they would just stop me and say ‘Catherine Zeta-Jones! Oh, say hi to Michael for me!’ I said, oh thank you very much, but actually I’m not Catherine Zeta-Jones. I think the whole pregnancy issue confused a lot of people on the streets. Long dark hair and pregnant? You know, it gets confusing.
“Actually, there were a lot of people who did seem a little bit upset. I kept trying to reassure them, telling them the show will be back soon. It was very flattering to meet so many people on the street. It was also the first time I had a chance to really talk to people on the street. When you’re working on a series, you don’t get out that much. So during this maternity break, I was able to meet all kinds of people. It was really nice to see how many people are so involved in the show and couldn’t wait for it to come back. I would get about I’d say on average eight people stopping me a day, asking when the show was coming back, where the plot lines are going, what’s Jordan going to be doing? It really gave me a lot of inspiration. It made me feel pretty darned good.”