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Jill Hennessy - Biography

Jill made her breakthrough as an actress on Law & Order 

jill hennessy 1b
Faye James
Senior Editor
October 8, 2009
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Who is Jill Hennessy?

Born on November 25, 1968, Jillian Noel Hennessy is a dynamic Canadian actress and singer, celebrated for her notable contributions to American television. She is renowned for her stellar performances in the American TV series Law & Order, where she captivated audiences for three seasons as prosecutor Claire Kincaid, and Crossing Jordan, wherein she played the protagonist, Jordan Cavanaugh, for six seasons. Hennessy has also showcased her acting prowess in films like RoboCop 3, Most Wanted, and the independent films Chutney Popcorn and The Acting Class, where she also flexed her writing and co-directing muscles.

Early life 

Hennessy, born in Edmonton, Alberta, comes from a family of eclectic backgrounds. Her father, John Hennessy, a meat salesman and a sales/marketing executive, led a nomadic life due to the nature of his job, resulting in frequent relocations for the family. After her mother, Maxine, a secretary, left the family in 1982, Hennessy was raised partly by her paternal grandmother, Eleanor, in Kitchener, Ontario. She has a younger brother, John Paul "J.P." Hennessy, Jr., and an identical twin sister, Jacqueline, a reputed magazine writer and TV show host in Canada. 

Her mixed heritage includes Irish, French, Swedish, and Italian from her father's side, and primarily Ukrainian Roma along with Austrian from her mother's side. Hennessy spent her school years at Stanley Park Senior Public School and graduated from Grand River Collegiate Institute, both located in Kitchener, Ontario. She honed her street performance skills by busking in the Toronto subway.


Hennessy kickstarted her acting career alongside her sister in 1988, playing twin call girls in Dead Ringers. She had a brief stint on Broadway in the musical Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story in 1990 and stepped into the realm of sci-fi in 1993, playing Dr. Marie Lazarus in RoboCop 3.

Her big break came later that year when she joined the cast of the hit NBC crime drama Law & Order as assistant district attorney Claire Kincaid. She mesmerized audiences in this role for three seasons until her departure in 1996.

In addition to her on-screen appearances, Hennessy has also shown a knack for behind-the-scenes work. In 2000, she co-wrote, produced, and co-directed an independent film mockumentary titled The Acting Class. She continued to grace screens big and small, starring in films like Nuremberg, Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot, Exit Wounds, and a popular TV show Crossing Jordan. For her accomplishments in acting, she was awarded a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in 2007.

Beyond acting, Hennessy has demonstrated her musical prowess by recording the album Ghost in My Head, released in June 2009. She performed as a guest of the Indigo Girls on Mountain Stage and at the 2010 edition of Lilith Fair.

In the following years, she continued to appear in numerous TV shows and films, including Madam Secretary, the Michael Weatherly series Bull, and the series Yellowstone.

Personal life 

A true polyglot, Hennessy speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish, and German fluently. An avid guitarist and singer, she also enjoys motorcycle rides with her husband, Paolo Mastropietro, whom she wed in 2000. They have two sons, Marco, born in 2003, and Gianni, born in 2007.

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