Nancy Lee Grahn has been playing feisty attorney Alexis Davis since 1996. A single mother who goes after what she wants, the character of Alexis sounds a lot like Grahn.
Grahn was born in Skokie, Illinois, on April 28, 1955. She began acting in high school, broadening her experience to community theater, and decided to become an actress. Though Alexis would never permit Kristina and Molly to do this, Grahn bypassed college and worked at Chicago's Goodman Theater, making her debut in Guys and Dolls. She then moved to New York and studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse with the famous acting teacher Sanford Meisner.
Grahn then launched her career in regional theaters and in New York, appearing in everything from Shakespeare (A Midsummer's Night Dream) to Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park. Then she enlarged her horizons into television and film, winning a role on the New York-based One Life to Live as Beverly Wilkes, secretary to Marco Dane.
Move to L.A. and Primetime and Daytime Success
Finally, in 1982, Grahn moved to Los Angeles, where she became in demand as a young leading woman. She was seen (and still is, if you catch the syndications) on Magnum, P.I., Murder She Wrote, Simon & Simon, Quincy M.E., and Knight Rider. In 1985, she was cast in the soap opera Santa Barbara as Julia Wainwright. Wainwright had a lot in common with Alexis: She was a single mother, a tough attorney, and a feminist. In 1989, Grahn took home a Daytime Emmy for her portrayal of Julia.
After Santa Barbara was canceled in 1993, Grahn took time off to look at her career options. She did appear during that time on Babylon 5, Models Inc., Diagnosis: Murder, Murder One, and the film Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.
In 1996, Executive Producer Wendy Riche, a fan of Grahn's work, offered her the role of Alexis Davis, who was to be a member of the Cassadine family. Grahn accepted, while also playing Denise Fielding on Melrose Place and Principal Russell on 7th Heaven. Busy lady! Once those roles ended, she was able to devote all of her time to Alexis.
Over the years, Grahn has had quite a ride with Alexis. Alexis has been a split personality, or at least posed as one; she's been a man named Dobson; she's had an affair with mobster Sonny Corinthos and married Sonny's brother Ric, so that her children are not only sisters but first cousins. She also found another daughter, Sam McCall. She's had cancer. Alexis has now been responsible for two hit and runs. She's been a runaway bride and married one friend to help another. While Alexis was District Attorney, she had an affair with a criminal. Now she's a partner in a law firm with her friend Diane Miller and coping with her daughter Kristina’s secret life - A+ student by day, abused girlfriend by night. Grahn makes the love, the romance, the tears, the guilt, the tortured soul of Alexis look easy.
She has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actress, followed by three nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
Acting is just one aspect of Grahn's talents. After Santa Barbara, she created and produced a pilot for German television called See America. Though the program wasn’t picked up, it was a wonderful experience for her. A political activist, she supported President Clinton and was involved in the Gore/Lieberman and Obama presidential campaigns. Grahn is also the founder of Daytime for Choice, an organization which concentrates on protecting the Roe v. Wade decision. She has spoken out on alcoholism, worked with victims of incest, and was a member of the Governor’s Committee for Employment of the Handicapped.
When she’s not Alexis Davis, Grahn is the proud mother of Katharine Grace, born in February 1998, who was named for her film idol, Katharine Hepburn. She loves motherhood and devotes herself to it as she does all other aspects of her life.