Kate Burton

Kate Burton

Sep. 10th, 1957
Born in
Geneva, Switzerland

Kate Burton's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Grey's Anatomy TV Show
Grey's Anatomy
Empire Falls TV Show
Empire Falls
Home Fires TV Show
Home Fires

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


Burton was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the daughter of producer Sybil Burton (née Williams; born 1929) and actor Richard Burton (1925–1984). She was thus the stepdaughter of actress Elizabeth Taylor and of Sybil's second husband Jordan Christopher. In 1979, Burton earned a bachelor's degree in Russian studies and European history from Brown University. She was also on the board of Production Workshop, one of the university's student theatre groups. She furthered her devotion to theatre by studying at Yale University School of Drama, from which she graduated in 1983. In 2007, Burton was given an honorary doctorate from Brown University.
In June 1985, Burton married Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and one of the producers of the Broadway musicals The Drowsy Chaperone and Curtains. They had met in 1982, while Ritchie was stage managing a revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City in which Burton was playing the character Daphne. They have two children, a son Morgan Ivor (born May 14, 1988) and a daughter Charlotte Frances (born January 19, 1998).

Early films of Burton's include Alice in Wonderland, Anne of the Thousand Days, Big Trouble in Little China, The First Wives Club, Life with Mikey and The Ice Storm. Burton has said of these roles that she usually plays "the sweet wife, or the sweet dead wife". Burton has also appeared in a number of roles in independent films.
Burton has been perhaps most prolific in her work on television. She made many appearances in the late 1980s and 1990s on episodic television, including appearances on Spenser: For Hire, All My Children, and Brooklyn Bridge. In 1996, Burton won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance as a mother dying of breast cancer in the ABC Afterschool Special, 'Notes For My Daughter'. More recently, she made guest appearances as recurring characters on Law & Order, The Practice, The West Wing, Judging Amy and Medium. She also appeared on the HBO miniseries Empire Falls.
Her recent recurring television roles both involved a subplot concerning Alzheimer's disease. On the FX cable network's Rescue Me, she played the role of Rose, a friend and possible romantic interest to Chief Jerry Reilly. Reilly's wife is in a facility with the disease and Rose, having cared for her husband who was also an Alzheimer's victim, is hired by Jerry to provide assistance and emotional support. Also, in perhaps her most visible and well-known role to date as the mother of the titular character on the well-known ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy, Burton played Ellis Grey, the former trailblazing surgeon, who dies of Alzheimer's. In 2006 and 2007, Burton was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Ellis Grey.

Burton has narrated numerous audiobooks, including works by: Patricia Cornwell, Lisa Scottoline, Iris Johansen, and Dean Koontz. Kate Burton appeared in 1984 with her father Richard Burton in the television mini-series Ellis Island.

  • Studied at Yale University School of Drama, where she was a classmate of 'Jane Kaczmarek' (qv).
  • Met future husband 'Michael Ritchie (II) while she was making her Broadway debut in "Present Laughter" in 1982. He was the stage manager.
  • In 2002, she was nominated for two Tony Awards: as Best Actress (Play) for portraying the title character in a revival of Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler," and as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for a revival of "The Elephant Man". This made her one of only three actors (the others are 'Amanda Plummer' (qv) and 'Dana Ivey' (qv)) to be Tony-nominated for two acting awards in the same year.
  • Co-starred with her father, 'Richard Burton (I)' (qv) in the critically-received CBS miniseries _"Ellis Island" (1984)_ (qv). He died shortly thereafter.
  • Has retained her British citizenship, yet considers herself an American actress.
  • Highly respected and talented audio book reader. She is constantly represented among best-selling audio titles.
  • Former stepdaughter of 'Elizabeth Taylor (I)' (qv) and 'Sally Hay (I)' (qv).
  • Playwright/actor 'Emlyn Williams (I)' (qv) was her godfather.

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