Annette O'Toole grew up in the Houston dance studio run by her mother. She made her television debut at the age of two, as a kid on The Don Mahoney Kiddie Trooper Show. When she was 13, with ten years of singing and dancing lessons behind her, she and her mother went to L.A. for a year to see if she could have a career in show business. Within two months, she got her first professional job: dancing with Danny Kaye on The Danny Kaye Show. "I've used my singing and dancing training in so many ways," she says. "The discipline you get from that is wonderful for an actor."
O'Toole's first acting role was in My Three Sons, followed by appearances in Gunsmoke, The Partridge Family, The Mod Squad, and Hawaii Five-O. Over the decades she has appeared in more than 40 series (among them Law & Order, Nash Bridges, and The Outer Limits), mini-series (Lonesome Dove, Dead by Sunset, Jewels) and TV movies, most notably playing (and singing as) Tammy Wynette in Stand By Your Man and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy in The Kennedys of Massachusetts, for which she received an Emmy nomination.
Playing Beverly Marsh in Stephen King's It is one of her fondest memories. (O'Toole judges her favorites based on the filming experience.) In this century, she played a bounty hunter on The Huntress, Clark Kent's adoptive mom on Smallville (where she and John Glover became lifelong friends) and Jim Carrey's mom on Kidding. She is currently a regular on the Netflix series Virgin River, renewed for a fifth season.
Her film career began in 1975, playing a Young American Miss contestant in Michael Ritchie's Smile. She has since appeared in such iconic films as 48 Hrs., Cat People, and Superman III as Lana Lang. (She has played Superman's adoptive mother and, here, his girlfriend.) Her favorite - out of all the TV and films - is the 1987 movie Cross My Heart, in which she co-starred with Martin Short as a couple on their third date, both of whom are trying to figure out how to share their biggest secrets.
For all her success in film and television, O'Toole's deepest love is the theater. When her six-year run on Smallville ended, she decided to focus on theater, which she has been doing for the past decade. She went to New York and her first audition led to her being cast in The Sea Gull. She has appeared in several off-Broadway productions, among them Adam Rapp's Kindness, Tracy Letts' Man from Nebraska, and Tennessee Williams' A Lovely Sunday For Creve Couer. (Performing on Broadway is still her goal.) She has also appeared in many regional productions, including Wendy Wasserstein's Third, Regina Taylor's Magnolia, and Jane Anderson's The Quality of Life.
Her most rewarding theatrical role was in Southern Comfort at the Public Theater in 2016. She played transgender male Robert Eads, for which she received the Lucille Lortel Award. ("Today they'd hire a transgender male," she says. "As they should.")
O'Toole's most fortuitous casting was co-starring with Michael McKean in the Lifetime movie Final Justice. Having known each other casually, they became good friends as they filmed in Portland. Back in L.A., their first date was the 1997 UCLA concert with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Van Morrison. Soon after that they were married, each bringing along two children from previous marriages. Prolific songwriters - they co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated song "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" for the Christopher Guest film A Mighty Wind, which McKean starred in - they took their repertoire on the road in 2005, performing all around Los Angeles and at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York. They are currently working on a new musical called Harold and Lillian, based on a documentary of the same name.
"I'm really lucky because I found something that I love early on," O'Toole says, "and I love it even more now than I did then."