Also Credited As:Erika Jane Christensen
|Erika Jane Christensen on August 19, 1982 in Seattle, Washington, USA|
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Erika Jane Christensen was born on Aug. 19, 1982 in Seattle, WA, but grew up outside of Los Angeles, along with older brother, Nick, and two younger twin brothers, Brando and Dane. From an early age, Christensen had a knack for singing, dancing, and acting, so it came as no surprise that she became an actress at age 12. She was a member of a professional children's theater group and volunteered to perform at foster family events and other community groups. Christensen's first acting job was appearing in a commercial for McDonald's, followed by a part in a music video for Michael Jackson's song, "Childhood," in which the youngster was one of many children floating in "Peter Pan"-esque pirate ships above the singer. In 1997, Christensen landed her first big break with a starring role in the feature version of the comedy, "Leave it to Beaver" (1997), as the girlfriend of her squeaky clean classmate Wally Cleaver (Erik von Detten). The role led to guest appearances on numerous award-winning sitcoms such as "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) and "3rd Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001), as well as on the drama series "Touched by an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003) starring Roma Downey. She had a guest appearance as a tutor on the ABC drama series, "Nothing Sacred" (1997), a role that earned her the 1998 Best Performance by a Young Actress in a TV Drama Series award, presented by The Hollywood Reporter.
In 2000, Christensen joined the star-studded cast of Steven Soderbergh's award-winning crime drama, "Traffic," opposite Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Toro, and Don Cheadle. She played the cocaine-addicted daughter of Douglas' character, Robert Wakefield, a top-ranking U.S. government official who had led the country's war on drugs. To research her role, Christensen talked to former users to have a better understanding of their addiction. The young actress came out of seemingly nowhere to stun audiences and critics alike with her intense portrayal of a teenaged drug addict, a role that required the then 18-year-old actress to shed her clothes and sleep with her drug dealer. It was undoubtedly Christensen's breakthrough performance and one that elevated her status from a starlet to a serious actress. In 2001, Christensen and the entire cast of "Traffic" received the Outstanding Performance by a Cast Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and she was also given MTV Movie Award's Breakthrough Performance - Female award that same year.
Christensen followed up her critically acclaimed performance in "Traffic" with a leading role in the suspense film "Swimfan," which undeniably paid homage to the erotic revenge thriller, "Fatal Attraction" (1987) - only this time - for teenagers. Christensen played a young seductress who becomes obsessed with a star high school swimmer with whom she had a one-night stand. While the film's plot was relatively thin and predictable compared to its groundbreaking predecessor, Christensen managed to impress critics and her young fans with her realistic portrayal of a teen stalker with deadly motives. In 2002, she played Susan Sarandon's rebellious daughter in the comedy "The Banger Sisters," a film about two former rock groupies and best friends (Sarandon and Goldie Hawn) who reconnect after 20 years and attempt to pick up where they left off. In the film, Christensen played a seemingly innocent honors student who was secretly hiding a life of sex and drugs from her conservative family. The role was slightly reminiscent of the part she played in "Traffic," but this time it allowed the versatile actress to reveal her comedic sensibilities. In 2004, Christensen starred in "The Perfect Score," another teen thriller about six high school students who steal the answers for their upcoming SAT exam and must face the moral consequences for their actions. The movie tanked at the box office and received very negative reviews despite its wide release. More importantly, the film did nothing for Christensen, whose talent was being increasingly wasted on second-rate teen genre films and lackluster comedies.
Christensen's career got a little lift from a heartwarming comedy titled "The Upside of Anger," starring Joan Allen as a quick-witted single mother raising four equally opinionated 20-something daughters, and Kevin Costner as Allen's love interest. Christensen was perfectly cast as Allen's impervious college-age daughter who has an affair with a man almost twice her age. That same year, she starred in the independent film, "The Sisters," opposite Maria Bello and Elizabeth Banks. Based on the Anton Chekhov play, "Three Sisters," the movie centered on three siblings and their brother who struggle to deal with their personal relationships after the death of their father. Christensen also appeared as a flight attendant in the claustrophobic suspense film "Flightplan" (2005) opposite Jodie Foster as a mother frantically searching for her missing child onboard a plane. While her film career appeared to have stalled in the mid-2000s, Christensen's television projects were on the rise. She starred on the ABC drama series "Six Degrees" (2006-07) as one of six New York residents grappling with their relationships and their connections with one another. Christensen once again played a character that has a mysterious past, but unfortunately, the series was cancelled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. In 2010, Christensen again took a stab at television by starring on NBC's ensemble dramedy series, "Parenthood," opposite such heavy hitters as Craig T. Nelson, Lauren Graham and Peter Krause. On the Ron Howard/Brian Grazer-created show based loosely on the teams hit 1989 Steve Martin comedy, she played Julia, the youngest sibling who is very competent as a lawyer but finding it challenging to raise a daughter with her stay-at-home husband. That same year, she starred opposite Jesse Metcalfe in the horror film "The Tortured," about a middle-class couple obsessed with finding their only child's killer.