The hit comedy-drama TV series Ally McBeal first aired in 1997. The series centered around the fictional Cage and Fish law firm in Boston, in which young lawyer Ally McBeal joins after leaving her old practice. Over the five-year period that the show aired there were plenty of scandals to go around. Some actors quit the show while others struggled with personal issues behind the scenes. However, the show went on and it was one of the most popular of its time.
Other Actresses That Were Almost Ally
Before Calista Flockhart was cast as Ally, actress Lara Flynn Boyle went after the role in 1997, when the show was hosting auditions. Hundreds of women were said to have read for the part of Ally. Although Flynn Boyle didn’t land the part, she got a smaller role, playing Tally Cupp in a couple of episodes. Interestingly enough, the role was said to be perfect for actress Bridget Fonda, but she refused to read the script. In 1999, Fonda said that she didn’t want to do television so she didn’t even consider Ally McBeal.
Fortunately, this all worked in Flockhart’s favor.
Calista Flockhart Didn’t Think She Got It
Flockhart read for the part of Ally and was completely exhausted during her audition. Perhaps, walking in, Flockhart didn’t realize that this would be the biggest role of her career. In fact, Flockhart thought she blew it. “I was jet-lagged and tired, so I just went in there and thought, ‘Well, whatever happens, happens,'” she told People Magazine in 1999. Producer David E. Kelley didn’t seem to mind that Flockhart was tired — and he may have not even noticed. “When she walked in on a cold reading, she just was Ally,” Kelley said in that same interview.
The Show Didn’t Invent The ‘Dancing Baby’
The “Dancing Baby” was on the internet long before it made an appearance on Ally McBeal. It was created by the Character Studio development team and became the first viral meme to hit the internet — but that happened in 1996, way before the animation made its television debut in episode 12 of Ally McBeal. “Cro-Magnon” aired on January 5, 1998. The dancing baby was meant to symbolize Ally’s biological clock and ended up being a recurring theme on the show. It was set to the Blue Swede’s cover of the B. J. Thomas song “Hooked on a Feeling,” giving the animation a new identity. To this day, it is widely referred to as the “Ugachaka baby.”
Lucy Liu Almost Passed On The Role
Actress Lucy Liu auditioned for the role of Nelle, but she didn’t get the part. Her audition went well, however, and Kelley liked her, so he created the role of Ling Woo for her. While Liu thought it was just going to be a one-time appearance, she ended up being offered a legitimate contract to join the cast. However, she considered passing on it. Liu told Metro that her manager sternly recommended she drop the play she had committed to and pick up the role. “She told me I was going to pass on the play that time and I was going to do this show, and that was that. Then, of course, it became such a part of the zeitgeist and changed my career.”
Courtney Thorne-Smith Quit The Show
Actress Courtney Thorne-Smith, who played the role of Georgia Thomas from 1997-2002, quit the show because she was having a hard time dealing with body issues. Because of the intense pressure to stay thin and to fit in with the other slender women on the show, Thorne-Smith had been eating very little. The malnutrition hit her in a bad way and her immune system started to shut down. “I started undereating, overexercising, pushing myself too hard, and brutalizing my immune system. The amount of time I spent thinking about food and being upset about my body was insane,” she told Us Weekly back in 2000.
Why Robert Downey Jr. Was Brought On
Actor Robert Downey Jr. was set to be the one guy who could save Ally McBeal from cancellation by bringing his charm and his good looks to the show — and he did just that. He joined the cast in 2000 and helped keep things going for two years. Downey Jr. took on the role of lawyer Larry Paul and people fell in love with the character (and quite possibly the actor too!) To this day, Downey Jr. is credited with saving the show. In fact, the last episode he was in brought the show’s best ratings in months. For his performance, Downey Jr. won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television in 2001.
