Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph was born, the only daughter of music writer and producer Richard Rudolph and Chicago soul singer, Minnie Ripperton, who, after having gone into semi-retirement to start a family, hit the top of the pop charts in 1974 with her five-octave AM radio staple, "Lovin' You." (The song, which had begun as a lullaby to the newborn Maya, featured Riperton singing her daughter's name several times as an improvised fade to the song.) At age one, Rudolph moved with her family from her Florida birthplace to Southern California, where her parents furthered their music careers. Unfortunately, when Rudolph was just shy of seven years old, her mother lost her battle with breast cancer. Her daughter seemed likely to carry on the family legacy, however, by singing and appearing in local theater throughout her childhood. She pursued another of her creative passions, photography, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she also formed the funk band Super Sauce. Returning to L.A., Rudolph played keyboards and sang with The Rentals, an indie pop group that fused a college rock sensibility (founder Matt Sharp was the original bassist of Weezer) with a sparse, synth-heavy sound. Meanwhile the striking multi-talent began to hone her acting and improv instincts at the Groundlings Theater. She hit the audition circuit and landed her first screen roles in the 1997 features "Gattaca" and "As Good As It Gets" before scoring a regular role on the short-lived gritty medical drama "City of Angels" (CBS, 2000). After a producer from "Saturday Night Live" caught Rudolph performing at the Groundlings, she auditioned for the show in New York and was brought on as a Featured Performer in the spring of 2000. Rudolph offered a string of performances that showcased her musicality and her ability to morph into a versatile range of extreme characters. Because of her range, she was promoted to full cast member in the fall of 2001. She spent the next several years establishing herself as one of the stronger female players in the show's history, with characters like Britannica from the fictitious R&B trio Gemini's Twin (a parody of real-life member-swapping girl group, Destiny's Child), Donatella Versace, and Megan, the love-struck host of her middle school's morning program. Meanwhile she branched out to the big screen with a supporting role in the acclaimed independents "Chuck and Buck" (2000) and "Duets" (2000), in which she also served as the karaoke-themed feature's music supervisor and had her first professional opportunity to work with childhood friend Gwyneth Paltrow. Her follow-ups were a pair of Drew Barrymore projects: the poorly received comedy "Duplex" (2003) directed by Danny DeVito, and the popular romantic comedy "50 First Dates" (2004) with Adam Sandler.In the fall of 2005 Rudolph went on maternity leave (she and film director Paul Thomas Anderson had been in a relationship since 2001), but her pregnancy was forever captured on film via her performance in the ensemble of "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006), Robert Altman's fictional take on Garrison Keillor's long-running radio program featuring an unusual array of singers and monolithic ramblings about the make-believe town of Lake Wobegon. The fall of 2006 saw the long-delayed release of Mike Judge's sci-fi feature "Idiocracy" (2006), in which Rudolph and Luke Wilson starred as unwitting subjects of an experiment that deposits them 500 years into the disappointingly stupid future. Rudolph was heard as the voice of Rapunzel in "Shrek the Third" (2007) and wrapped up her "SNL" contract the same year, earning a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on the show.In her first recurring sitcom role, Rudolph appeared on the short-lived NBC version of the offbeat Australian hit "Kath & Kim" (NBC, 2008-09). Following that show's cancellation, she co-starred with John Krasinski as a married couple about to start a family and looking for the perfect locale to do so in the Sam Mendes comedy, "Away We Go" (2009). Rudolph later joined a pair of "SNL" alums the following year with a brief turn in Will Forte's action-spoof "MacGruber" (2010) and had a supporting role in Adam Sandler's playful comedy "Grown Ups" (2010), about a group of friends - Sandler and his "SNL" cohorts Chris Rock and David Spade, as well as comic Kevin James - reuniting for their 30th high school reunion.The following year was one of the more momentous of Rudolph's career, as she joined an ensemble cast that included former "SNL" teammate Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy in the raunchy yet touching comedy "Bridesmaids" (2011), one of the biggest surprise hits of the year. Additionally, she lent her vocal talents to the role of Mollie the Giraffe in the family-friendly Kevin James vehicle "Zookeeper" (2011) and appeared with several of her "Bridesmaids" co-stars in the adult comedy-drama "Friends with Kids" (2011). Clearly on a roll, she joined Christina Applegate and Will Arnett for a regular cast role on the sitcom "Up All Night" (NBC, 2011-2012) as Ava Alexander, the self-centered yet caring host of a popular daytime talk show whose best friend and producer (Applegate) has just become a first-time mom. Early in 2012, Rudolph returned triumphant to her old stomping grounds, this time as the host of "Saturday Night Live." Her hosting duties earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.Although "Up All Night" ended its run in late 2012, Rudolph's career continued apace, with no less than three major projects all released during the summer of 2013. First, she had a supporting role in the ensemble indie film "The Way Way Back," starring Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell, and she reprised her role as Chris Rock's wife in the broad comedy sequel "Grown Ups 2." The following week, the animated movie "Turbo" opened, with Rudolph voicing a racing snail named Burn. While the latter film tanked, the others fared well, with "Grown Ups 2" in particular proving to be another big hit. After working with her longtime companion Anderson for the first time on his Thomas Pynchon adaptation "Inherent Vice" (2014), Rudolph continued working steadily in animation, with voice roles in "The Nut Job" (2014), "Big Hero 6" (2014) and "Strange Magic" (2015). A supporting role in Rebecca Miller's critically acclaimed romantic comedy "Maggie's Plan" (2015) was followed by reunions with SNL pals Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in Paula Pell's "Sisters" (2015) and The Lonely Island in the mockumentary "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" (2016). Along with a well-received reinvention of the summer variety series co-starring Martin Short, "Maya and Marty" (NBC 2016), Rudolph continued her voice career in "The Angry Birds Movie" (2016), animated teen drama "My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea" (2016), "The Emoji Movie" (2017) and "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature" (2017). Rudolph also appeared in the comedy "CHiPS" (2017) and indie drama "We Don't Belong Here" (2017) before returning to live TV as The Mother in the musical adaptation "A Christmas Story Live!" (Fox 2017). Along with a story arc on TV comedy "The Good Place" (NBC 2017-), she next reteamed with McCarthy for two films, "Life of the Party" (2018) and "The Happytime Murders" (2018).