Elizabeth Perkins was born November 18, 1960 in Queens, New York, the daughter of Jo Williams, a drug treatment counselor and concert pianist, and James Perkins, a farmer, writer, and businessman. She has two older sisters. Her paternal grandparents were Greek immigrants from Salonika who anglicized their surname from "Pisperikos" to "Perkins" when they moved to the United States. Perkins was raised in Colrain, Massachusetts; her parents divorced in 1963. She began working in theatre with Arena Civic Theatre, a non-profit community theatre group based in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Perkins attended Northfield Mount Hermon School, an elite preparatory school, and then spent 1978 to 1981 in Chicago attaining her BFA in Acting from the Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University. In 1984, she made her theatrical debut on Broadway in Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirsand afterward, worked in a number of ensemble companies, including The New York Shakespeare Festival and the Steppenwolf Theater. Her film roles have included About Last Night... (1986), Big (1988), The Flintstones (1994), Miracle on 34th Street (1994) and Avalon (1990). She is known for her role as Celia Hodes in the Showtime TV series Weeds, for which she received three Primetime Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.
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