Lean, strikingly featured, and appealing to both male and female audiences, actress Katherine Moennig did not shy away from characters with strong sexual identities over the course of her career. Her...
Played a bisexual magazine writer in the Showtime series "The L Word"
Played a teenage girl posing as a boy in order to attend a tony New England prep school in "Young Americans" (The WB), a spin-off of "Dawson's Creek"
Raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Began acting at age ten, debuting in a production of "Winnie the Pooh" at the Children's Theatre Workshop; wrote and directed an improvised version of the play and performed it at Philadelphia's Free Library (date approximate)
Cast in Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comic story "Art School Confidential"
Did behind the scenes theater work at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where her aunt and cousin frequently worked
Appeared in a music video by the Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace
Will star in Peter Morris' "Guardians" off-Broadway
Acted in a production of "As You Like It" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, starring her cousin Gwyneth Paltrow
Had a small part in Lasse Hallström's "The Shipping News"
Lean, strikingly featured, and appealing to both male and female audiences, actress Katherine Moennig did not shy away from characters with strong sexual identities over the course of her career. Her first notices came while playing a young woman who masquerades as a boy in order to attend an all-male school in the short-lived WB series "Young Americans" (2000); three years later, she found more substantial fame as the self-destructive Shane McCutcheon on "The L Word" (Showtime, 2003- ). Her androgynous looks and choices of roles led many in the press to speculate about Moennig's own sexuality. That she skirted the issue in interviews seemed to indicate that Moennig had something to hide, but in reality, it only added to her appeal with viewers.<p>Born Katherine Sian Moennig in Philadelphia, PA on Dec. 29, 1976, her career as an actress seemed a foregone conclusion; her mother was Broadway dancer Mary Zahn, her father a violin maker, and her aunt the acclaimed stage and screen actress Blythe Danner - making Gwyneth Paltrow her first cousin. The performing bug bit at the age of 10 after a role in a grade-school production of "Winnie the Pooh;" Moennig and a friend later wrote their own version of the story and performed it at the Free Library in Philadelphia. Though entry into the professional acting world might have been easy for her, Moennig concentrated on completing her high school studies At the age of 18, she made for New York City and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. While in New York, she also pursued a modeling career.<p>After graduation, Moennig received an apprenticeship to the acclaimed Williamstown Theater Festival, with which she studied for two seasons. Among the many productions she appeared in was Shakespeare's "As You Like It," starring her cousin Paltrow. In 1999, Moennig made her screen debut in the music video for <i>Is Anybody Home</i> by the modern rock band, Our Lady Peace. She also auditioned for and lost the role of murdered transgender Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry" (1999).<p>In 2000, Moennig made her film debut in a short titled "The Ice People" (2000), followed quickly by "Young Americans," the first of several androgynous roles that would mark her career. Despite the presence of future stars Kate Bosworth and Ian Somerhalder, bad scripting and a tough time slot scuttled "Young Americans" chances of survival after just two months on the air. Moennig quickly regrouped and found more work on television, including an episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) in which she played a pre-operative transsexual. Moennig also appeared in the failed screen adaptation of "The Shipping News" (2003) opposite Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore.<p>In 2003, Moennig signed on to play Shane McCutcheon, a sexually aggressive hairstylist in the lesbian-themed drama, "The L Word," for the Showtime Networks. Though her castmates included such formidable actresses as Jennifer Beals, Laurel Holloman, Pam Grier and Leisha Hailey, Moennig's character stood out due to her extreme personality and sexual appetite. Reported to have slept with some 1,000 people, McCutcheon is a talented stylist but a walking time bomb when it comes to relationships; more often than not, sabotaging them to justify her own self-loathing. Over the course of the show's four seasons, McCutcheon ruined her own wedding, met her long-lost father and met a brother she never knew. Despite sending several relationships to their grave due to her own neuroses, she discovered her maternal instincts in the fourth season and attempted to take in and raise her brother on her own, as well as the son of a woman with whom she becomes involved. McCutcheon's storyline was among the most engaging of the show's many plot threads, and viewers tuned in to see what pickles she would get herself into or out of each week.<p>The success of "The L Word" led some in the press to examine Moennig's career and wonder if she was, in fact, a lesbian in real life. Though she had alluded to her being a heterosexual in the press, a 2006 interview in the gay publication <i>The Advocate</i> with her castmate Jennifer Beals alluded that Moennig might be a lesbian. In typically plucky fashion, Moennig took the assumption as a compliment to her acting skills.<p>In 2006, Moennig branched out beyond the comfortable world of "The L Word" to make her Off-Broadway debut in "Guardians," a play about a scandal at an American-run military prison in Iraq. Moennig's character was based on that of disgraced soldier Lynndie England, whose career had been ruined by her involvement in the Abu Gharib incident. That same year, she also took a small role in the misfired film adaptation of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel "Art School Confidential." Again, Moennig played a lesbian character - this time the ex-girlfriend of Sophia Myles' character.
Moennig on the androgynous look she has adopted for her role on "Young Americans": "I've gone out as myself, as Kate, and people have thought I've been a guy. And it throws me off a bit. But that's kinda good because it does throw me off. I'm not used to it so I just play along with it and it gives me something to work with." --to TV Guide.com, July 26, 2000.