Kate Burton (actress)

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Kate Burton
Kate Burton August 2014 (cropped).jpg
Burton in 2014
BornKatherine Burton
(1957-09-10) September 10, 1957 (age 57)
Geneva, Switzerland
Years active1969; 1982–present
Spouse(s)Michael Ritchie (m. 1985)
ChildrenMorgan (b. 1988)
Charlotte (b. 1998)
ParentsSybil Burton
Richard Burton
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Kate Burton
Kate Burton August 2014 (cropped).jpg
Burton in 2014
BornKatherine Burton
(1957-09-10) September 10, 1957 (age 57)
Geneva, Switzerland
Years active1969; 1982–present
Spouse(s)Michael Ritchie (m. 1985)
ChildrenMorgan (b. 1988)
Charlotte (b. 1998)
ParentsSybil Burton
Richard Burton

Katherine "Kate" Burton (born September 10, 1957) is a Swiss-born Welsh-American actress and the 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.[1] She has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and three Tony Awards.[2]

Early life[edit]

Burton was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the daughter of producer Sybil Burton (née Williams; 1929–2013) and actor Richard Burton (1925–1984).[3] She was thus the stepdaughter of actress Elizabeth Taylor and of Sybil's second husband Jordan Christopher. In 1979, Burton earned a bachelor's degree in Russian studies and European history from Brown University. She was also on the board of Production Workshop, one of the university's student theatre groups. She furthered her devotion to theatre by studying at Yale University School of Drama, from which she graduated in 1983. In 2007, Burton was given an honorary doctorate from Brown University.


Stage work[edit]

Burton's first notable role on Broadway in a 1982 production of the Noël Coward play Present Laughter, which was directed by George C. Scott. The following year, she appeared in the Broadway production of Doonesbury, playing J.J. 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 portrayed two roles and was nominated for a Tony Award for both. She was nominated as Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of the title role in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the role of Pinhead/Mrs. Kendal in the revival of The Elephant Man. This dual nomination made her one of only five actors, along with Amanda Plummer, Dana Ivey, Jan Maxwell and Mark Rylance to be Tony-nominated for two acting awards in the same year.

Burton in the play The Cherry Orchard

In 2006 Burton was in the Off-Broadway play opposite Tony Goldwyn in The Water's Edge. The same year she was nominated for Best Leading Actress again in 2006 in W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife. In 2007, she played Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard at Boston's Huntington Theatre. Burton was also part of the cast of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. She started on December 21, 2007 and replaced actress Christine Estabrook in the role of the Adult Women. Kristine Nielsen took over for her on March 2 for a short stint until Estabrook assumed the role again. She played the role of actress Katharine Cornell in "The Grand Manner" during the summer of 2010 at Lincoln Center in New York.

Film and television[edit]

Early films of Burton's include Alice in Wonderland, Anne of the Thousand Days, 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 also appeared in a number of roles in independent films.

Burton has been perhaps most prolific in her work on television. She made many appearances in the late 1980s and 1990s on episodic television, including appearances on Spenser: For Hire, All My Children, and Brooklyn Bridge. 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 both involved a subplot concerning Alzheimer's disease. On the FX cable network's Rescue Me, she played the role of Rose, a friend and possible romantic interest to Chief Jerry Reilly. Reilly's wife is in a facility with the disease and Rose, having cared for her husband who was also an Alzheimer's victim, is hired by Jerry to provide assistance and emotional support. Also, 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 2006 and 2007, Burton was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Ellis Grey. In 2011, Burton appeared as a veteran monster hunter in the opening episodes of the NBC supernatural drama Grimm. As of 2012, she portrays the extreme right-wing Vice President Sally Langston, a secondary antagonist, in the ABC hit show Scandal created by Shonda Rhimes.[4]

Other work[edit]

Burton has narrated numerous audiobooks, including works by: Patricia Cornwell, Lisa Scottoline, Iris Johansen, and Dean Koontz.[5] Kate Burton appeared in 1984 with her father Richard Burton in the television mini-series Ellis Island.

