Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon (born March 22, 1976) is an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur.
The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award, she is one of the highest-paid actresses in the world as of 2019. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006 and 2015, and Forbes listed her among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2019.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Witherspoon began her career as a teenager, making her screen debut in The Man in the Moon (1991). Following a leading role opposite Mark Wahlberg in Fear (1996), her breakthrough came in 1999 with a supporting role in Cruel Intentions, and for her portrayal of Tracy Flick in the black comedy Election. She gained wider recognition for her role as Elle Woods in the comedy Legally Blonde (2001) and its 2003 sequel, and for her starring role in the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama (2002). In 2005, she garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in the biographical musical film Walk the Line, which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Witherspoon then starred in several critically and commercially unsuccessful comedies, during which her sole box-office success was the romantic drama Water for Elephants (2011). She made a comeback by producing and starring as Cheryl Strayed in the drama Wild (2014), which earned her a second nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Witherspoon has since begun work in television, by producing and starring in the HBO drama series Big Little Lies (2017–2019), the Apple TV+ drama series The Morning Show (2019–present), and the Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere (2020). For the first of these, she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.
Witherspoon also owns a clothing company Draper James, and she is actively involved in children’s and women’s advocacy organizations. She serves on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and was named Global Ambassador of Avon Products in 2007, serving as honorary chair of the charitable Avon Foundation dedicated to women’s causes. In 2000, she co-founded production company Type A Films, which has since merged with Hello Sunshine, a media firm that Witherspoon also co-founded in 2016. Hello Sunshine, focused on female-led stories, has produced many films and television series.
In January 2016, Witherspoon began filming her first television project since 1993’s Return To Lonesome Dove, the seven-part miniseries adaptation of the Liane Moriarty bestseller, Big Little Lies. She co-produced the miniseries along with co-star Nicole Kidman and director Jean-Marc Vallée, her second project under his direction. The series premiered on February 19, 2017 on HBO and finished on April 2. Witherspoon garnered critical acclaim for her performance, with TV Line proclaiming her as “Performer of the Week” in the weeks of February 26–March 4 in 2017 and June 23–29 in 2019. The Washington Post compared her performance to her roles in Election and Legally Blonde. In December 2017, HBO renewed Big Little Lies for a second season, which added Meryl Streep to the main cast and premiered in June 2019. Witherspoon also starred in the romantic comedy Home Again, the directorial debut of filmmaker Nancy Meyers’ daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, which was released on September 8, 2017.
Next, she starred in Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, a film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel of the same name, in which she plays Mrs. Whatsit. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the feature co-stars Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling, and was released in March 2018. Four months later, Witherspoon began hosting the talk show Shine On with Reese on DirecTV, in which she interviews female guests, focusing on how they achieved their ambitions. The show marks Witherspoon’s first unscripted role in television. Witherspoon currently produces and stars in the Apple TV+ drama series The Morning Show alongside Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell. The Morning Show has received a two-season order from Apple with the first season premiering in November 2019. Witherspoon was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama and a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series for her work in the series. Season two of The Morning Show was set to premiere in 2020 before the production shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first two episodes were in the final stages of being shot before the production shutdown. During the production shutdown, scripts were rewritten to reflect the pandemic. Production on season two of The Morning Show restarted on October 19, 2020. Witherspoon also serves as an executive producer for the Apple TV+ series Truth Be Told starring Octavia Spencer which premiered in December 2019; it was renewed for a second season in March 2020.
In 2020, Witherspoon produced and starred in the Hulu drama miniseries Little Fires Everywhere opposite Kerry Washington, the televised adaptation of Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel of the same name. In that same year, Witherspoon narrated the Quibi nature documentary series Fierce Queens which focuses on female animals in the animal kingdom.
In addition to starring and producing television shows for her own, Witherspoon will serve as an executive producer for six television series, for different streaming services and networks including Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, ABC, Starz and Netflix.
Witherspoon will produce and star in three Netflix films; first, Pyros, a science fiction drama directed by Simon Kinberg, secondly, two romantic comedies on Netflix. Witherspoon will produce two films including A White Lie set to star Zendaya, and a documentary about Martina Navratilova. Witherspoon will also reprise the role of Elle Woods by starring in and producing Legally Blonde 3; the script will be written by Dan Goor and Mindy Kaling. The film will be the fourth collaboration between Kaling and Witherspoon after A Wrinkle in Time, The Mindy Project, and The Morning Show.