Jane Krakowski Refused To Lose Weight
The then-30-year-old actress felt some pressure to lose weight and to keep herself looking trim like her co-stars, but she didn’t let it get to her. In fact, Krakowski refused to drop pounds just to fit in. “I’m really comfortable with who I am and how I look. I want to change the image that you have to be thin. I want the sort of image that says you can have a bit more meat on you and be just as sexy. I’ve actually been quite thin in my life. Much thinner than I am now – many, many years ago, and I didn’t feel as attractive when I was super, super-thin. And it’s ironic that you’re more than the ideal the magazines want when you’re super-thin, but you don’t feel nearly as attractive or look nearly as attractive to men,” Krakowski said in an interview.
The Practice Connection
McBeal made its television debut six months after The Practice, another David E. Kelley hit. Although Ally McBeal was on Fox and The Practice was on ABC, Kelley set both shows in the same “world” and there were even some crossover episodes! Actor Dylan McDermott appeared in the crossover episodes Ally McBeal: The Inmates and Ally McBeal: These Are The Days as his character Bobby Donnell from The Practice. Many fans thought the crossover was a little odd, but they somehow made it work, albeit briefly. There has also long been speculation that Boston Legal also existed in the same television universe.
Portia de Rossi Hadn’t Come Out Yet
Now openly gay and happily married to Ellen DeGeneres, things weren’t always so easy for Portia de Rossi, who played the role of Nelle Porter in 89 episodes of Ally McBeal. It wasn’t until several years after the show ended that De Rossi opened up about hiding her true self while on national television. “It should have been the best time of my life. It’s the kind of dream job that actresses pray they get. And yet I was terrified of being exposed as gay. That was really the hardest part; all of a sudden being some kind of celebrity and being on a hit TV show. Who I was was completely unacceptable, so I had to create a character of someone I thought that people could accept,” she previously told Good Morning America.
Portia de Rossi’s Other Struggle
Portia de Rossi had been struggling with eating disorders while filming Ally McBeal. The actress opened up about suffering from anorexia and bulimia in her candid autobiography, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, released in 2010. “I was constantly looking for external validation. One friend of mine said to me, ‘You look like a normal, healthy woman, and those three words really sent me into shock. Normal? Who wants to be normal? Who wants to be normal weight range? ‘Healthy’ suggested that I was kind of, like, pudgy. ‘Woman’ suggested curvy. I wanted to be a skinny, straight up and down girl,” she told Oprah in 2010. De Rossi reached a point where her diet consisted of 300 calories per day and she weighed a shocking 82 pounds. “It was excruciating. It was very hard,” she said.
Where Greg Germann Is Now
Greg Germann joined ABC’s Once Upon a Time in 2016, playing the role of Hades. The Houston native’s role on the show ended after 10 episodes, when his character was killed off. Over the past four years, Germann has been in a handful of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Recently, Germann filmed the movie Billy Boy, co-starring Melissa Benoist, and Blake Jenner. The film made its debut at the Miami Film Festival back in March, but an official release date has not yet been revealed. The actor will soon be starting work on the TV Movie, Redliners.
Where Jane Krakowski Is Now
Krakowski has had a very successful career following her time on Ally McBeal. She landed what could be called her best-known role on 30 Rock, where she played Jenna Maroney from 2006-2013. Krakowski has made several television show appearances on Modern Family and Saturday Night Live and has even lent her voice for roles on The Simpsons and American Dad. In 2015, she landed the role of Jacqueline White in the Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The show also stars Ellie Kemper (as Kimmie Schmidt), Tituss Burgess, and Carol Kane. The show was recently renewed for a fourth season.
Calista Flockhart Joined The Cast Of ‘Supergirl’
Although she’s no longer a regular on Supergirl, Flockhart landed the role of Cat Grant, the CEO of a media company in National City. She has appeared in 24 episodes since 2015, but it was recently announced that she would no longer be on the show full time. She is, however, set to guest-star in various episodes in Season 2. “Supergirl wouldn’t be Supergirl without the amazing Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. We are so excited Calista has agreed to continue on the show when she can. We and the audience love to see her on screen,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg told Entertainment Weekly in March.
