Born in England, and raised in London and Los Angeles,
Nicolette Sheridan decided at age 15 to live with
pop star Leif Garrett in his mom’s house—as a minor—immediately thrusting her into the limelight. Though her relationship with the former
Tiger Beat cover boy began in 1980, it would take another four years for her to appear onscreen and begin establishing a name of her own.
One of her first appearances was a small role
in an episode of the short-lived Scene of the Crime
(NBC, 1984-85), a mystery series hosted by
and centered around the gimmick that the audience
solve a crime based on clues from the episode.
She advanced to a more standard drama with
her first regular role, playing Taryn Blake
on Paper Dolls (ABC, 1984),
an equally short-lived series based on a
1982 television movie. Despite
the all-star cast—which included
Lloyd Bridges and Lauren
Hutton—the show suffered under the
weight of multiple characters and convoluted plotlines,
and was summarily canceled.
Sheridan made the jump to feature
films with The Sure Thing (1985), director Rob Reiner’s
follow-up to This Is Spinal Tap (1984). As the
titular character, Sheridan played the object of
desire to a young John Cusack, who goes on a road trip with a college buddy to find the girl of his dreams. The movie did well at the box office and became a minor classic.
In 1986, Sheridan joined the
cast of the already successful Knots Landing,
a spin-off from another popular
CBS primetime soap opera, Dallas
(1978-1991). Depicting the shenanigans of the Gary Ewing
sect of the Ewing family, the show featured Sheridan
as the illegitimate daughter of Mack
MacKenzie and Anne Matheson (Kevin
Dobson and Michelle Phillips). In the course of seven
seasons, her character killed Peter Hollister
(Hunt Block) and got away with it,
thwarted her mother’s attempts to steal her
inheritance, was ditched at the alter by fiancé
Tom Ryan (Joey Gian), and diffused a bomb meant
for former lover Greg Sumner (William Devane)
in the two-hour series finale. Her run on the show
marked the height of Sheridan’s
celebrity at the time—she was named one of
People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People
in 1990 and graced the
cover of TV Guide in 1994.
While starring on Knots Landing, Sheridan
kept the gravy train rolling
and appeared in several made-for-TV movies:
Dark Mansions (ABC, 1986), a gothic drama about
a Seattle shipbuilding family haunted by
the supernatural; Agatha
Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly (CBS, 1986),
a detective mystery featuring Belgian
private eye Hercule Poirot
Ustinov); Deceptions (Showtime, 1990),
an erotic thriller bordering on soft core porn
co-starring former husband Harry Hamlin;
and Somebody’s Daughter (ABC, 1992), in which
she played a Hollywood stripper who gets sucked into
a police scandal involving several murders.
After her stint on Knots Landing, Sheridan’s
celebrity began to diminish
despite continuing to work. A string of long-forgotten MOWs
dotted Sheridan’s resume in the mid-1990’s:
A Time to Heal (NBC, 1994), about a woman suffering
a stroke after the birth of a child; Shadows
of Desire (CBS, 1994), in which she was the
center of a love triangle pitting two
brothers against each other; The People
Next Door (CBS, 1996), a melodramatic
thriller about a seemingly helpful
couple who kidnap her three
children; and Dead Husbands (1998),
a dark comedy-cum-thriller co-starring former
television funny man John Ritter.
Sheridan also starred in a couple features,
and though not forgotten, Sheridan
probably wishes they were. She played Russian agent
Veronique Ukrinksy (a.k.a. 3.14)
opposite Leslie Nielson in Spy Hard (1996),
a slapstick spoof in the world of spy vs. spy.
In Beverly Hills Ninja (1997), she
urges Chris Farley—a fat, white ninja from Japan—
to come back to America and protect her from her mob boyfriend.
Sheridan, meanwhile, made a few guest
appearances on television shows, including
Becker (CBS, 1998-2004), in which she whispered
sweet-nothings into Ted Danson’s ear on a
six-hour flight to Las Vegas, and Will & Grace,
where she played Dr. Danielle Morty,
who threatened Grace's idyllic marriage, in the 2003 season finale.
In 2004, Sheridan made a triumphant return
to regular series work with the hit, Desperate
Housewives (ABC, 2004- ). A black comedy about
the secret lives of five bored housewives
in the same cul-de-sac as told by a
friend who committed suicide, Desperate Housewives
went from an unwanted spec script written by
Marc Cherry (The Golden Girls) to the hottest show on television.
Playing serial divorcee, Edie Britt, Sheridan
breathed new life into her fading career. Though not in every
episode, Sheridan made enough of an impact
to receive a Golden Globe
nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Meanwhile, she generated controversy after
appearing in a promo for the show on
Monday Night Football (ABC, 1970- ). In the ad, she
stood before Philadelphia Eagles’
wide receiver Terrell Owens in a towel and,
after shedding said towel, convinced the Pro Bowler
to skip the game for sex and jumped naked
into his arms when he agreed. Outrage poured in from
viewers, forcing the FCC
to take action and ABC to publicly apologize.
Meanwhile, Desperate Housewives
continued to be a ratings juggernaut for the once-floundering network.