Ally McBeal, Then and Now
Micro-miniskirts and dancing babies, twenty years later! Check in with the cast of Ally McBeal, the legal comedy-drama that gave us all sorts of hallucinations.
Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal)
Calista Flockhart already had a handful of movie, TV, and stage credits—including the 1996 film The Birdcage as well as The Glass Menagerie and Three Sisters on Broadway—when she was cast in Ally McBeal in 1997. Her performance as the series’ title character earned her nominations for three Emmys, five Golden Globes (one of which she won), and four SAG Awards over the course of the show’s five seasons. Following Ally McBeal, her film roles include Michael Hoffman’s 1999 adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, most recently, 2005’s Fragile. She’s been more active in television since, having had a major role on Brothers & Sisters from 2006–2011 and appearing as Cat Grant on Supergirl.
Gil Bellows (Billy Thomas)
Gil Bellows had only collected a handful of credits—including his first major film role in 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption—when he was cast as Ally’s ex-boyfriend and new coworker Billy Thomas. Concurrent with his work on Ally McBeal, he played Matt Callan on The Agency; more recently, he’s appeared in the 2014 movie Kill the Messenger and the 2016 miniseries 11.22.63 and had regular roles on the series Eyewitness and Patriot, among dozens of other film and TV credits.
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Georgia Thomas)
Before she was cast as Georgia Thomas on Ally McBeal, Courtney Thorne-Smith was already a TV star having played Allison Parker on Melrose Place from 1992–1997. Post-Georgia, Thorne-Smith has remained active in television, with a main role on According to Jim from 2001–2009, a recurring role on Two and a Half Men from 2010–2015, and appearances on Norm and Fresh Off the Boat.
Jane Krakowski (Elaine Vassal)
Jane Krakowski went on to even greater fame after breaking out as office assistant Elaine Vassal on Ally McBeal. She’s formed a strong partnership with writer Tina Fey, earning four Emmy nominations for her role as vapid actress Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock and a fifth Emmy nod for portraying Jacqueline White on Fey’s Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Krakowski has also showcased her singing and dancing chops on Broadway, winning a 2003 Tony Award for the revival of Nine and earning another nomination for her role as Ilona Ritter in Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2016 revival of She Loves Me.
Lisa Nicole Carson (Renee Raddick)
Around the same time she was playing Renee Raddick on Ally McBeal, Lisa Nicole Carson also had a gig on ER, where she played Peter Benton’s girlfriend Carla Reece from 1996–2001. After Ally McBeal ended in 2002, Carson took a break from Hollywood when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; she opened up about her struggle with the illness in a 2015 article in Essence magazine. She has since returned to the industry, with a recent appearance in BET’s The New Edition Story.
Greg Germann (Richard Fish)
After five seasons of playing law firm partner Richard Fish (which earned him a SAG award), Greg Germann has gone on to be a guest star MVP. From one-offs in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Desperate Housewives to memorable arcs as Hades on Once Upon a Time, NCIS Deputy Director Jerome Craig on NCIS, and A.D.A /counselor Derek Strauss on four seasons of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, it’s rare to find a month he’s not on television. He’s also had memorable roles in the Will Ferrell films Get Hard in 2015 and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in 2006.
Vonda Shepard (Vonda Shepard)
Vonda Shepard regularly appeared under her own name as a performer in the bar where Ally McBeal and her co-workers drank after work. While on the series, she served as its “musical voice,” singing the theme song, recording two soundtrack albums and appearing on two other compilation albums from the show. Shepard has since released five more albums, including two live records, and started a family. She provided vocals for “I Need You,” an original song composed for the 2010 film Love and Other Drugs.
Portia de Rossi (Nelle Porter)
Since playing Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal, Portia de Rossi has remained especially active in television, in addition to picking up some film credits. Most notably, she played Lindsay Bluth Fünke, the adopted daughter of George Sr. and Lucille Bluth and the wife of Tobias Fünke, on Arrested Development from 2003–2006 and in the revival season in 2013. She also had a recurring role on Nip/Tuck from 2007–2009, starred on Better Off Ted from 2009–2010, and most recently had a regular role on Scandal from 2014–2017.
Lucy Liu (Ling Woo)
Lucy Liu played the often cruel, hypersexual Ling Woo on Ally McBeal; her casting was especially noteworthy as she was the only major Asian female character on mainstream American TV at the time. Since the show ended in 2002, her dozens of screen credits include the films Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2 in 2003 and 2004, in which she played the deadly assassin O-ren Ishii; the Disney Fairies animated films, in which she provides the voice of the fairy Silvermist; and the Kung Fu Panda movies, for which she voices Master Viper. In TV, she has done a variety of voice roles, had an arc on Southland in 2012, and has starred as Watson on Elementary since 2012.
Peter MacNicol (John Cage)
Peter MacNicol won a 2001 Emmy Award for his work on Ally McBeal as eccentric lawyer John Cage, and he’s since gone on to memorable arcs on numerous television shows. He portrayed White House Chief of Staff Tom Lennox on the sixth season of 24 and reprised the role on 24: Redemption. He’s also appeared on Grey’s Anatomy, The Mindy Project, and Numbers. Most recently, he played foulmouthed campaign adviser Jeff Kane on HBO’s Veep; the role earned him an Outstanding Guest Actor nomination, which was later rescinded on a technicality after he appeared in 10 seconds of another episode.
Robert Downey Jr. (Larry Paul)
A rising star when he joined Ally McBeal in the series’ fourth season—having already picked up his first Oscar nomination for 1992’s Chaplin, as well as appeared in various popular Brat Pack movies—Downey was written off the show after one season because of his substance abuse problems, though he was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for his performance. After becoming sober, he returned to the entertainment industry and ascended once again, solidifying his comeback with his second Oscar nomination, for 2008’s Tropic Thunder. In recent years, he is best known for playing Tony Stark/Iron Man in various films taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man and continuing with the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. He also played Sherlock Holmes in two films directed by Guy Ritchie and is set to play Dr. Dolittle in a 2019 film about the character.
Hayden Panettiere (Maggie Harrington)
Despite being only 12 years old when she first appeared on Ally McBeal’s fifth season as Ally’s (surprise) daughter Maddie Harrington, Hayden Panettiere had already racked up an impressive resume, including 2000’s Remember the Titans and a role from 1998–2000 on Guiding Light. More recently, the actress is known for starring on Heroes from 2006–2010 and playing country-pop singer Juliette Barnes on Nashville. She also appeared in 2004’s Raising Helen, 2006’s Bring It On: All or Nothing, and 2009’s I Love You, Beth Cooper, among other film credits.