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Carla Gugino

August 28th, 2008 · 4 Comments


Carla Gugino was born August 29, 1971 in Sarasota, Florida. Her father was an orthodontist. At the age of two, Gugino’s parents separated. Seeking a change of scenery, her mother drove Gugino cross country. They lived in a teepee in Paradise, California for six months, as well as a van in Big Sur. Gugino recalled, “When you’re a kid, it’s a dream. I bathed in the river, ran around in the forest, searched for rock quartz. It was a very bohemian upbringing, although I’m glad I don’t live in a teepee now.” By the age of five, she had moved back to Florida, attending private school and traveling Europe with her father during holidays.

Discovered by a San Diego modeling agency at the age of 14, Gugino was flown to New York to room with other would-be models over the summer. She quit and ended up in Los Angeles, living with her aunt, Carol Merrill. Merrill – the former hostess of Let’s Make A Deal – offered to help her niece break into show business. Attending high schools in the morning, studying acting and auditioning in the afternoon and maintaining straight A’s in between, Gugino began popping up on sitcoms: Who’s The Boss?, Alf, Saved By the Bell. Cast in a feature film – Troop Beverly Hills – and then as a series regular on the 1989-90 season of Falcon Crest, Gugino was supporting herself as an actress by the age of 18.


Small but noticeable parts in Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael and This Boy’s Life followed. Gugino then landed a leading role, opposite Pauly Shore in Son in Law. The 1993 Disney comedy was a surprise hit, due largely to the work of the supporting cast. After playing Sarah Jessica Parker’s younger sister in Miami Rhapsody, Gugino was back on the small screen, as Michael J. Fox’s girlfriend on Spin City. Her character was dropped after twelve episodes as the show was retooled to focus on Fox. Rather than breaking out as a star, Gugino became a steady presence in movies and TV, co-starring with Nicolas Cage in Snake Eyes and on the 1999-2000 season of Chicago Hope as a neurosurgeon.

When Kelly Preston bowed out of Spy Kids, Gugino took over her role for director Robert Rodriguez on 48 hours notice. She played a blackjack dealer turned stripper in the Wayne Wang directed The Center of the World, and followed by taking on three characters in the Jet Li action flick The One. In addition to returning for two sequels to Spy Kids, Gugino starred in She Creature for her longtime boyfriend, writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez, playing a circus performer whose boyfriend takes a real mermaid on the road, with deadly consequences. An Elmore Leonard fan, Gugino eagerly took the part of the federal marshal from Out of Sight in her own series, the quirky Karen Sisco. The highly praised show lasted only ten episodes in 2003.


Gugino made her Broadway debut in 2004 in Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, and returned to the stage two years later for Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times that Gugino’s performance conjured “memories of a young Elizabeth Taylor in the film version.” Casting for an actress to join the HBO series Entourage for five episodes in 2007, creator Doug Ellin commented, “We needed someone who could be a strong, smart, powerful woman, sometimes sexy, and someone who made the guys feel like little boys.” Gugino has gone from baring all as a femme fatale in Sin City to playing the female lead in the kids movie Night At The Museum.

Recently, Gugino has appeared as Russell Crowe’s ex-wife in the Oscar nominated American Gangster and a bloodthirsty vampire opposite Lucy Liu in the B-movie Rise. In one of her three movies due out in 2009, Gugino has the role of Silk Spectre in the much anticipated Watchmen. Asked to classify her career in a 2001 interview, Gugino responded, “I think for the sort of who’s-hot-now thing, fitting into a box really easily is very advantageous. For having a long career, hopefully – and this is sort of what I base my choices on – to do a variety of things. It confuses some people, and they’re not quite sure what to do with you. But other people, thankfully, appreciate the fact that you don’t just play yourself.”


© Joe Valdez

Photo courtesy of HDTV Videocaptures

Mad props to Aaron Valdez for designing the United Federation of Character Actors shield.

Tags: United Federation of Character Actors

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Marilyn // Sep 1, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you so much for doing an article on Carla Gugino. I think she is a wonderful presence in films and on TV deserving of more high-profile work.

    And I love She Creature, but she was not the mermaid. She was only a carney mermaid whose boyfriend, Rufus Sewell, finds the real thing and takes it on the road, with disastrous conseqences.

  • 2 Jeremy // Sep 6, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Ah…this is my girl. I love Carla and will go out of my way to watch anything she is in. More than five years later I am still mourning the cancellation of KAREN SISCO and treasure my copies of it.
    I think she is brilliant in everything she does and is so much more beautiful than most of the more famous stars these days…recently I was blown away by her work with Crowe in AMERICAN GANGSTER, especially the last court room scene with them that I thought was aong the year’s best. Great post on one of my favorites…

  • 3 Joe Valdez // Sep 6, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Marilyn: Thanks for the clarification on She Creature. That actually sounds like a much cooler movie! Part of my motivation for this column is to feature information on these terrific actors that is as detailed as it is accurate, something you don’t usually get on the Internet Movie Database and never do on Wikipedia. I’m grateful to readers like you for keeping me up to date.

    Jeremy: If I was writing a movie and you were directing it, I know I would run into little resistance suggesting Carla Gugino for the lead. I never caught a glimpse of Karen Sisco but just received from Netflix the 2004 sci-fi series Threshold, which Gugino also starred in. I’ll let you know if Gugino is just as captivating chasing aliens as fugitives. Thanks for commenting!

  • 4 jake midnight // Jan 30, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    She wa awesome. She did the British accent (tho the cockney version and not the upper class version) better than Paltrow could ever dream to aspire. She is a special soul, a spiritual voyager shipwrecked in a vulgar and materialistic world. Yet she rocked in Entourage.

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