|March 7, 1980|
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Laura Prepon was born on March 7, 1980 in Watchung, NJ to parents Michael, an orthopedic surgeon, and Marjorie, a high school teacher. The youngest of five children, Prepon and her tight-knit family were dealt a devastating blow when her father passed away due to complications from heart surgery in 1993. The outgoing youngster caught the acting bug while attending local Watchung Hills Regional High School and at age 15 began studying at Caroline Thomas' Total Theater Lab in New York City. While honing her acting skills, Prepon appeared in such plays as "A Woman of Property" and "Ascension Day," in addition to studying modern dance, ballet and jazz. Her exceptional height and girl-next-door looks also led to several modeling jobs in the U.S. and abroad. Prepon's first professional acting job came in a commercial for long-distance provider MCI, which was followed by an appearance in a music video for the band Sneaker Pimps and work on an online web series for Levi Strauss called "They Go On" in 1997.
Prepon's life and nascent career changed forever when her audition tape caught the attention of Bonnie and Terry Turner, creators of a new sitcom pilot, tentatively titled "The Kids are Alright" or "Teenage Wasteland." Cast as Donna Pinciotti, a confident, feminist-leaning teen living in a small Wisconsin town circa 1976, Prepon made her network television debut on the nostalgic sitcom eventually known as "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006) for the duration of its eight-season run. During her tenure on the show, the young actress shared the screen with several of Hollywood's most promising new talents, including Topher Grace - who played Donna's boyfriend, Eric Forman, the show's protagonist - Wilmer Valderrama, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher.
Taking full advantage of her newfound notoriety, Prepon began snagging roles in various small film projects, making her debut in the surreal comedy-drama "Southlander: Diary of a Desperate Musician" (2001), followed by the collegiate romantic-comedy "Slackers" (2002) and the obsession drama "Pornographer: A Love Story" (2004), shown in limited release. Also seen primarily on the festival circuit and DVD was the psychological-thriller "Lightning Bug" (2004), on which the ambitious Prepon also served as co-producer. Additionally, she contributed a guest voice on the animated sitcom "King of the Hill" (Fox, 1997-2009) in 2004 and breathed life into the voice of an embattled space marine in the hit Xbox video game "Halo 2" that same year.
Fully aware of the fact that her days on "That '70s Show" were coming to an end, Prepon continued to fine tune her craft in films like the controversial indie-produced thriller "Karla" (2005). Based on a true story, the film starred Prepon as Karla Homolka, a young woman who aided her husband in a series of brutal rape-murders that shocked Ontario, Canada in the early 1990s. Continuing to broaden her skill set, Prepon served as co-producer and participated in the celebrity poker series "E! Hollywood Hold 'em" (E!, 2005), which featured her then-boyfriend, Christopher Masterson, brother of Prepon's "'70s Show" co-star Danny Masterson and a featured player on another popular sitcom of the time, "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06). As her sitcom wound down, she found time to star in the made-for-TV romantic-comedy "Romancing the Bride" (Oxygen, 2005) and appeared with Ashley Judd in the drama "Come Early Morning" (2006), directed by actress Joey Lauren Adams.
Prepon hoped ratings lightning would strike twice when she joined the cast of the series "October Road" (ABC, 2007-08), a short-lived drama that was cancelled at the end of its second season, despite a respectable debut. In the years following the demise of "October Road" Prepon made several guest appearances on such series as "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005- ) and "Castle" (ABC, 2009- ). She began the next decade with a starring role as a grieving young mother tormented by a man claiming to be the murderer of her daughter in the made-for-cable thriller "The Killing Game" (Lifetime, 2011). Looking to headline in a successful series of her own, Prepon went on to play an ersatz version of comedienne-host-author Chelsea Handler in the sitcom "Are You There, Chelsea?" (NBC, 2012), based on Handler's best-selling book of essays, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. Although that poorly-reviewed show was quickly canceled, Prepon did find a career renaissance as imprisoned drug smuggler Alex Vause, the ex-girlfriend (and current cellmate) of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) in the critically-acclaimed comedy-drama "Orange is the New Black" (Netflix 2013- ).
By Bryce Coleman