Christine Lahti

Christine Lahti

Lahti at the 2016 Miami Film Festival
Born Christine Ann Lahti
(1950-04-04) April 4, 1950
Birmingham, Michigan, United States
Alma mater University of Michigan
Occupation Actress, film director
Years active 1973–present
Spouse(s) Thomas Schlamme (m. 1983)
Children 3

Christine Ann Lahti[1] (born April 4, 1950) is an American actress and film director. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 1984 film Swing Shift. Her other film roles include ...And Justice for All (1979), Housekeeping (1987), Running on Empty (1988), and Leaving Normal (1992). For her directorial debut with the 1995 short film Lieberman in Love, she won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.

Lahti made her Broadway debut in 1980 as a replacement in Loose Ends, and went on to star in the Broadway productions of Present Laughter (1982) and The Heidi Chronicles (1989). An eight-time Golden Globe nominee and six-time Emmy Award nominee, she won a Golden Globe for the 1989 TV movie No Place Like Home, and won a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 1998 for her role as Kate Austin in the CBS series Chicago Hope (1995–99). She returned to Broadway in 2009 to star in God of Carnage. She also had a recurring role as Sonya Paxton in the NBC series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (2009–11), as Doris McGarrett in the CBS series Hawaii Five-0 (2012–13), and Laurel Hitchin in NBC's The Blacklist (2015–16).

Early life

Lahti was born in Birmingham, Michigan, the daughter of Elizabeth Margaret (née Tabar; 1920—1995),[2] a painter, homemaker, and nurse, and Paul Theodore Lahti (1919—2001),[3] a surgeon. She has three sisters, Carol, Catherine, and Linda, and two brothers, Paul Jr. and James Lahti.[4][5] Her paternal grandparents were Finnish immigrants[6][7] and her maternal grandparents were from Austria-Hungary. Lahti was raised in the Lutheran Church.[8]

Lahti studied Fine Arts at Florida State University and received her bachelor's degree in Drama from the University of Michigan, where she joined Delta Gamma sorority.


After college, Lahti headed to New York City in 1973, where she worked as a waitress and did commercials. Her breakthrough movie was ...And Justice for All (1979) with Al Pacino. After featuring in a few films and TV shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lahti chose roles that allowed her to spend time with her three children.[9] An important role was in Running on Empty, a 1988 movie in which she and Judd Hirsch played the parents of a musically promising son; the family went underground to avoid the FBI after the parents had damaged a napalm factory, and they all must periodically move on short notice and assume new identities. She has also focused on television, beginning with her role in the made-for-TV adaptation of The Executioner's Song (1982). She appeared on Broadway in Wendy Wasserstein's seriocomic play, The Heidi Chronicles. Lahti received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Swing Shift (1984), and won an Academy Award for Best Short Film, Live Action for Lieberman in Love (1995), in which she starred and directed. It was adapted from Lieberman in Love, a short story by W. P. Kinsella. Lahti won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award in 1998 for her role in Chicago Hope.

At the Governor's Ball held after the 49th Annual Emmy Awards, 1997

In 2001, her first directorial film, My First Mister, was released. Starring Leelee Sobieski and Albert Brooks, the movie debuted with good reviews. In DVD commentary she applauds the work of her cast and crew, remarking "[I] was very lucky to have such a wonderful crew..." She said she felt regret that the film was rated R, for language, despairing that the movie might not be viewed by teenagers who would like and relate with the characters. Also, Lahti mentioned that she would have liked to have had more time to shoot different perspectives in order to facilitate story arc. Lahti starred in the Executive ADA role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Sonya Paxton, while the character Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) was in appeals. She was in the first four episodes of the 11th season[10] and returned for the show's eighth episode, where she clashed with Alexandra Cabot.[11] Lahti later guest starred in the ninth and seventeenth episode of the 12th season where she reprised her role as Executive ADA Sonya Paxton. Her character was murdered in the seventeenth episode.

She returned to Broadway upon joining the cast of the Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage on November 17, 2009, replacing actress Marcia Gay Harden.[12] Both actresses had a few special appearances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In September 2011, Lahti starred with Morgan Freeman in the Broadway debut of Dustin Lance Black's play, '8'—a staged reenactment of the federal trial that overturned California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage—as Kris Perry.[13] In March 2012, she was featured with Jamie Lee Curtis and Jansen Panettiere at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The production was broadcast on YouTube to raise money for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.[14][15]

Personal life

Lahti has been married to television director Thomas Schlamme since September 4, 1983. They have three children. She is active in political causes.[16]

Lahti and Schlamme live in Los Angeles with their children.

Since May 2005, Lahti has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.



