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A versatile actress who can bring a keen emotional edge to either comic or dramatic roles, Melora Walters is best known for her work with director Paul Thomas Anderson, who, more than anyone, seems to have known how to best utilize her gifts onscreen. Melora Walters began her career in acting doing off-Broadway theater in New York before she began to make a name for herself in television, in 1989 scoring a small recurring role as Debbi on the popular sitcom Roseanne. After making her film debut in an undistinguished low-budget thriller, 1988's Underground Terror, Walters earned her Screen Actors Guild card for her work as Gloria in the 1989 hit Dead Poets Society. Over the next several years, Walters made a number of appearances on episodic television shows, including such hits as The Wonder Years, Seinfeld, and NYPD Blue, while playing small roles in several forgettable films, as well as occasional high-profile items such as Cabin Boy, Ed Wood, Eraser, and the critically respected indie film Twenty Bucks. In 1996, Walters was cast in a small role in a little-seen independent film called Hard Eight. However, the film's director, first-time feature filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, was impressed enough to cast her in a much meatier role in his second feature. Walters played Jessie St. Vincent, a soft-hearted second-string porn actress in the breakthrough hit Boogie Nights, and the film made a name for both Anderson and Walters. Walters' new notoriety helped her land a regular role as Felicity on the television drama series L.A. Doctors, but the show only lasted a single season. Thankfully, Anderson once again had plans for Walters, and cast her as Claudia, a cocaine-addled woman on the verge of emotional collapse in Magnolia; hers was one of the strongest performances in one of the year's most eagerly anticipated films, and the critical response to her intense portrayal led to a string of leading roles in independent films, including Rain, Desert Saints, and Jupiter City.

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