How Jennifer Coolidge became the new Hollywood sensation

  • Jennifer Coolidge will be honored with MTV’s Comedy Genius Award in May.
  • The actress won a Golden Globe earlier this year for playing Tanya on HBO’s The White Lotus.
  • He has also appeared in iconic movies and television series, such as American Pie and Seinfeld.
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Jennifer Coolidge has worked to achieve stardom since childhood

Rich Fury / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Jennifer Coolidge started acting long before she was known as Tanya McQuoid. She was born in Norwell, Massachusetts, in 1961 and expressed her interest in acting from an early age.

“When I was 10 years old, I made (a) new version of Jaws. My dad swam with a fin on his back and my sister was the victim of the shark,” he said in an interview with US Weekly in 2020.

In the same interview, Coolidge revealed another of his creative interests. “I went to orchestra camp for three summers,” he said, “I played the clarinet. I thought I could make a living.”

She has a BA in drama from Emerson College and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating in 1982.

When becoming an actress was still a pipe dream for Coolidge, she worked in a bar in New York with Sandra Bullock.

In 2021, she reflected on her time there in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel: “Let’s just say that Sandra really got her acting right. She was, you know, partying a lot in those years, so she was like, kind of 50/50 whether I made the switch or not.”

The Guardian reported that Coolidge was treated “brutally” during the start of her career. A casting agent reportedly told her that she would not get roles because she was not “pretty enough”.

Jennifer Coolidge’s first television appearance was in 1993, as one of Jerry’s dates on Seinfeld


The actress appeared as Jodi, one of Jerry’s many short flings. In the episode, titled The MasseuseJerry is determined to get a professional massage from Jodi and breaks up with her when she refuses to comply with his demands.

In 2015, Coolidge told GQ that he had no professional acting experience before landing his role on Seinfeld.

“I didn’t really have any jobs before that,” he said. “I only had lies on my resume. I didn’t even have decent audition clothes.”

Beginning in 1999, she played Jeanine Stifler, better known as Stifler’s mother, in the franchise American Pie

Jennifer Coolidge
Universal Studios

One of Coolidge’s most notable roles is that of the seductive Jeanine Stifler in American Pie. She first played Jeanine in 1999 and reappeared in the same role in the film’s sequel in 2001.

“There were so many benefits to making that movie,” he said in an interview with Variety in 2022, according to Entertainment Tonight. “There were like 200 people I would never have slept with.”

Her next breakout role came in 2001, when Jennifer Coolidge played Paulette Bonafonté Parcelle in Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde
MGM Studios

In Legally Blonde (and in Legally Blonde 2), Coolidge played the nail technician who builds a trusting relationship with Elle (Reese Witherspoon).

In the film, Elle teaches Paulette her iconic technique called “tilt and pose,” a move she says is sure to attract a man’s attention.

Coolidge quipped: “I’ve never had to bend over like in that movie. I think bending and breaking is tricky,” according to E! News.

He acted alongside Hilary Duff in the film A Cinderella story (2004)

Jennifer Coolidge
Warner Bros. Pictures

In the early 2000s, Coolidge continued to land roles in television series and movies. Among her dozens of appearances are cameos in friends and Sex and the City.

One of her next iconic roles was that of Fiona in A Cinderella story. While playing Sam’s (Duff) selfish and greedy stepmother, Coolidge showed off his iconic sense of humor.

During a conversation between Fiona and her stepdaughter, Sam, Fiona memorably says the line: “There’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you and I think you’re ready to hear it. You’re not very pretty and you’re not very bright.”

“I’m very glad we had that talk,” she adds.

After the film, Coolidge continued his steady workflow and had recurring roles on series from the early 2000s, including Joey, Nip/Tuck and party down.

In 2011, Jennifer Coolidge began playing Sophie, a recurring character on 2 Broke Girls

Warner Bros. TV

Coolidge played Sophie Kachinsky, a Polish businesswoman with a thick accent, in 2 Broke Girls. Sophie, who is the upstairs neighbor to the show’s main characters, is known for making sexually provocative and generally inappropriate comments.

The actress told People in 2015 that as she gained popularity on the show, a fan asked her to sign a box of maxi sanitary pads.

She believes that her appearance in the music video Thank U, Next of Ariana Grande helped relaunch her career

In a 2022 Entertainment Weekly interview conducted by Grande, Coolidge expressed his gratitude to the pop singer for his return.