Personal life[edit]

In June 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 managing 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) and a daughter Charlotte Frances (born January 19, 1998).[6][7]



1969Anne of the Thousand DaysServing MaidUncredited
1984Ellis IslandVanessa OgdenTelevision film
1986Big Trouble in Little ChinaMargo Litzenberger
1987Uncle Tom's CabinOpheliaTelevision film
1993Life with MikeyMrs. Burns
1993Love MattersDeborahTelevision film
1996AugustHelen Blathwaite
1996First Wives Club, TheThe First Wives ClubWoman in Bed
1996MistrialKatherine DonohueTelevision film
1997Ice Storm, TheThe Ice StormDorothy Franklin
1997Ellen FosterAbigail MontfordTelevision film
2000Opportunists, TheThe OpportunistsRest Home Sister
2002SwimfanCarla Cronin
2002ObsessedSara MillerTelevision film
2003Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, TheThe Diary of Ellen RimbauerConnie PoseyTelevision film
2003Paper Mache Chase, TheThe Paper Mache ChaseMarthaShort film
2005StayMrs. Letham
2005Empire FallsCindy WhitingTelevision film
2006SherrybabyMarcia Swanson
2007Lovely by SurpriseHelen
2008What Just HappenedDr. Randall
2008Quid Pro QuoMerilee
2008Max PayneNicole Horne
2009Kings of Appletown, TheThe Kings of AppletownAunt Birdy
2009SpoonerAlice Spooner
2010Remember MeJanine
2010127 HoursAron's Mom
2011PunctureSenator O'Reilly
2012Liberal ArtsSusan
20122 Days in New YorkBella
2012Mariachi GringoAnne
2013Adam ShawDr. Wilson
2014BarefootMrs. Wheeler
2014Shiva and MayMartha


1983Great PerformancesAliceEpisode: "Alice in Wonderland"
1985EvergreenAgatha BradfordEpisode: "1.2"
1987–1988Spenser: For HireRandy Lofficier2 episodes
1988American PlayhouseAgnes Bolton O'NeillEpisode: "Journey Into Genius"
1992Law & OrderSister BettinaEpisode: "Sisters of Mercy"
1992Home FiresAnne Kramer6 episodes
1993Brooklyn BridgeSusan Lowenberg JonesEpisode: "Keeping Up with the Joneses"
1994MontyFran Richardson13 episodes
1994All My ChildrenDr. Renee PetersUnknown episodes
1995ABC Afterschool SpecialBrenda GardnerEpisode: "Notes for My Daughter"
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special
1997–2004Practice, TheThe PracticeA.D.A. Susan Alexander9 episodes
2001–2009Law & OrderErica Gardner4 episodes
2001100 Centre StreetSheila ByrneEpisode: "My Brother's Keeper"
2001Law & Order: Criminal IntentStephanie UfflandEpisode: "The Pardoner's Tale"
2004West Wing, TheThe West WingSarah BrainerdEpisode: "Slow News Day"
2005Judging AmyDr. Sheri JordanEpisode: "Silent Era"
2005American MastersVoice of NovelsEpisode: "Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea"
2005Numb3rsAnthropologistEpisode: "Bones of Contention"
2005–2006Rescue MeRose6 episodes
2005–presentGrey's AnatomyEllis Grey17 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2006–07)
2006JusticeSarah MillerEpisode: "Death Spiral"
2007Supreme CourtshipsJustice Suzanne Mary LynchUnsold TV pilot
2008MediumBonnie BarristerEpisode: "To Have and to Hold"
2009Eleventh HourGepetto / Miranda CochranEpisode: "Pinocchio"
2009WashingtonienneJoyEpisode: "Pilot"
2009–2012Good Wife, TheThe Good WifeVictoria Adler3 episodes
2010Deep End, TheThe Deep EndGrace GrahamEpisode: "Pilot"
2011Law & Order: Special Victims UnitAnnette ColeEpisode: "Bully"
2011Criminal Minds: Suspect BehaviorDeirdre NorrisEpisode: "Smother"
2011Closer, TheThe CloserKate WycoffEpisode: "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"
2011GrimmMarie Kessler2 episodes
2012VeepBarbara Hallowes2 episodes
2012Made in JerseyLorraine BeckettEpisode: "Cacti"
2012–presentScandalVice President Sally Langston23 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2014)
2013RevolutionDr. Jane WarrenEpisode: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"
2014RakeHolly PhillipsEpisode: "Hey, Good Looking"


  1. ^ by Team TVLine (2013-12-12). "Kate Burton in ‘Scandal’: ‘A Door Marked Exit’ — Performer of the Week". TVLine. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  2. ^ The Broadway League. "Kate Burton | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  3. ^ "Kate Burton Film Reference biography". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  4. ^ "‘Scandal’: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ veteran Kate Burton joins Shonda Rhimes’ new show - Zap2it". Blog.zap2it.com. 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  5. ^ "Audioeditions". Audioeditions. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  6. ^ Hetrick, Adam (2007-07-03). "Kate Burton Makes Williamstown's The Corn Is Green a Family Event". Playbill (Philip S Birsh). Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  7. ^ "Kate Burton Biography". Yahoo Movies. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 

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