A powerhouse in show business for decades, Tomlin was born Mary Jean Tomlin in Detroit, Michigan on September 1, 1939. Upon graduating from Detroit’s Wayne State University in the early ’60s, she launched her career as an actress, scoring her first big role as a regular on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In in 1969.
The Grace and Frankie alum’s fame — and personal life — only skyrocketed from there. Tomlin met her future wife and creative partner, Linda Wagner, in the early 1970s, a fateful moment that the Magic School Bus voice actress later recalled at the 2020 Lamda Literary Awards. “I tell you, in two minutes, I fell in love with her,” Tomlin said of Wagner. After more than 40 years together, the couple tied the knot in 2014.
As their relationship grew throughout the ’70s, so did their partnership. Tomlin and Wagner, a playwright, collaborated on Broadway shows together, as well as a comedy album. During this time, Wagner also wrote several comedy specials for the Michigan native. In 1975, the 9 to 5 star nabbed an Academy Award nomination for her work in the movie Nashville. Ten years later, in 1985, she won the best actress Tony award for starring in Wagner’s one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life. The couple each scored their own Drama Desk awards for the hit play.
The ’80s and ’90s only brought more incredible success to Tomlin’s life, including multiple hit movies and shows, such as her role as Violet Newstead in 9 to 5 and as the voice of Ms. Frizzle on The Magic School Bus. The Nashville actress’ star never waned as she made her way through the 2000s on hit TV show after hit TV show, starring on The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, Damages and more.
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Tomlin’s portrayal of the titular Frankie on Grace and Frankie — on which she starred from 2015 to 2020 — scored the Broadway star four consecutive Emmy nominations, racking up a total of 25 nominations (and six wins).