Actor Profile: Clea DuVall

Profile: Clea DuVall

You may not know her by name, but you’ve definitely seen her face and are familiar with her work. She’s been on your small screen and silver screen starring along side Angelina Jolie, Christina Ricci, Zachary Quinto, and Natasha Lyonne to name a few. She may not look as glamorous as your traditional Hollywood starlet and she doesn’t often play the leading role, but Clea DuVall’s natural beauty and talent first grabbed my attention about fifteen years ago on a day I vividly remember.

It was my best friends’ 18th birthday and we left school early to go to a tattoo parlor to get her first tattoo. While we were waiting outside the parlor, we met a cool girl who invited us back to her place to hang out until the shop opened and we followed.

She mistook us for a couple, telling us she had this really funny movie that we’d love. That was the first time I first saw the lesbian cult classic film, But I’m a Cheerleader, and she was right – we loved it. It became one of our favorite movies to repeatedly watch; conjuring up references that only the two of us could understand.

DuVall played Graham, the rough around the edges lesbian who falls for the at first shy and oblivious-to-her-sexuality-cheerleader, Megan, played by Natasha Lyonne (who you also know as the not-so-shy Nicky Nichols on Orange is the New Black). It’s full of satire and comedy with a great cast of entertaining characters, but it was Clea DuVall’s performance that captivated me the most.

But…Who Is She? 

Over the years, I have spotted her familiar face in all sorts of movies and television shows spanning all genres. She has been on major network shows, YouTube web-series, and in films both independent and studio-made. Each time, her performance stands out among the others making her one of my favorite underrated actors to watch on-screen.

Profile: Clea DuVall
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) – source: Lionsgate Films

Standing at 5’5”, with chestnut brown hair and an adorable lightly freckled face, Clea DuVall is a Los Angeles Native, born September 25, 1977.  As a shy and an only child, she found ways to entertain herself through watching movies and television. She enjoyed memorizing scenes and acting them out, which lead to her interest in becoming an actress.

After her parents split and her mom remarried – feeling uncomfortable with the new family dynamic she was thrust into – Clea moved out of her mother’s home, dropped out of high school and started working to support herself. She later decided to go back to high school but found the demands of juggling school and being an independent self-supporting teenager to be more difficult than expected. She worked in a coffee shop while she completed school and ultimately graduated from the L.A. County High School for the Arts in 1995.

Finding Her True Direction

In 1996, she landed a role on a television series based on the Michelle Pfeiffer movie with the same name, Dangerous Mindsin which she played the role of Nina on the episode, “Evolution.” She then booked her first movie role as Kelsey in Little Witches, about a group of Catholic school girls who get caught up in the occult.

In 1997 and 1998, she continued to land more guest spots on popular television shows such as ER and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was also landing small roles in movies such as Can’t Hardly Wait and that same year, she got her first supporting role in The Faculty. She says she took the role in the 1999 teen hit flick She’s All That to help support the blossoming career of her friend Rachael Leigh Cook.

Her acting career started to take off as her natural acting ability and strong on-screen presence was getting recognition in the industry. In 1999 she made waves in the LGBT scene with her performance as Graham in But I’m a Cheerleader. She went on to play Georgina in Girl, Interrupted with co-stars Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder.

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015) – source: Lifetime

Clea has continued to work steadily as a guest star and supporting actress ever since the mid-90s. She’s had regular roles on Carnivàle as Sophie, Heroes as Agent Audrey Hanson, and American Horror Story (Asylum) as Wendy Peyser. Most recently she starred alongside Christina Ricci in The Lizzie Borden Chronicles as Emma Borden and as Majorie Palmiotti on the highly rated television series, Veep.

New Directions

Writing and directing are new avenues the actress has decided to walk down this year. This August, her writing and directorial debut film, The Intervention comes out. The film premiered at Sundance this January and was bought by Paramount Pictures for a little more than $2 million dollars.

The Intervention reunites some of the starlets from But I’m a Cheerleader with Natasha Lyonne and Melanie Lynskey while also adding Jason Ritter and How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders to the cast. Clea DuVall describes herself as someone who spent too much time judging and talking about other people’s lives and issues as a way of deflecting from her own, which is what she explores in this film.

A great actress can make you believe they are the character they are portraying on stage or screen. Over the years I’ve come to see Clea DuVall as an actress with a strong on-screen presence – a natural beauty with her own unique look that doesn’t fit the typical Hollywood mold.

She is someone who has characterized people I’ve laughed, cried and sympathized with. I’m excited to see her moving into other areas of the industry and look forward to seeing what kind of stories she wants to tell through her own vision.

Check out the trailer for Clea DuVall‘s directorial debut film, The Intervention coming out August 26, 2016.

Since she’s been in pretty much everything at some point or another, what is your favorite show or movie that Clea DuVall has been in? Answer in the comments!

Director/Writer/Producer at Starseed Pictures and host of the Miss Vision podcast, Jacqui Blue is a Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker with a background in writing and theater. www.jacquiblue.net
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.
  • I have an intense fascination with Carnivale, so it’s definitely my favorite of DuVall’s. It’s true that she pops up in a lot of projects, though!