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Laurie Metcalf Movies and TV Shows: A Look Back Through the Star’s Must-See Roles

From her iconic character in 'Roseanne' to her memorable performance in 'Lady Bird,' this talented actress can do it all!

Grey House, which ran on Broadway last year, was more psychological thriller than classic horror tale, which isn’t to say that it wasn’t scary — especially Laurie Metcalf’s role as the character Raleigh. Almost unrecognizable in the part, it was stunning to see the actress’ complete transformation into so deeply an unsettling role. As viewers have witnessed, of course, the versatile star has morphed many times into her characters over the last four decades of Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows. 

Laurie Metcalf on stage for Grey House, 2023
Laurie Metcalf on stage for Grey House, 2023

Born June 16, 1955 in Carbondale, Illinois, Laurie performed in plays while in high school, but did not consider acting as a career. “I’m hideously shy as myself,” she said, “but on stage I can run around naked and bite the heads off fish.”

At Illinois State University — where all fish were presumed safe — Metcalf studied German and then anthropology before finally majoring in theatre, obtaining a bachelor of arts in theater in 1976.

She wasn’t the only outstanding pupil in an illustrious class that included the immeasurable talents of John Malkovich, Glenne Headly, Joan Allen and Jeff Perry. In fact, Perry and Metcalf went on to establish Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company along with actor and Perry’s former roommate, Gary Sinise.

Laurie Metcalfe and Ray Romano
Laurie Metcalf and Ray Romano attend a screening of Somewhere In Queens on April 17, 2023 in New York CityTheo Wargo/Getty Images

It was also where Metcalf began her professional career before she went to New York to appear in the off-Broadway Steppenwolf production of Balm in Gilead, where she played the sweet, but doomed, prostitute Darlene.

Already, Metcalf was on her way to acclaim and recognition as she received the 1984 Obie Award and a 1984-85 Theatre World Award for her performance as Darlene. This was definitely the beginning of a great career in entertainment. 

Laurie Metcalf holding an Emmy Award, 1994
Laurie Metcalf holding an Emmy Award, 1994Frank Trapper/Corbis/Getty

Over the next few years, Metcalf and Steppenwolf both gained in fame, Metcalf successfully segueing from theatre to film and television, quickly inhabiting every role that came her way with a chameleon-like ability.

Over the course of various Laurie Metcalf films and TV shows, she has played everyone from straight shooting Jackie on The Conners to struggling single mom Marion in the film Lady Bird. “I never felt that I was typecast. I gravitated toward roles that might be working class; ones which I could personally identify with. That’s where my niche ended up being and I never wished that I could reinvent myself in a way that would open up different roles for me.”

Laurie Metcalf TV show The Connors, 2019
Laurie Metcalf in The Connors, 2019Mohawk Productions/Jax Media/Sara + Tom/ABC/MoviestillsDB

She has clearly dominated the small screen since she was cast in Roseanne, but admits she’s never comfortable with a camera in a room. “I become instantly a little more uptight, a little more self-aware and I don’t feel free. I wish I could shake it but in all these years, even after all the hundreds of tapings of shows, I’m way too nervous for my own good.” 

Keep reading for a look at some of the best Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows.

Laurie Metcalf TV Shows

Roseanne (1988-1997; 2018) and The Conners (2018 – present)

Laurie Metcalf TV show Roseanne, 1988
Laurie Metcalf in Roseanne, 1988The Carsey-Werner Company/Wind Dancer Productions/MoviestillsDB

Out of all Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows, the actress gained national attention and will probably always be remembered for her role as Jackie Harris on the original sitcom Roseanne and its spin-off, The Conners. In the role that garnered her three Primetime Emmys.

Metcalf plays the amiable, yet beleaguered, sister of Roseanne Conner. After Roseanne was cancelled and replaced with the original cast members in The Conners, sans Roseanne, Metcalf reprised her role and in 2018, her portrayal of Jackie Harris earned a 5th Emmy Award. “It was like putting on a nice old pair of shoes again in that role.” 

Related: ‘Roseanne’ Cast Then and Now: A Look Back at the Stars of the Groundbreaking Comedy

The Norm Show (1999-2001)

The Norm Show focuses on the life of former hockey player Norm Henderson (Norm Macdonald) and his gambling and tax evasion problems, which subsequently result in his being banned for life from the hockey league, Norm enters a plea to stay out of jail, and to do so has to perform five years of community service as a social worker.

Enter Laurie Freeman (Metcalf) as Norm’s former social worker, new co-worker, and ultimately his best friend. Freeman is a dedicated social worker, unlike Norm, who also has a twin sister – also played by Metcalf.

Getting On (2013-2015)

This HBO comedy series garnered Metcalf an Emmy nomination for its final season in her role of uptight and self-centered Dr. Jenny James. Set in a geriatric extended care wing of a rundown hospital, the series follows the over-worked nurses, nervous doctors and administrators as they confront challenges with the honest and quietly compassionate realities of caring for the elderly. The dark comedy is an adaptation of the British series of the same name.

The McCarthys (2014-2015)

The short-lived comedy revolves around the McCarthy family, a close-knit, sports crazed Irish Catholic family that shares a three story house in a working class neighborhood of Boston. Metcalf played Marjorie McCarthy, a mother of four children with her favorite being athletically challenged Ronny, with whom she shares a love for watching The Good Wife.

