Down to earth midwesterner Jane Kaczmarek established herself as a multi-talented supporting actress in movies and TV before Malcolm in the Middle turned her into a bona fide TV star in 2000. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Kaczmarek considered a teaching career, but majored in theater at the University of Wisconsin instead. After earning her M.F.A. at the Yale Drama School, Kaczmarek headed to New York to hit the stage. Moving from theater into TV and film in the early '80s, Kaczmarek revealed her aptitude for both comedy, in such TV movies as Door to Door (1984), and drama, with recurring guest parts on St. Elsewhere in 1983 and Hill Street Blues in 1984, as well as a small role in the ground-breaking TV film There's Something About Amelia (1984). As a testament to her acting chops, Kaczmarek earned her first starring film role as Robert De Niro's wronged wife in the De Niro/Meryl Streep romance Falling in Love (1984). Kaczmarek was back to comedy with the ill-received fantasy The Heavenly Kid (1985) and the Judge Reinhold age-switch romp Vice Versa (1988). After she married fellow actor Bradley Whitford in 1992, Kaczmarek starred in the TV movie Without Warning (1994) and nabbed multi-episode guest-starring parts in several TV series, including Party of Five and Cybill in 1996. Following a small role as Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon's mother in the reflexive fantasy Pleasantville (1998), Kaczmarek was ready to settle down to raise her family. When the producers of Malcolm in the Middle came calling, however, Kaczmarek signed on, figuring it wouldn't last. Instead, Malcolm's absurd, unsentimental take on sitcom family life became a spring 2000 hit, earning Kaczmarek Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors' Guild nominations for her performance as the no-nonsense mother of a genius and his incorrigible brothers.