Actress Jennifer Coolidge is experiencing something of a renaissance — a “Jenaissance” — becoming an internet sensation after winning Emmys and Golden Globes.
Though Coolidge was never a starring actress, she has been a cult favorite for years, having appeared in the Legally Blonde franchise and the Christopher Guest films Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration .
But playing the grief-fuelled, insecure Tanya McQuoid on the TV series White Lotus has garnered Coolidge six accolades in the past two years, including two Critics’ Choice Awards, an Emmy and a Golden Globe, according to the Evening Standard. With White Lotus, “we’ve officially entered the Jenaissance,” according to Vogue.
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The role was unlike roles she’s had in the past, said Mike White, the writer and director of White Lotus, who wrote the McQuoid character for Coolidge. She’s been cast in “furniture pieces” in the past, he told Vulture, but she could do more.
The character required more emotional range than previous Coolidge roles, the actor agreed. “Some jobs make me think, ‘Wow, this isn’t worth working for,’ she told Variety, but “from what Mike wrote, I stayed up late every night.”
Who is Jennifer Coolidge?
Coolidge grew up in Norwell, Massachusetts, but like so many who dream of being an actress, she moved to Los Angeles when she was 21.
LA wasn’t everything she hoped it would be, she told Vulture, after living in a nursing home and being told by a casting agent that “she would never cast her in anything,” she moved to New York, where in the US she worked the same restaurant as another aspiring actress, Sandra Bullock.
New York was “many lost years,” she told Vulture. She spent most of her time around town, going to clubs and pretending to be “Muffin Hemingway… the author’s least known, entirely fictional daughter.” She struggled with a cocaine addiction and at the age of 27 her parents sent her to rehab.
After her recovery, “She found improv in Gotham City, which eventually led her back to LA to join the Groundlings, the comedy troupe,” according to Vulture.
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At the age of 32, Coolidge booked her first gig on the comedy show Seinfeld. However, this was the start of many cameos and supporting roles that would encompass the “ever-the-bridesmaid quality of Coolidge’s career,” the entertainment site added.
After Seinfeld, she appeared in the franchises “American Pie” and “Legally Blonde,” as well as “Friends,” “Sex in the City,” “A Cinderella Story,” and “Promising Young Woman,” all playing superficial supporting roles.
That affected her. “If I don’t get great roles, I come to the conclusion that people don’t think I’m capable of it,” she told Vogue, “and then I make the decision that I’m not capable of it .”
Although the role of McQuoid was written for Coolidge, she still had doubts about her abilities. She was “depressed at the height of Covid and doesn’t feel ready to work,” according to Variety. “I didn’t like the way I looked,” she told the magazine.
Luckily for her and White Lotus fans, she was persuaded to step out of her comfort zone.
Because of that show, doors have opened for Coolidge, “Whatever Mike White has done for me, I would wish for any actor,” she told Variety.
What’s next for Coolidge?
The future looks bright for Coolidge. “People I’ve never been able to get through the door — all of a sudden they’re asking me to be part of their stuff,” she told Variety.
Coolidge is currently single, but “she’s a romantic,” Vulture said. Her “weakness in life has always been men,” she spent a lot of time “chasing unattainable men,” and it got her nowhere, she told Variety.
To those closest to her, she is a generous, eccentric friend who wants everyone to be happy. “She’s very paranoid about hurting other people’s feelings than coming off as mean or legitimate,” her boyfriend Mike White told Vulture.
This along with her underdog personality is why so many, especially Generation Z, have fallen in love with this actress. Her role as McQuoid showed the world what she could do and made her “one of the hottest names in Hollywood” according to the Evening Standard.