Susan Ruttan

Actor, Casting director, Secretary
An auburn-haired character player, Susan Ruttan perhaps is best remembered for her seven-year stint (1986-93) as the likable but less-than-brilliant good-hearted secretary Roxanne Melman on NBC's "L. A. Law".

Born ... Read more »

Born: 09/15/1948 in Oregon City, Oregon, USA

Filmography

Actor (97)

Donna on Demand 2014 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Grim Sleeper 2013 - 2014 (TV Show)

Actor

Wish You Were Dead 2014 (Movie)

(Actor)

Good Luck, Charlie 2013 (Tv Show)

Actor

Common Law 2012 (Tv Show)

Actor

Grey's Anatomy 2011 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Forgotten 2009 - 2010 (Tv Show)

Actor

Castle 2009 (Tv Show)

Actor

Hannah Montana 2009 (Tv Show)

Actor

HawthoRNe 2009 (Tv Show)

Actor

Private Practice 2009 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Ghost Whisperer 2009 (Tv Show)

Actor

Half-Life 2007 (Movie)

(Actor)

Tell Me You Love Me 2007 (Tv Show)

Actor

Monk 2005 (Tv Show)

Actor

Strong Medicine 2005 (Tv Show)

Actor

CSI: New York 2004 (Tv Show)

Actor

Helter Skelter 2003 - 2004 (TV Show)

Actor

The Division 2004 (Tv Show)

Actor

3rd Rock From the Sun 1986 - 1995, 1998 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Chicago Hope 1986 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Gideon's Crossing 1986 - 1995, 1997 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Judging Amy 1986 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

L.A. Law 1986 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

L.A. Law: The E! True Hollywood Story 2001 - 2002 (TV Show)

Actor

L.A. Law: The Movie 2001 - 2002 (TV Show)

Actor

Love Boat: The Next Wave 1986 - 1995, 1998 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Popular 1986 - 1993, 2000 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Suddenly Susan 1986 - 1995, 1997 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Agency 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Touched By an Angel 1986 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Yes, Dear 1986 - 1993, 2001 - 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Any Day Now 2001 (Tv Show)

Actor

Gilmore Girls 2001 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Fighting Fitzgeralds 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Brutally Normal 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Chicken Soup For the Soul 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Safe Harbor 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Krippendorf's Tribe 1998 (Movie)

Mrs O'Brian (Actor)

Love Kills 1998 (Movie)

Lela (Actor)

Story First: Behind the Unabomber 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Family Values 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

In Search of the Oregon Trail 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Voice

Jack Reed: A Killer Amongst Us 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Sweet Justice 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

The Mommies 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Soap Opera Digest Awards 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

The "L.A. Law" 100th Episode Special 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

The Tube Test 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Fire and Rain 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Funny About Love 1990 (Movie)

Claire (Actor)

Malcolm Takes a Shot 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Rich and Famous: 1990 World's Best 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Thanks For Giving 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

55th Annual King Orange Jamboree Parade 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

All-American Sports Nuts 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Chances Are 1989 (Movie)

Woman in the Bookstore (Actor)

Funny 1989 (Movie)

Actress (Actor)

Improv Tonight 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

The Valvoline National Driving Test 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Bad Dreams 1988 (Movie)

Miriam (Actor)

Jay Leno's Family Comedy Hour 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

The 1988 Miss Universe Pageant 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

NBC Presents the AFI Comedy Special 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

Under the Influence 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

Kicks 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

Buffalo Bill 1982 - 1984 (TV Show)

Actor

Empire 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)

Actor

After George 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

The Fighter 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Independence Day 1982 (Movie)

2nd Nurse (Actor)

Bay Coven (TV Show)

Actor

Deadly Matrimony (TV Show)

Actor

Deadly Medicine (TV Show)

Actor

Do You Remember Love (TV Show)

Actor

Drop-Out Father (TV Show)

Actor

Jack Reed: Badge of Honor (TV Show)

Actor

Packin' It In (TV Show)

Actor

Prayers for Bobby (TV Show)

Actor

Scorned and Swindled (TV Show)

Actor

Second Sight: A Love Story (TV Show)

Actor

Sure Hand of God (TV Show)

Actor

Sweet 15 (TV Show)

Actor

Take My Daughters, Please (TV Show)

Actor

Thursday's Child (TV Show)

Actor

Touched By Evil (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

An auburn-haired character player, Susan Ruttan perhaps is best remembered for her seven-year stint (1986-93) as the likable but less-than-brilliant good-hearted secretary Roxanne Melman on NBC's "L. A. Law".

Born Susan Dunsrud in Oregon, she was only two years old when her parents divorced and she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother. Following her high school graduation, she joined her mother in Southern California and soon married Green Beret Mel Ruttan who was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash three years after the wedding. The newly widowed Ruttan managed a bar for a while and took classes in costume design before eventually joining the acting company at the Staircase Repertory in Santa Cruz, California. Her professional stage debut came in a 1974 production of Lanford Wilson's play "The Hot l Baltimore" and over the next four years, Ruttan appeared in several other productions.