The Troubling Reason Robert Downey Jr. Left
In April 2001, Downey Jr. was reportedly fired from Ally McBeal. The news came very soon after he was arrested in Culver City. Police gave very few details about the arrest at the time, but Downey Jr. was taken into custody after cocaine was found in his system. This wasn’t the first time that Downey Jr. found himself in trouble with drugs, but it was the final straw for producers. “Robert is a unique and a very special person. And we wish him the best and hope for his full recovery,” producer David E. Kelley said in a statement at the time. Executive producer Bill D’Elia actually denied that Downey Jr. had been fired, suggesting that he either left on his own accord or that the decision was mutual as Downey clearly needed to get some help.
Robert Downey Jr. Replaced, Finale Rewritten
Ally McBeal was supposed to wed Larry Paul on the Season 4 finale titled, “The Wedding.” However, with Robert Downey Jr.’s character written off the show, the episode needed to be reworked. Producers brought on singer and actor Josh Groban to fill the void. He played the role of a high school student suing a girl for dumping him before prom. Unsurprisingly, Groban sang at the end of the episode and that performance landed him some serious attention. The next day, he had three big phone calls that led to his first three interviews — ever. From that point on, Groban’s career was pretty much set.
The Cast Reunited In 2015
In 2015, Flockhart took the stage at Hollywood’s TV Land Awards with some of her Ally McBeal co-stars. They were on-hand to accept the Groundbreaking Award for the show. After a montage of clips from the series, Flockhart told the audience, “What I remember the most are the friendships, truly.” Flockhart was joined by Greg Germann, who played Fish, Gil Bellows, who played Billy, and Lisa Nicole Carson, who played Renee. Courtney Thorne-Smith, Peter MacNicol, and producer David E. Kelley were also on the stage to accept the honor. This also marked Flockhart’s first official public appearance since her husband, Harrison Ford, was injured in a plane crash.
The Show Helped Flockhart Meet Her Husband
2002 was an exciting year for the Ally McBeal cast — and especially for Flockhart. The show received two Golden Globe Award nominations that year. Flockhart was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical, and the show itself was nominated for Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical. While neither nomination turned out to be a win, Flockhart ended up rubbing elbows with the man that would become her husband several years later. Harrison Ford proposed in 2009 and the two married in 2016. Maybe she didn’t take home a trophy that night, but finding the love of her life may have been even better.
Lisa Nicole Carson’s Secret Struggled
Actress Lisa Nicole Carson played the role of Renee Raddick from 1997-2000. What she didn’t know at the time was that she was bipolar. Her time on Ally McBeal may have been cut short following an “episode” that she suffered in New York City. She had a breakdown of sorts and she needed to be hospitalized. She was put on medication and returned to work, but her contract wasn’t renewed. “Everybody on the show was wonderful to me, but my contract wasn’t renewed for the final season. Nobody gave me an explanation, but I assumed it had to do with what had happened. I was devastated,” she told Essence in 2015.
‘McBeal’ Was Canceled In 2002
Ally McBeal saw its final episode air in 2002. While many fans were devastated to see the show end, the ratings just weren’t good enough to keep things going. The show ended on a strange note, with many fans feeling unfulfilled. Rather than ending with a strong story or even with a big cliffhanger, the episode was sort of lackluster and received some criticism because of that fact. It featured appearances from former cast members and flashbacks of “happier” times. This made it seem more like an office going away party than something that fans could hold on to.
‘McBeal’ Has Won Numerous Awards
Although it had a disappointing ending, the critically-acclaimed show has won numerous awards over the years. In 1998, it won the Quality Television Award for Best Quality Comedy Series. Flockhart won the award for Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series that same year. She won the same award in 1999 and in 2000. The show was nominated for dozens of awards from 1998-2003, including honors from the Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys and Screen Actors Guild.