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At the time of her birth, her father was working at the Canadian Wheat Board and had changed his name from Halparin to Hall. He later started his TV career and went on to fame as host of Let's Make a Deal. In May 1956, the Hall family moved to New York and, in the early 1960s, they again moved to Los Angeles, California. Gleason graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1968.
While attending BHHS she was in the school's productions of The Music Man, The Mikado, The Grass Harp, and The Madwoman of Chaillot. In high school Gleason received acting instruction from John Ingle, the soap opera star, who taught at BHHS from 1955 to 1985. She continued her education at UCLA, then Occidental College, from which she graduated. Gleason has been a teacher herself, holding classes and workshops all over the country.
Although Gleason started her acting career in television, she is best known for her stage work. She made her Broadway debut in 1977 in I Love My Wife, for which she was honored with a Theatre World Award. Additional Broadway credits include Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, Peter Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Nick & Nora, Into the Woods (for which she won several awards including a Tony Award in the lead role of the Baker's Wife, which she also played in the PBS Great Performances production of the musical), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Cartells. Her film and television career began in 1977 with her first appearance on Let's Make A Deal, then in Hello, Larry. She had film roles in Hannah and Her Sisters and Heartburn (both 1986). Gleason would work again with Woody Allen in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), this time playing the wife of Allen's character.
Gleason appeared in several films in the 1990s, including F/X2, Mr. Holland's Opus, Boogie Nights, The Boys and Road Ends. More recently she has appeared in The Good Wife, , Blue Bloods, The Wedding Planner, and The Newsroom. On television, she played the role of Nadine Berkus on the show Love & War (1992–95), several episodes of which she also directed. She played Joan Silver on Temporarily Yours (1997). Gleason starred in the Lifetime series Oh Baby as Charlotte from 1998–2000, also directing episodes of this show. Shortly following the end of this series, she starred opposite Bette Midler and Lindsay Lohan on Bette as agent Connie Randolph. She appeared in several made-for-TV movies, including If These Walls Could Talk, , , and . Her numerous guest starring TV credits include episodes of The West Wing, The Practice, King of the Hill, Friends, Tracey Takes On..., Murphy Brown, ER, Outer Limits, and Diff'rent Strokes.
In 2007, Gleason was honored by the New England Theatre Conference with a Special Award for Achievement in Theatre.
Gleason has been married to actor Chris Sarandon since 1994. The two met while performing in Broadway's 1991 short-lived musical Nick & Nora, returned to the stage together in 1998's Thorn and Bloom and have also collaborated on several films, such as Road Ends, Edie & Pen, Let the Devil Wear Black and American Perfekt.
Gleason was twice married previously. She was married to acting coach Paul G. Gleason, whose last name she kept as her professional surname. Later, she married Michael Bennahum. Gleason and Chris Sarandon have four children between them: Aaron David Gleason, from her first marriage, and Stephanie, Alexis and Michael Sarandon, from Sarandon's second marriage.
Gleason's siblings are television writer/director, Sharon Hall Kessler and Emmy-award winning television writer/director, Richard Hall.
Awards and nominations
|1977||Theatre World Award||I Love My Life||Won|
|1985||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Joe Egg||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Featured Actress in a Play||Nominated|
|1986||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||It's Only a Play||Won|
|1988||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Into the Woods||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Won|
|2005||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Dirty Rotten Scoundrels||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|
- Joanna Gleason at the Internet Broadway Database
- Joanna Gleason at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Joanna Gleason at the Internet Movie Database
- Joanna Gleason – Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org
- TonyAwards.com Interview with Joanna Gleason
- BroadwayWorld: Holtzman's 'Something You Did' Premieres Off-Bway with Gleason