Possessing an earthy almost childlike glow and a contrasting dark beauty that lent itself well to early roles in such films as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Chaplin (both 1992), actress Moira Kelly subsequently went on to become one of the most underappreciated actresses of the 1990s, despite some truly striking performances. Kelly was born the third of six children in Queens, New York City, in March of 1968; her father was a professional violinist and her mother, a nurse. Inspired by classical and big band music, young Kelly followed in her father's musical footsteps by trying her hand at the violin, drums, and flute. Kelly was raised in Ronkonkoma, NY, and competed in opera while attending Connetquot High School in the mid-'80s. It was there that the acting bug bit, and when Kelly was cast in a small role in the high school's production of Annie, her role was unexpectedly expanded as the actress playing Miss Hannigan fell ill and Kelly was recast as Grace Ferrell. Rounding out her education at New York City's Marymount Manhattan College, Kelly worked a series of odd jobs while attending college in order to finance her education. Facing an important life decision, Kelly began to weigh her childhood dream of becoming a nun against a busy life in the limelight. Convinced by her priest that acting may be part of God's larger plan for her, Kelly eagerly began work on her first feature.
Kicking off her career with a made-for-television feature entitled Love, Lies & Murder, Kelly essayed the memorable role of a young girl whose confession of murdering her stepmother initiates a complex investigation. Kelly would subsequently make her feature debut in The Boy Who Cried Bitch (1991), and following a supporting role in the same year's Billy Bathgate, she took on her first lead in the romantic drama The Cutting Edge. Cast in the role of a talented figure skater whose new partner in ice is a rough ex-hockey player (D.B. Sweeney), the believable chemistry between the two leads resulted in a touching romance that performed well in theaters and found an even wider audience on home video. Subsequently replacing Lara Flynn Boyle in director David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the conflicted Kelly once again approached her priest to ask for guidance in a film that contained frank and explicit sexuality. Next drawing attention in dual roles as cinema legend Charles Chaplin's first love and fourth wife in Richard Attenborough's Chaplin, it was obvious to many that Kelly had a bright future ahead of her. Kelly's diversity truly began to shine in the mid- to late '90s, and though such films as Little Odessa (1994) and Changing Habits (1997) may not have found wide release or reached blockbuster status, the people who did happen to catch them when they were released on video found her performances as moving as ever. Rounding out the decade with everything from vocal work in The Lion King (1994) to a role as social activist Dorothy Day in Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story, Kelly took part in her first television series with a lead in the short-lived To Have & to Hold (1998). Though that series ultimately didn't connect with audiences, her next series, The West Wing, most certainly did. Instilled with a new career momentum following the critical success of that series, Kelly would subsequently draw favorable nods for her role in The Safety of Objects (2001) before returning to the small screen with the 2003 series One Tree Hill. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi