Lovely Lisa Edelstein
Lisa Edelstein is no stranger to transforming herself. Formerly a New York City native with a reputation as a girl about town, this double- decade west coast resident and star of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce has certainly changed a lot about her surroundings and herself. In fact, it’s Lisa’s breezy and upbeat attitude about the many transitions in her life that makes her so inspiring.
“All I ever wanted to do was act,” says Lisa. “I still get a tingle walking onto a studio lot.” But it took some real introspection and brave choices to get her onto those lots.
Originally living in the quiet suburbs of New Jersey with a father in pediatrics and a mother in social work, Lisa’s aspirations of performing fell far outside her family’s realm of experience. But that didn’t deter Lisa. Bolstered by her acting dreams without any means to realize them, teenage Lisa got pictures made and visited agencies all on her own.
“I met ... all kinds of incredibly creepy people one would imagine a 14-year- old would meet when walking around Manhattan with just her pictures and a smile,” she remembers.
Realizing this might not be the way to go, Lisa attended NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts in order to get some professional training. Of course this is an achievement for anyone, but Lisa didn’t stop there.
“By the time I started college I knew that there was a lot to learn about life and business and I wanted to know it all. But that’s not what they taught in school. So, while I spent my days rolling around the classroom floors doing imagination exercises with my fellow acting students, becoming cows, or trying to re-experience a hot cup of coffee with our minds, or doing monologues, I spent my nights out and about exploring the incredible world we were in,” she recalls.
Translation? At 20 years old Lisa Edelstein began frequenting Gotham’s hippest nightclubs, charming other scenesters with her beauty and energy. She became so notorious she was even featured in the New York Times, but all that attention came with some realizations for the driven actress.
“People’s opinions of me swayed like the breeze,” she realizes, “and none of it had anything to do with me or anything I’d done. I recalled then that fame is not a goal. Fame is, in fact, in many ways, a hinderance to work.”
At the same time, Lisa’s undergraduate experience was filled with its own epiphanies. As her affection for her studies at NYU began to wane, she took a course taught by playwright Elizabeth Suedos in which she was asked to write a satirical political song. From that song came another, and from there came an entire musical inspired by her experiences as part of New York nightlife.
“I met the most extraordinary, talented, f&*^ed up, imaginative, impulsive group of superstars, many of whom would not survive the AIDS crisis. I dropped out of college and took a year to write Positive Me, a musical play about sex, drugs, love and AIDS,” Lisa explains.
Her foray into theater ended up changing her life. She was able to experience other actors reading her words, she got to perform her own work herself, and she finally became known for her talent, as opposed to her frequency in gossip columns.
Positive Me blossomed into an entire acting career, with experiences Lisa found both rewarding and regrettable. In the latter category was a brief stint on MTV’s Awake on the Wild Side. After that appearance, she became a fixture on television with parts in Mad About You, Wings, The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, Ally McBeal, Frasier—the list goes on and on.
Then came her iconic role as Dr. Lisa Cuddy on the award-winning medical drama, House.
“Being on House was fantastic!” Lisa recalls, “What a great show; how amazing to be on something so incredibly popular and known worldwide!”
But of course, a woman with as many talents as Lisa took more away from the show than her experience in front of the camera.
“I’m still quite close with a number of the writers from that crew,” she says. “The dark, twisted humor that was tossed around that writers’ room was truly something to behold.”
Her next role allowed her to further explore the fine line between tragedy and comedy. Cast as the lead in Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Lisa plays Abby McCarthy, a self-help author suddenly needing a lot of help and humor as her marriage falls apart.
“Playing Abby is the most fun I’ve had to date and certainly the job that has asked the most of me,” Lisa admits. “She’s so vulnerable and confused, and tries so hard and means so well, and just can’t get it quite right. Poor Abby!”
The critically acclaimed show was BRAVO’s first foray into scripted television, making it a bold move for Lisa. But clearly, Lisa is no stranger to bold moves. In addition to acting, Lisa still gets to write, a process she greatly enjoys.
“I co-wrote episode three of this season on Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce with my boss, Marti Noxon,” she tells us. “It was really exciting for me to be able to express myself that way after all these years.”
Combine Lisa’s recent reentry into writing with her marriage to oil painter, Robert Russell, and it’s safe to say that Lisa is living an artful life.
“I got married the day before I started shooting Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. Sort of hilarious, really,” she explains.
When asked how her recent nuptials influence her work, Lisa is equal parts romantic and introspective: “[Robert and I] influence each other in many ways, but more importantly we encourage and support each other and love each other’s work. We both intrinsically understand the somewhat obsessive nature it takes to do what we each do.”
With a full life carved out for her in California, Lisa still hasn’t let go of the New York City girl inside.
“25 years later, I suppose I’m a genuine member of Los Angeles culture. I even married a local. That said, I still have my apartment in New York, some of my closest friends still live there, and some of my other closest friends who live in Los Angeles are from New York originally. So, I guess you can’t wash it off. And who’d want to?” Lisa asks with her usual humor.
Photgrapher apher Jim Jordan www.jimjordanphotography.com
Wardrobe Stylist Ali Levine www.alilevine.com
Wardrobe Assistant Melissa Souza
Hair Brant Mayfield for SoloArtists.com/Shu Uemura Art of Hair
Makeup Justin Tyme for SoloArtists.com/Vincent Longo
Manicurist Elisa Wishan
Contributor Logan Guntzelman