“I was a little flat, and you made things work for me. I just want to thank you,” she told him.

“That’s a very nice, but tremendously untrue thing to say,” Grande replied. “I love you so much. I think the moment was so beautiful and you deserved the whole world.”

The singer called the session Thank U, Next with Coolidge “one of the funniest days of my entire life.”

In the music video, which references several classic 1990s and early 2000s rom-coms, Coolidge reprises her role as Paulette in Legally Blonde, while Grande plays Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle.

She played a concerned mother in Promising Young Woman (2021), moving away from the temperament of her usual roles

Jennifer Coolidge
Warner Bros. TV

In Promising Young Woman, Coolidge takes a break from providing comic relief. In the film, Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, who takes on different personas to confront potential sexual assaulters of hers. Coolidge plays her concerned mother, deviating from the upbeat and dramatic characters she often plays.

In an interview with AV club in 2021, she said: “By playing Susan, I think I stole my own relationship with my mother. I felt like my mom was a little naive about a lot of what was happening to me as a troubled teenager, sort of like you just said, she wasn’t equipped.”

At the time, GQ’s Carrie Wittmer wrote, “Coolidge plays the role with a sincerity and subtlety that helps the film set its very intentionally polarizing and subversive tone.”

In 2021, he began to receive critical acclaim for his role in The White Lotus

In The White Lotus, Coolidge showed off her unique sense of humor, playing the eccentric and wealthy Tanya McQuoid. She appears in the first season, set in Hawaii, and in the second season, which takes place in Sicily, Italy.

In a December 2022 interview with Variety, Coolidge hinted that his character is loosely based on his actual personality. She added of series creator Mike White: “She stole that from me, Jennifer Coolidge, and turned it into a Tanya thing: I forget about her.”

In the same interview, he reflected on what it has meant The White Lotus for your career.

The White Lotus It has opened up a world of opportunity, and Mike White will be my friend forever, of course,” he said.

His performance in The White Lotus from HBO earned him an Emmy Award in 2022

In 2022, Coolidge’s portrayal of Tanya earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie.

In her acceptance speech she said: “I just want to say that I took a bath in lavender tonight…and it made me swell up inside my dress. I’m having a hard time talking.” His comments were greeted with laughter from the audience.

Coolidge’s award was not the only honor bestowed on The White Lotus During the 2022 Awards Season: The series’ first season earned 10 of its 20 Emmy nominations.

Jennifer Coolidge is one of the two characters that Mike White brought to the second season of the series. The other is the husband of her character.

Although all the other characters in season two are brand new, Tanya and her husband, Greg (played by Jon Gries), provide a common thread from season one.

Reflecting on his time on the series, Coolidge told Variety in December: “I never would have predicted this moment, and that’s the good thing about life sometimes: great things are something you never thought about. I’m still in shock, two years later.”

At the end of 2022, he starred in The Watcher from Netflix as an abrasive real estate agent

In The Watcher, Coolidge played Karen, an outspoken and career-focused real estate agent.

“You dream of playing people like Karen Calhoun because it’s not that much fun just playing someone who is extremely obedient and ordinary. I mean, she’s kind of a wild card,” she said in a 2022 interview with Tudum.

The Watcher, a Ryan Murphy production, it was a huge success upon its release in October. Less than two weeks after the series premiered, it amassed 148.2 million hours watched.

In 2023, she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for her portrayal of Tanya in the second season of The White Lotus

Jennifer Coolidge
Frederic J. Brown / AFP

The actress delivered a tearful speech thanking producers like Ryan Murphy for providing opportunities throughout her career that “kept her going.”

“I had such big dreams and expectations when I was younger, but what happened was life and whatever just kind of just slipped away,” he said. “Mike White, you have given me hope…you have given me a fresh start.”

MTV announced that it will be honored with an award for its comedy genius in May

Jennifer Coolidge
Frederic J. Brown / AFP

According to MTV, the Comedy Genius Award is given to actors who have made “unparalleled contributions to the world of comedy” and have “(transformed) the genre as a whole.” It has been awarded to five other actors in the history of the gala.

In the channel’s official announcement, MTV described Coolidge as “preternaturally funny.”

“As Tanya McQuoid, she graced both seasons with a presence that was both flighty and likeable,” she said in the statement.

NOW READ: How Brendan Fraser overcame a mid-career slump and returned to stardom

ALSO READ: How Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson went from failing at football to being one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood

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