Gena Rowlands is an American actress. Born Virginia Cathryn Rowlands in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Cambria, Wisconsin, her father, Edwin Myrwyn Rowlands, was a state legislator and her mother, Mary Allen Neal, a housewife originally from Arkansas.
The family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1939 when Myrwyn was appointed to a position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1942 when he was appointed branch manager of the Office of Price Administration then later to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Gena attended the University of Wisconsin from 1947 to 1950 where she was a popular student already renowned for her beauty. She left for New York City to study drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Rowlands played a small role role in the original Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch and opened in Middle of the Night opposite Edward G. Robinson in 1956. She made her film debut in The High Cost of Loving opposite Jose Ferrer in 1958. She guest starred in several anthology television series, including Robert Montgomery Presents, Kraft Television Theatre and Studio One, among many others. In 1961, she starred in the well-received television series 87th Precinct and in Peyton Place in 1964.
Teaming with her husband, writer and director John Cassavetes, whom she married in 1954, Rowlands starred in many productions, including: the television series Johnny Staccato, A Child Is Waiting (1963), Faces (1968), Gloria (1980, and nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress), Love Streams (1984), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), She’s So Lovely (1997), The Neon Bible (1995) and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974, Academy Award nomination). In 1985, Rowlands played the mother in the critically acclaimed made-for-TV movie An Early Frost. She also appeared in 1998’s Hope Floats, opposite Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. In recent years, she has appeared in Paulie (1998) and in Mira Nair’s HBO movie Hysterical Blindness (2002), for which she won her third Emmy.
In 2004, she starred in The Notebook, which was directed by her son, Nick Cassavetes, and co-starred James Garner, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Also in 2004, she won her first Daytime Emmy for her role as Mrs. Evelyn Ritchie in The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie (2003). In 2005, she appeared opposite Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard and John Hurt in the gothic thriller The Skeleton Key.
To name a few awards, Rowlands has been nominated for: two Academy Awards; six Emmy nominations, and one Daytime Emmy; eight Golden Globes; three Satellite Awards; and two SAG Awards. Some of her notable wins include: a Silver Berlin Bear; three Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy; two Golden Globes; two National Board of Review Awards; two Satellite Awards; and one Prize San Sebastián.
In 2006, Rowlands appeared in Paris, je t’aime, opposite Gérard Depardieu and Ben Gazzara as well as Broken English in 2007, written and directed by her daughter Zoe Cassavetes. She was also nominated for her second Screen Actors Guild for the Lifetime movie What if God Were the Sun? (2007). In 2012, she reunited with her son Nick for the film Yellow, and in 2013 starred in Parts per Billion, alongside Frank Langella and Rosario Dawson, as well as Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and also starring Cheyenne Jackson.