Though best known as an outspoken comedienne, Whoopi Goldberg is also a talented dramatic actress. By virtue of her distinctive appearance and a persona that is both no-nonsense and empathic, Goldberg has emerged as one of the most recognizable celebrities of the '80s and '90s.
Born Caryn Johnson on November 13, 1955 in New York City, Goldberg began her long career when she was eight years old, performing with New York's Helena Rubenstein Children's Theater. She then went on to study with the Hudson Guild children's arts program and attended the prestigious High School for the Performing Arts. After graduating, Goldberg occasionally won small parts in Broadway productions such as Hair, Pippin and Jesus Christ Superstar, but also supported herself doing odd jobs like bricklaying and serving as a funeral parlor make-up artist. In 1975, Goldberg moved West and helped found the San Diego Repertory Theater, where she appeared in a number of plays, including Brecht's Mother Courage and Marsha Norman's Getting Out.