Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
November 25, 1968
1990s - 2000s
Currently Known For:
Actress and Musician
Law & Order and Crossing Jordan
“To be honest, I never thought the acting thing would get off the ground.” Dreaming of taking the stage as a musician since she was a child, Jill Hennessy got her start by playing her music on a street corner in Toronto, Canada before she made her way to New York where she snagged a part in a Broadway musical about Buddy Holly. Much to her surprise, more and more acting gigs came her way, leaving her little time to pursue her interests in music. In 1993, she was cast as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid on NBCs crime drama Law & Order and spent three seasons on the show before being cast as the star of Crossing Jordan from 2001 to 2007. Along the way, Hennessy made time for her music and released her debut album, Ghost in My Head, in 2009. With the release of her second album, I Do, in 2015, the 48-year-old is thrilled to spend more time working on her music as she makes guest appearances in primetime hits like The Blacklist. So, what does a music career look like for the former Crossing Jordan star? Let’s take a look!
Jillian Noel Hennessy came into this world on November 25, 1968 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where her father was a sales executive and her mother was a secretary. With her mother abandoning the family in 1982, Hennessy, her identical twin sister and younger brother were raised by their grandmother in Ontario as their father frequently traveled the country making sales calls. Already interested in music by her teens, Hennessy graduated from Stanley Park Senior Public School and enrolled at the Grand River Collegiate Institute where she balanced her studies with her passion for street performing, hoping one day she might get noticed enough to launch a professional career. Ironically, that’s exactly what happened.
“Man, I was playing on the street because I loved it,” Hennessy recalled. “It was a great way to earn money and not have to depend on anybody else. I started off in Toronto, when I was 18… I came to New York doing a musical, a Broadway musical about Buddy Holly, which is what got me to this country, to be honest. I continued playing on the street here. I’m not really sure what I expected. I played rhythm guitar, electric guitar, for a couple of bands down here. I thought things would continue like that. Just hope to get certain auditions. I was hoping, actually, to hook up with a really good band, to be honest…”
Although she was a talented musician, Hennessy’s acting chops proved even better after she appeared on Broadway in Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story in 1990 and then earned a bit part as Dr. Marie Lazarus in RoboCop 3 in 1993. The same year, she was cast as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid in NBC’s popular crime drama, Law & Order, and spent the next three seasons on the show. “Then Law & Order came along. I had to quit the band I was with at the time, just because the two schedules didn’t really work well for each other,” Hennessy said. “So, I stuck with Law & Order and that just kept going. The acting thing was working out.”
Wrapping up Law & Order in 1996, Hennessy appeared on the silver screen in I Shot Andy Warhol, A Smile Like Yours, The Florentine, and Row Your Boat before she landed her first starring role on primetime as Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh on Crossing Jordan in 2001. She spent six seasons on the show and even saw her character carry over for three episodes of Las Vegas as she took home a Gracie Allen Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Then, after Crossing Jordan and a few minor parts in films like Wild Hogs, she took some much-needed time to focus on her music and released Ghost in My Head in 2009 to critical praise as she took the stage with the Indigo Girls later in the year.
Going on to perform during the 2010 Lilith Fair in her native Canada, Hennessy’s interests in music blossomed even further as she turned more attention to writing new music for her second album, I Do. Drawing inspiration from her marriage to Paolo Mastropietro, their children and her own experiences, Hennessy said, “With this album, a lot of the songs came about because I lost a lot of people that I really cared about… That generated I would say about 60% of the album. Then, there’s just other incidents that happen in day-to-day life, man. Stories my older kid tells me. Something that happened in a Valentine’s dance became the song ‘Precious One.’ There’s even a little bit of Amy Winehouse and her passing in that song. Addiction, and how many people we’ve lost to addiction.”
Amid writing new music for I Do, Hennessy’s acting career continued as she starred in television series like Luck, Jo, The Good Wife and Madam Secretary before releasing I Do to widespread praise in 2015. “I’ve been working on Madam Secretary since July, I guess. As luck would have it, when it rains, it pours,” she said. “I’ve been waiting to release this album. The music has been done for ages. We delayed the release because of other acting jobs we’ve had over the last two years. So, we thought: okay, October 5th will be great! Madam Secretary has been great about working with my schedule…” Of course, it helped that I Do received rave reviews and was even praised as one of the best indie albums of the year, which prompted a tour for Hennessy that included a day festival headlining Bruce Springsteen… and to think she once played street corners!
Since going on a small tour in 2015, the 48-year-old Hennessy is more determined than ever to pursue her interests in music and has made only sporadic appearances on television in Shots Fired, The Blacklist and Crawford, the latter of which audiences will see in 2018. Beyond that, Hennessy has one plan: “I’m basically devoting all of my time to the music. The acting has been fitting in quite nicely, but to be honest, it’s whatever’s happening in the moment…” With music taking over this moment, Hennessy couldn’t be happier with her life and career as she says, “Every year is an accomplishment. Ever year is an achievement.”