Actress. A true child of Hollywood, Joely Fisher was born in Burbank, California in 1967 to singer Eddie Fisher and actress Connie Stevens. Her half-sister Carrie Fisher and younger sister Tricia Leigh Fisher would both grow up to be actresses as well. When Joely Fisher was only two years old, her parents divorced, leaving her and Tricia to be raised primarily by their mother, Connie Stevens. With Stevens’ career in full swing, the future actress often went along for the ride, sometimes even winding up on stage herself. Stevens toured often, taking her daughters with her as she performed all over the world. The two girls’ early education consisted of rotating tutors and attendance at multiple schools.
Joely Fisher eventually enrolled at Beverly Hills High School and, after graduation, attended Emerson College in Boston. While in school, Fisher studied abroad at the University of Paris for a semester. Along with history and psychology, the actress claims to have also majored in French boys and wine.
It wasn’t long before the siren song of the screen proved too strong to resist, and Fisher dropped out of school to begin her acting career. Though her mother cautioned against a life in show business, the seasoned pro also knew her daughter was intent on a career in the performing arts, once telling Joely, “I couldn’t stop you with a train.”
When she first began auditioning for parts, the normal-sized Fisher faced weight-related casting problems. She found herself being pigeonholed and typecast, remembering, “I was the funny fat best friend, never the leading lady.”
The actress’s first film appearance came in the movie Pretty Smart (1986), which happened also to star her sister, Tricia. Joely Fisher soon went on to bit parts in television, finding her way onto iconic 1990s sitcoms like Blossom and Growing Pains. She also landed guest roles on shows like Grace Under Fire, Coach and Caroline in the City.
Moving temporarily to the big screen, Fisher got a part in the feature I’ll Do Anything in 1994. Later, the actress would call this the turning point in her career, once saying, “I auditioned eight times before getting the part, but I got to play with the big kids and it was really exciting for me.” Soon after, Fisher sang at the Academy Awards alongside the likes of Christian Slater, Ricki Lake, Patrick Dempsey and Danny Glover. This seemingly small cameo ended up garnering the attention of casting directors, who began calling her into auditions within days.
That same year, Fisher was called back to television by what would end up being her biggest break. Cast as Paige Clark on the sitcom Ellen, Fisher played the title character’s best friend from 1994-98. This groundbreaking show was the first to feature its main character coming out of the closet on prime time television, bringing national attention to the issue of gay rights. In 1998, the last year of the show, Fisher was also nominated for her first Golden Globe.
Always intrigued with the stage, she found time during her tenure on Ellen to play replacement roles on Broadway in both Grease (1994) and Cabaret (1998). Switching back to the big screen in 1999, she starred opposite Matthew Broderick as Dr. Brenda Bradford in the feature film Inspector Gadget.
From 2003 to 2005, Fisher returned to TV for a chance to star in Wild Card, a Lifetime series about an insurance investigator. Later she would make repeated cameos on Desperate Housewives and also star in a 2006 Fox sitcom called ‘Til Death.
Apart from her acting, Fisher has spent time as a Celebrity Ambassador for both Save the Children and The Dream Foundation, a wish-granting organization for the terminally ill.
In 1996, Fisher married cinematographer Christopher Duddy, and in 2001 they had their first daughter, Skylar Grace. In 2006, they had another girl, True Harlow. Duddy’s two sons from a previous marriage, Cameron and Collin, were also part of the family, which was completed in 2008 when the couple adopted Olivia Luna Fisher-Duddy. After her personal experience with the adoption process, Fisher became a vocal advocate for local adoption, remarking: “There are 70,000 children in foster care in the state of California. That’s 7-0. It’s unbelievable! There are many children in our own city that need parents.”