Year Film Role Notes
1979 ...And Justice for All Gail Packer
1981 Whose Life Is It Anyway? Dr. Clare Scott
1981 Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains Aunt Linda
1984 Swing Shift Hazel New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1986 Desert Bloom Rose Chismore Uncredited
1986 Just Between Friends Sandy Dunlap
1987 Stacking Kathleen Morgan aka Season of Dreams
1987 Housekeeping Sylvie
1988 Running on Empty Annie Pope/Cynthia Manfield Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1989 Miss Firecracker Clara Archer
1989 Gross Anatomy Dr. Rachel Woodruff
1990 Funny About Love Meg Lloyd Bergman
1991 The Doctor Anne MacKee
1992 Leaving Normal Darly Peters
1995 Lieberman in Love Shaleen Also director
Academy Award for Live Action Short Film
1995 The Four Diamonds Doctor and Queen Raptenahad
1995 Hideaway Lindsey
1996 Pie in the Sky Ruby
1999 Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story Ellie Nesler
2001 My First Mister Mall Patron Also director
2008 Smart People Nancy
2008 Yonkers Joe Janice
2009 Obsessed Reese
2010 Flying Lessons Carolyn Conway
2011 Petunia Felicia Petunia
2011 The Doctor Emily Campbell[17]
2012 Touchback Thelma
2013 Hateship, Loveship Eileen
2014 Mania Days Sara
2015 The Steps Sherry
2015 Touched with Fire Sara
2016 Operator


Year Title Role Notes
1978 The Harvey Korman Show Maggie Kavanaugh 5 episodes
1978 The Last Tenant Carol Television movie
1978 Dr. Scorpion Tania Reston Television movie
1980 The Henderson Monster Dr. Louise Casimir Television movie
1982 The Executioner's Song Brenda Television movie
1984 Single Bars, Single Women Elsie Television movie
1985 Love Lives On Marylin Television movie
1987 Amerika Alethea Milford 2 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1989 No Place Like Home Zan Cooper Television movie
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1991 Crazy from the Heart Charlotte Bain Television movie
1992 The Fear Inside Meredith Cole Television movie
Nominated—CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1995–99 Chicago Hope Dr. Kathryn Austin 97 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1996–97, 1999)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series (1996–99)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1996–98)
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series
1994 Frasier Laura Episode: "Author, Author"
1997 Hope Emma Percy Television movie
2000 An American Daughter Lyssa Dent Hughes Television movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
2001 Ally McBeal Sydney Gale Episode: "Queen Bee"
2002 Women vs. Men Dana Television movie
2002 The Pilot's Wife Kathryn Lyons Television movie
2003 Out of the Ashes Gisella Perl Television movie
2004 Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman Rose Television movie
2004–05 Jack & Bobby Grace McCallister 22 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
2006 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Martha O'Dell 3 episodes
2009 Operating Instructions H. Keller Television movie
2009–11 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Sonya Paxton 7 episodes
2012–13 Hawaii Five-0 Doris McGarrett 8 episodes
2015 Grace and Frankie Lydia Foster Episode: "The Funeral"
2015–16 The Blacklist Laurel Hitchin 7 episodes
2015–16 The Good Wife Andrea Stevens Episodes: "Lies", "Tracks"


Year Title Role Director(s) Venue
1980 Loose Ends Susan Alan Schneider Circle in the Square Theatre
1980 Division Street Dianah Tom Moore Ambassador Theatre
1981 Scenes and Revelations Helena Sheldon Epps Circle in the Square Theatre
1982–83 Present Laughter Joanna Lyppiatt George C. Scott Circle in the Square Theatre
1989–90 The Heidi Chronicles Heidi Holland Daniel Sullivan Plymouth Theatre
2009–10 God of Carnage Veronica Matthew Warchus Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre


  1. "Schools, colleges grant undergraduate honors". The Michigan Daily. March 28, 1969. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  3. Orlando Sentinel
  4. "Christine Lahti Biography". Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  5. "Funeral Notices — Tucson Citizen Morgue, Part 2 (1993–2009)". 1995-12-27. Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  6. "LAHTI LOOKS BEYOND MAINSTREAM FOR HER ROLES AS REAL WOMEN". Los Angeles Daily News. May 31, 1992. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  7. "Intimate Portrait: Christine Lahti". March 16, 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-03-16. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  8. Pfefferman, Naomi (2003-04-10). "Showtime Examines Shoah Diva Doctor | Arts". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  9. IMDb. "Biography for Christine Lahti"., Inc. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  10. "'SVU' scoop: Christine Lahti is the new ADA!". June 29, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
  11. Ross, Robyn. "Christine Lahti Back for More Law & Order: SVU". Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  12. Piepenberg, Erik (August 18, 2011). "Lahti, Birney Join the Cast of Adam Rapp's New Play". Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  13. Kennedy, Mark (January 17, 2012). "'8,' Dustin Lance Black Gay Marriage Play, Goes National During 2012". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  14. ""8": A Play about the Fight for Marriage Equality". YouTube. March 3, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  15. Gray, Stephen (March 1, 2012). "YouTube to broadcast Proposition 8 play live". Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  16. "Celebrities Protest Killings in Mexico". LA Times/Reuters. February 15, 2004. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  17. Wightman, Catriona (February 21, 2011). "'Californication' star joins CBS pilot". Digital Spy. Retrieved 30 September 2012.

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