The Big Bang Theory (2016)

Laurie Melcalf TV show The Big Bang Theory, 2007
Laurie Melcalf and Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper) in The Big Bang Theory, 2007Chuck Lorre Productions/Warner Bros. Television Studios/MoviestillsDB

Among the very memorable Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows performances was her recurring role of Mary Cooper, mom of quirky genius Sheldon Cooper in this uber hit sitcom. Sheldon is a regimented, eccentric and totally non-conventional in his ways — and the audiences loved him. “We worked 9 to 3 and had weekends and summers off,” said Metcalf. “It was a great schedule for a parent.” Then came the prequel spinoff Young Sheldon, which told the story of the character’s childhood in Texas. Cast in the role of a young Mary Cooper was Zoe Perry, who just happened to be Metcalf’s daughter. 

(Find The Big Bang Theory in our ranking of the top 10 funniest sitcom episodes of all time!)

Hacks (2022)

Metcalf joined the Jean Smart led cast of the HBO show in season 2 as a schedule-loving tour manager named Weed. As Hacks’ Deborah Vance takes her show on the road, Metcalf’s character becomes involved with the star’s hectic life. 

Laurie Metcalf Movies

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

The comedy drama was Madonna’s first major screen role and also starred Aiden Quinn and Roseanna Arquette, but the film also provided early roles for many other well-known entertainers such as Steven Wright, John Turturro and Laurie Metcalf.

Also in a featured role was the fashion that impacted the young female audience in the 1980s. Metcalf played Leslie Glass, Roberta’s (Arquette) conservative and uptight sister-in-law. The film’s title refers to the headline of a tabloid personals ad. 

Related: Madonna Young: 15 Photos of the Pop Star Throughout Her Career

Uncle Buck (1989)

During a family crisis, Buck Russell — aka Uncle Buck — is tasked with the care of his brother’s three children. Ruh-roh. With love and luck on his side, Buck soon wins over the two youngest kids, but not his rebellious teenage niece, Tia.

Metcalf plays Marcy Dahlgren-Frost, the flirtatious divorced neighbor who lives across the street from the Russells and who forces herself on Uncle Buck. Summing up her character she said, “Dahlgren is my maiden name. Frost is my married name. I’m single again, but I never bothered to remove the Frost. And I get compliments on the hyphen.” 

Internal Affairs (1990)

Metcalf has said this is one of her favorite projects. “I loved working with Andy Garcia. I had a great time doing it because I partnered up with Andy. The part was written for a male, but Mike Figgis, the director, gave it to me. So I was Andy’s gay partner. I thought that was a cool twist on what it had originally been written as.”  

Pacific Heights (1990)

Laurie Metcalf with Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine in Pacific Heights, 1990
Laurie Metcalf with Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine in Pacific Heights, 1990Morgan Creek Productions/20th Century Fox/MoviestillsDB

We’ve all had nightmare roommates or tenants, but not like Michael Keaton’s portrayal of diabolical Carter Hayes. Starring Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine, the psychological thriller saw Laurie Metcalf in a minor role as a lawyer hired by the couple to evict their horrible and mysterious tenant.  

JFK (1991)

Laurie Metcalf in JFK, 1991
Laurie Metcalf in JFK, 1991Le Studio Canal+/Regency Enterprises/Alcor Films/Ixtlan Corporation/Warner Bros./MoviestillsDB

This political thriller written and directed by Oliver Stone examines the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner). Metcalf was cast in a supporting role as Susie Cox, one of Garrison’s chief investigators. 

Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010), Toy Story 4 (2019)

Voicing Mrs. Davis, Andy (the toy owner) and Molly’s single mother in the animated films, was Metcalfe, who reprised the role in each of the following Toy Story movies. All four films were huge financial and critical successes. 

Scream 2 (1997)

Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows: Scream 2, 1997
Laurie Metcalf and Courtney Cox in Scream 2, 1997Miramax/Dimension Films/Konrad Pictures/John Schneider/Craven/Maddalena Films/MoviestillsDB

Metcalf portrayed Debbie Salt in this horror film and at the end of the film, there was an audible gasp amongst the audience as the character was revealed to be not only one of the killers, but also the mother of Billy Loomis, one of the killers from the first film. 

Lady Bird (2017)

Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows: Lady Bird, 2017
Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird, 2017A24/Scott Rudin Productions/IAC Inc/Entertainment 360/MoviestillsDB

As struggling working mom Marion McPherson in this coming-of-age comedy-drama film, Metcalf received many nominations within the film industry. This made Lady Bird one of the most critically acclaimed Laurie Metcalf movies and TV shows of them all.

Metcalf took on the well-worn role of the judgmental, puckered-lip mother constantly at war with her independent minded 17 year-old daughter Christine (played by Saoirse Ronan).

Marion does not believe her daughter’s dreams are possible and tells her that she is ungrateful for what she has. Metcalf recalls her own roots to Deadline, as “working class” and much like Marion warns Lady Bird about choosing the right path in life, acting for Metcalf “wasn’t looked down upon” but rather, “it wasn’t a thing you would consider for a career.” 

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