In 1979, she switched gears and joined the casting department at Universal Studios, but it wasn't too long before she was back on the other side, auditioning for -- and landing -- guest roles on TV episodics like the ABC sitcoms "Bosom Buddies" and "Best of the West". Ruttan segued to films with a bit part as a nurse in "Independence Day" in 1982 and then was back on the small screen in recurring roles on the sitcoms "Buffalo Bill" (NBC) and "Empire" (CBS). Although she supported Joanne Woodward and Richard Kiley in the affecting TV-movie "Do You Remember Love" (CBS, 1985) and played a judge in "Murder: By Reason of Insanity" (CBS, 1985), the actress was still relatively unknown when she was tapped to play the lumpen proletariat Roxanne in "L.A. Law".

Over her run on the series, Ruttan earned four Emmy nominations for her performance as the caring assistant to womanizing lawyer Arnold Becker (Corbin Bernsen), and raised her profile in Hollywood. She went to appear in features like "Bad Dreams" (1988) and "Funny About Love" (1990), as well as telefilms like "A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story" (CBS, 1991). By the time she was cast as Brian Dennehy's wife in the 1992 NBC miniseries "Deadly Matrimony", Ruttan found her role on the legal drama diminishing. No longer featured weekly, she eventually departed the series, reteaming with Dennehy for a series of TV-movies built around his Chicago policeman character of Jack Reed (four between 1993 and 1996) and the occasional guest role. Having adopted a child as a single parent after the collapse of her third marriage, Ruttan continued to work, albeit in less showy or memorable fare. In 2000, she did offer a chilling turn as the abusive and seemingly uncaring mother of Carmen Ferrara (series regular Sara Rue) on The WB's teen-themed "Popular" and then switched gears to offer a warm, very maternal Mrs. Santa Claus in "The Ultimate Christmas Present" (The Disney Channel).

Relationships

Daryl Dunrud

Father
divorced when Ruttan was two

Elsie Dunrud

Grandmother
adopted Ruttan after parents' divorce until her death when Ruttan was 12

Helen Manis

Mother
had two children by previous marriage moved to northern California after divorce

Randy McDonald

Husband
born c. 1947 married in October 1990 met on the "L.A. Law" set in 1986 separated in 1993 divorced

Mel Ruttan

Husband
married when Ruttan was 18 he died in a motorcycle accident three years later former Green Beret five years her senior

Jackson Ruttan

Son
adopted by Ruttan born on May 19, 1993

EDUCATION

attended a Catholic boarding school for five years

University of California at Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz , California
enrolled after first husband's death

graduated from high school in 1966

University of Oregon

Eugene , Oregon

Milestones

2000

Made memorable guest appearance as the uncaring mother of Carmen Ferrara (played by Sara Rue) in "Popular" (The WB)

1998

Had featured role in the movie comedy "Krippendorf's Tribe"

1998

Supported Ann-Margaret in the Lifetime movie "Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story"

1996

Appeared on stage in Canada in "Funny Money"

1992

Cast as Arlene Reed, wife of a Chicago police detective (played by Brian Dennehy) in the NBC miniseries "Deadly Matrimony"

1991

Portrayed the mother of a mentally challenged child in "A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story" (CBS)

1987

Co-starred in the NBC thriller "Bay Coven"

1986

Breakthrough TV role as lumpen secretary Roxanne Melman on the NBC courtroom series, "L.A. Law"; earned four Emmy nominations; role was diminished from weekly to recurring before she was dropped by the show in its eighth season

1985

Cast as a judge in "Murder: By Reason of Insanity" (CBS)

1985

Had supporting role in the CBS movie "Do You Remember Love"

1984

Had recurring guest role on "Buffalo Bill"

1984

TV series debut as regular, the short-lived CBS comedy "Empire"

1983

Acted in the pilots "After George" (CBS) and "Buffalo Bill" (NBC)

1982

Feature film debut, a bit role as a nurse in "Independence Day"

1982

TV movie debut, small part in "Drop-Out Father" (CBS)

1981

Made guest appearances in episodes of the ABC sitcoms "Bosom Buddies" and "Best of the West"

1979

Joined casting department at Universal Studios

1974

Professional acting debut in the Staircase Repertory production of "Hot l Baltimore" in Santa Cruz, California; stayed with the company four years

1969

Managed a bar after her first husband's death (date approximate)

1966

Moved to Santa Rosa, California, to live with mother after high school graduation

Moved from one logging camp to another with her father while growing up

Acted with the Performing Garage in NYC

Reprised role of Arlene Reed in four TV-movie sequels aired on NBC

Adopted by her paternal grandmother after parents' divorce until she was 12; was sent to boarding school and spent holidays with father

Bonus Trivia

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Not to be confused with the Canadian journalist of the same name.

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Ruttan had her own small company for which she designed clothes.

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Ruttan has served as a spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

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