California native Kelly McGillis was accepted into the acting program at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts following high school, where she began to study acting in earnest. McGillis was so taken with her studies that she applied to, and was accepted by, the drama department of the Juilliard School in New York. It was while she was a student there that she was discovered by Robert Ellis Miller, who cast her in his film Reuben, Reuben as Tom Courtney’s love interest. Shortly thereafter, she appeared on stage in the world premiere of Garson Kanin’s play “Peccadillo,” starring opposite Christopher Plummer and Glynnis Johns.
McGillis’ big break came when she was cast to star opposite Harrison Ford in Peter Weir’s Witness, playing the unforgettable role of Amish widow Rachel Lapp. This was soon followed by other films, including Tony Scott’s Top Gun opposite Tom Cruise, Alan Rudolph’s Made In Heaven with Timothy Hutton and Deborah Winger, and Jonathan Kaplan’s The Accused, opposite Jodie Foster, among numerous others. Not restricting herself to the big screen, McGillis has continued to work in television, starring in several miniseries and movies of the week, as well as a guest star arc on Showtime’s “The L Word.” She also produced and starred in a film adaptation of Kate Chopin’s novel, “Grand Isle.”
McGillis has always maintained her love of the stage, nurtured by her years at Juilliard. Since her graduation, she has found time on a regular basis to perform live theatre – very often classics by Chekov, Shaw, Ibsen, Shakespeare and O’Neill. She has regularly appeared in starring roles with the prestigious Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, DC and also performed in a national tour of the stage play “The Graduate,” as Mrs. Robinson. She received critical acclaim for her starring performance as Regina in the California revival of Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” and for her UK tour of Terrence McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” She appeared in the independent films Stake Land, The Innkeepers, We Are What We Are, Tio Papi and the just completed Blue.
McGillis has spent most of the past decade undertaking one of her most demanding roles – being a mother and raising her two daughters, Kelsey and Sonora.