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Not just trophy wives: “Desperate Housewives”‘ leading ladies

Molly Griffin | Wednesday, October 12, 2005

In Hollywood, it usually only takes one major event to turn someone’s career from a slump into a smash. Sometimes that one thing is a movie, sometimes it is a scandal, but possibly the best way to win in Hollywood is to have a hit TV show. What better way to quickly become famous than to appear in the living rooms of the world once a week?

“Desperate Housewives” has become a huge international hit, and with its success, the stock of the actresses who portray the women of Wisteria Lane has skyrocketed. Examining the acting history of the five main actresses reveals that most of them had stalled careers or careers that had never really gotten off the ground, but a little show on ABC has changed all of that forever.

The actresses who appear on “Desperate Housewives” had successful careers before the show began, but nothing like the ones they are experiencing now that the show is an international sensation.

Teri Hatcher found fame after appearing as Lois Lane on the hit show, “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” In spite of a few appearances in films like “Spy Kids” and the James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Hatcher’s career stalled somewhat after “Lois and Clark” ended.

The role of Susan Mayer that has jump-started Hatcher’s career was actually offered to three other women before it came to her. Heather Locklear, Callista Flockhart and Mary-Louise Parker all turned down the role before it came to Hatcher.

Marcia Cross appeared on several other addictive nighttime soap operas before “Desperate Housewives.” She had roles on “Knots Landing,” “The Edge of the Night” and “One Life to Live.” She gained some notoriety playing Dr. Kimberly Shaw on “Melrose Place,” but took some time off from acting to pursue her Master’s degree in Psychology.

Her return to acting included a stint on the WB’s drama “Everwood.” Her portrayal of the uptight perfectionist Bree Van De Kamp has not only revived her career but has won her major industry awards, spots on magazine covers and legions of fans.

Felicity Huffman was better known for being married to actor William H. Macy (“Seabiscuit,” “Pleasantville”) than for most of her own projects, with the possible exception of the critically praised television show, “Sports Night.”

She appeared in several films prior to “Desperate Housewives,” but many of the roles were small and many of the films forgettable. These included “Magnolia,” “Raising Helen” and “Christmas with the Kranks.”

Eva Longoria graduated from Texas A&M-Kingsville with a degree in Kinesiology and was crowned the Miss Corpus Christi USA pageant in 1998. Following her graduation, she was discovered at a talent contest in Los Angeles. She subsequently appeared on a variety of soap, including “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “The Young and the Restless.”

Thanks to “Desperate Housewives,” Longoria now has a huge contract with L’Oreal, took the number one spot on Maxim’s Top 100 list and was one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.

In the 1980s, Nicollette Sheridan was a hot commodity thanks to her role on the nighttime soap, “Knots Landing.” Following that success, though, her career languished in the realm of made-for-TV movies like “Somebody’s Daughter” and “Shadows of Desire.”

Sheridan also appeared in less-than-Oscar-worthy films like “Spy Hard” and “Beverly Hills Ninja.” “Desperate Housewives” not only signaled her return to television beyond made-for-TV movies, but also her return to the A-list from the bottom of the B-list.

The ultimate representation of this success is the fact that three of the main actresses on the show received Emmy nominations in a category that has only five nominees. Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman were all nominated in the category and Huffman actually took home the prize for her role as flustered career woman-turned-mother Lynette Scavo. The show was nominated for Best Comedy Series, but lost the prize to “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

“Desperate Housewives” revived the stagnant careers of Teri Hatcher, Nicollette Sheridan and Marcia Cross and launched Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria into television fame.

These women are now not only bigger than soap operas, made-for-TV movies and the careers of their spouses, but are actually emerging as some of the most famous and powerful people in Hollywood today.