Laura Innes is an American actress and television director known most notably as Dr. Kerry Weaver on ER. Innes has acted in numerous TV shows and films, as well as directing a number of TV episodes on shows such as ER, The West Wing, and How to Get Away with Murder.
Innes was born in Pontiac, Michigan on August 16, 1957 as the youngest daughter of six children. Her father helped spark her interest in acting from a young age, as he would take the family to Ontario to enjoy the Stratford Festival of Canada to enjoy the worldwide renowned productions of Shakespearean plays.
Innes attended Northwestern University and graduated in 1980, earning a degree in theater, before moving on to productions of A Streetcar Named Desire alongside John Malkovich, Two Shakespearean Actors alongside Eric Stoltz, Our Town, and Three Sisters.
Following her theater performances, Innes landed a number of TV shows including a singular sitcom pilot with Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara called The Stiller and Meara Show, as well as roles on Nickelodeon’s Hey Dude, Party of Five, and My So-Called Life.
1991 would mark Innes’ first major network sitcom role as she portrayed the promiscuous and provocative Bunny Mather on NBC’s Wings. Between 1991 and 1993, Innes appeared in 4 episodes to rile up ex-husband Thomas Haden Church on the show about a small airport in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The Louie Show
In the ‘90s, comedian Louie Anderson was a hot commodity after creating and producing a successful animated series on Fox entitled Life With Louie.
Riding off that success, Anderson created a live action show in 1996 called The Louie Show starring himself, Bryan Cranston, and Laura Innes.
The show ran for 6 episodes but was canceled immediately.
Spanning 15 seasons, it’s hard to find a bigger daytime hit than NBC’s ER, which followed the lives and dramas of emergency room staff at County General Hospital in Chicago. In the fall of 1995 and the show’s second season, Innes was cast as Dr. Kerry Weaver.
Although Innes was on as a guest, the role was expanded in season 3 and would remain part of the main cast until Innes’ departure 12 years later. Innes received two Emmy nominations for the role, as well as receiving three Screen Actors Guild Awards along with the ER ensemble cast.
Fans and critics applauded her performance, as she portrayed a hardened yet endearing character who also came out as gay in the show’s seventh season, adding LGBTQ representation to primetime programming during an era where it was rare.
In the show’s thirteenth season, Innes made a seemingly abrupt exit to the show. Fans were bewildered by the move and it didn’t take long for the rumor mill to weigh in.
Does Laura Innes really have a limp?
Laura Innes’ most iconic role as Dr. Kerry Weaver had her portray a disabled character who walked with a limp for reasons that would not be disclosed until season 11 of ER.
Her portrayal was very convincing and many viewers sincerely believed that Innes herself had a limp and a crutch.
In real life, Laura Innes does not have a limp, but began experiencing early stages of spinal damage as a result of the role.
For this reason, ER producers weaved in a storyline that surgically corrected the limp and allowed the character to walk without use of a cane or crutch.
Why did she leave ER?
Innes clarified in an interview with TV Guide that the abruptness was due to the showrunners wanting the event to be a surprise, but that the decision was mutual and there was no secret drama unfolding.
Innes was eager to focus more on her directing career, so the decision to leave was a good one by her measure. She would return for two more episodes in the final season, including the series finale.
In 2010, NBC aired a sci-fi adjacent drama series called The Event featuring Laura Innes as Sophia Maguire, the leader of a mysterious extraterrestrial group of detainees at a secret government facility.
The pilot showed promise and boasted almost 10 million viewers. However, the 22 episodes were aired on and off over the course of almost two years and, by the time it arrived at its finale in the fall of 2011, viewership had dropped by almost 66%.
NBC took this as a cue to cancel the show and it did not see a second season.
In 2012, NBC aired a series called Awake which wove fantasy elements into forensic crime drama. Laura Innes was cast as Police Captain Tricia Harper, appearing in 9 of the show’s 13 episodes.
Critics loved the show, namely the performance of Jason Isaacs in the lead role, but viewership struggled. Awake averaged less than 5 million viewers per episode, ranking it 125th overall out of all shows in the 2011-2012 viewing season.
Faced with another dud, NBC canceled Awake after one season.
While working on ER, Innes made her directorial debut on a season 5 episode titled “Power” and would go on to direct 12 episodes total.
The network, and the show-runners, felt she was well-suited to the task and picked her up to direct 6 episodes of the highly-acclaimed drama series The West Wing which was airing at that time as well.
Her departure from ER found Innes taking on more directing jobs, while simultaneously appearing as an actress often, and her career directing has spanned over 20 years since 1999.
To date, she has totaled 17 director credits on shows such as ER, The West Wing, Sneaky Pete, and How to Get Away with Murder.
What is Laura Innes doing now?
Laura Innes continues to act and direct. Most recently, she was featured in How to Get Away with Murder as both an actress and director.
Innes was also cast in short film North Star alongside Kevin Bacon and Audrey Wasilewski, as well as an upcoming short film titled Daughtering alongside Kat Foster.
Innes accepted the role as Dr. Weaver because, as she states in a 2008 interview with Ability Magazine, the character was too great to pass up. “She’s so acerbic, she’s so smart, she’s so powerful, she’s so good at what she does, she’s funny, and, oh yeah, she has a limp.”
When made aware by a friend that the disabled community might not approve of the decision since Innes herself was able-bodied, Innes learned of a committee called “Performers with Disabilities” that assists in finding jobs for disabled actors.
Innes has since become a fierce advocate for the disabled community, regularly raising awareness through charitable work and employing disabled actors on projects where she acts as director.
The cast of ER reunited over a Zoom call in 2021 to help the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of clean water.
Laura Innes was part of the reunion as well as many of her cast mates including, Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulie, Gloria Reuben and George Clooney. The actors shared stories and reminisct of their days while working on ER.
Relationships and Family Life
In 1980, Innes was engaged to aspiring actor and fellow Northwestern classmate, David Bell, when he was murdered in Los Angeles over a parking disagreement.
In 1988, Innes married actor and writer David Brisbin, known for his minor roles in Hey Dude!, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and Leaving Las Vegas.
The two have two children together– a biological son named Cal and an adopted daughter from China named Mia.
Cal Brisbin graduated from Oberlin College and received his bachelors in Religious Studies and Psychology. He is a research assistant at Yale University’s School of Public Health, as well as a research assistant for the Center for Justice at Columbia University.
He is also core collaborator of the Roma People Project, an organization dedicated to the advancement of the Roma people and helping them shed the unfair prejudices levied against them.