Oscar Actors: Channing, Stockard–Background, Career, Awards, Cumulative Advantage

Occup. Inheritance: No

Social Class: Upper Middle

Education: Radcliffie College

Training: HB, NYC

Theater Debut: Off Broadway, 1969; age 25

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: The Fortune, 1975; 31

Breakthrough Role: Grease, 1978; age 33

Oscar Nom: Six Degrees of Separation, 1993; age 49

Other awards: Tonys; Emmy Nom

Cumulative Adv: Yes




Stockard Channing (born Susan Williams Antonia Stockard) is known for playing Betty Rizzo in the film Grease (1978) and First Lady Abbey Bartlet on the NBC television series The West Wing (1999–2006). She is also known for originating the role of Ouisa Kittredge in the stage and film versions of Six Degrees of Separation, for which she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play and the Best Actress Oscar.

Channing was born Feb 13, 1944 in Manhattan, the daughter of Mary Alice (née English) who came from a large Brooklyn Irish Catholic family, and Lester Napier Stockard. in the shipping business. Her sister is Lesly Stockard Smith, former mayor of Palm Beach, Florida. She grew up on the Upper East Side.

Channing is an alumna of the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, a boarding school for girls, which she attended after starting out at the Chapin School in New York City.

She studied History and Literature at Radcliffe College in Massachusetts and graduated summa cum laude in 1965. (Radcliffe merged with Harvard University in 1999.) She received her acting training at HB Studio in New York City.

Channing started her acting career with the experimental Theatre Company of Boston; she performed in the group’s Off-Broadway 1969 production of the Elaine May play Adaptation/Next. She performed in a revival of Arsenic and Old Lace directed by Theodore Mann as part of the Circle in the Square at Ford’s Theatre program in 1970.

Broadway Debut: 1971

In 1971, she made her Broadway debut in Two Gentlemen of Verona–The Musical, working with playwright John Guare. She also appeared on Broadway in 1973 in a supporting role in No Hard Feelings at the Martin Beck Theatre.

Channing made her TV debut on Sesame Street in the role of The Number Painter’s female victim. She landed her first leading role in the 1973 television movie The Girl Most Likely to…, a black comedy written by Joan Rivers about an ugly duckling woman, made newly beautiful by plastic surgery after an auto accident, who vows murderous revenge on all who had scorned her. For the role, Channing went through considerable transformation. The TV movie has gone on to enjoy cult status.

Film Debut:

After a few small parts in feature films, Channing co-starred with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols’ The Fortune (1975).  The movie did poorly at the box office, and did not prove to be the breakthrough role.

On May 22, 1977, she, along with Ned Beatty, starred in the pilot for the short-lived TV series Lucan. Lucan, played by Kevin Brophy, is a 20-year-old who has spent the first 10 years of his life running wild in the forest. After being raised by wolves, Lucan strikes out on his own in search of his identity.

In 1977, at the age of 33, Channing was cast for the role of high school teenager Betty Rizzo in the hit musical Grease. The film was released in 1978 and her performance earned her the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress.

Channing played a mischievous car thief in Jerry Schatzberg’s 1976 dramedy Sweet Revenge (which competed at the Cannes Film Festival), Joseph Bologna’s love interest in the disaster film spoof The Big Bus (also 1976), Peter Falk’s secretary in the 1978 Neil Simon film The Cheap Detective, and real-life deaf stuntwoman and (still current) female land speed record holder Kitty O’Neil in the TV movie Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story (1979).

Tony Award

Channing played the female lead in the Broadway show, They’re Playing Our Song (1980–81). Channing then took the part of the mother (Sheila) in the 1981 Long Wharf Theater (New Haven) production of Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. She reprised the role in the Roundabout Theater Company production, first Off-Broadway in January 1985 and then on Broadway in March 1985, and won the 1985 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

Channing continued teaming up again with playwright John Guare. She received Tony Award nominations for her performances in his plays, The House of Blue Leaves (1986) and Six Degrees of Separation (1990), for which she also won an Obie Award. The Alan Ayckbourn play Woman in Mind received its American premiere Off-Broadway in February 1988 at the Manhattan Theatre Club. The production was directed by Lynne Meadow and the cast included Channing in the role of Susan, for which she won a Drama Desk Award for Best Actress.

She also garnered recognition for her work in television. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for the CBS miniseries Echoes in the Darkness (1987) and won a CableACE Award for the Harvey Fierstein-scripted Tidy Endings (HBO, 1988).

Other TV movie credits during the latter half of the 1980s include the CBS teenage drug abuse-themed Not My Kid (1985; co-starring George Segal), Hallmark’s domestic drama The Room Upstairs (1987; with Sam Waterston, Joan Allen, and Sarah Jessica Parker), and the HBO thriller Perfect Witness (1989; alongside Brian Dennehy and Aidan Quinn.)