CURRENT GIG: Cable News Network's chief international correspondent. Not surprisingly, Amanpour has been in Afghanistan recently, and it's a safe bet she'll be at the next hot spot as well — wherever it may be. Her reports sometimes provoke controversy among the Washington pundit crowd, but viewers invariably benefit from her experience, insight and guts.
BIG BREAK: Reporting before, during and after the Gulf War in 1990-91. Amanpour followed the conflict and its aftermath every step of the way, from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990 to hours before the U.S. bombing of Baghdad in early 1991, as well as tracking Kurdish refugees when the war was over.
CURRENT GIG: Playing libidinous femme fatale Samantha Jones on Sex and The City, HBO's portrayal of contemporary life in Manhattan from the viewpoint of four women who are close friends. The show collected cable's first ever best comedy series Emmy Award last November, thanks in no small part to Cattrall's saucy portrayal of Samantha, which has earned her two Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Cattrall can act a storm up by herself, and she holds up beautifully alongside her fellow Sex castmates — Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon
BIG BREAK: Does anybody remember The Bastard, that John Jakes potboiler set before the American Revolution? Independent TV stations sure do as one of the first miniseries created especially for them in the late 1970s (under the breakthrough Operation Prime Time partnership). Cattrall got her breakout TV role as the girlfriend of hero/star Andrew Stevens.
Edith (E.D) Donahey
CURRENT GIG: Co-anchor of Fox & Friends, Fox News Channel's three-hour weekday morning newscast. Donahey, a Fox News Channel anchor/reporter since 1998, is finding her news groove with one of cable's fastest-growing news shows. (In November, the program averaged more than 680,000 viewers per day.) She's comfortable with both news and the irreverent repartee of live TV, and complements co-anchors Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade. Prior to the terrorist attacks last September, Donahey also was anchoring The Insiders, a weekend entertainment news/gossip program now on hiatus.
BIG BREAK: Conducted business news updates for CBS Morning News
during the early 1990s, giving her experience in both national newscasts and morning TV.
CURRENT GIG: Star of Witchblade, TNT's first drama series hit, premiering last summer and back for a second 13-episode run this summer. Striking and intense in equal measure, Butler held critics and viewers spellbound as an NYPD homicide detective who, in the course of investigating the murder of a childhood friend, connects (literally) with the Witchblade, a bracelet with mystical powers. In smart fashion, Butler brought a cult comic book heroine to in-your-face life.
BIG BREAK: Walking another NYPD beat, on street patrol, for Steven Bochco's controversial CBS series Brooklyn South; she got attention, but the show — its premiere marked by controversy over its opening scene — got the ax after one season.
CURRENT GIG: Hosts Catherine Crier Live, Court TV's daily half-hour look at a major justice issue/trial story — the show is about to mark its first anniversary. Crier, with Court TV since late 1999, brings a passion for the justice system and journalistic inquiry to her role on the show, which can take unexpected turns from episode to episode. She's always ready to land an opinionated jab on a subject when necessary.
BIG BREAK: Became the youngest elected state judge in Texas history in 1984, when she presided over a District Court in Dallas. Six years later she got a crash course in news reporting as co-anchor with Bernard Shaw of The World Today, CNN's early evening newscast. Critics lambasted CNN for hiring Crier to do a national news program without any previous broadcast news experience, but Crier was a quick study and her smarts and poise carried the day in the end.
CURRENT GIG: Plays night court judge Attallah ("Queenie") Sims on A&E's 100 Centre Street. Richardson's depiction of Sims, a judge who takes no guff in her courtroom from anyone, whether poor soul, politician on the take or disturbed Vietnam refugee holding a gun to her head, is searing and stunning. "(She) swipes every scene she's in," San Jose Mercury News
TV critic Charlie McCollum noted recently. If ratings for 100 Centre Street's second season can rise above its current borderline level, Richardson could be in position to swipe a best actress drama Emmy this fall.
BIG BREAK: Discovered by legendary theater entrepreneur Joseph Papp in 1977; performed in some of his landmark New York Shakespeare Festival productions, including For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
CURRENT GIG: Title role of Taina, Nickelodeon's hit series about a performing arts school student, now in its second season. Her energy and effervescence carries the day. The show is set in Vidal's real-life alma mater New York's Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts (but taped at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida).
BIG BREAK: Co-starred opposite Michael J. Fox in Life With Mikey, followed by a part in the acclaimed independent film Welcome to the Dollhouse, a Sundance Film Festival collection.
CURRENT GIG: Co-star of Lifetime's The Division
as Inspector Magdalena Ramirez, one of many women on the beat in a San Francisco precinct. Vidal's character is a strong role model, yet challenged by the desire to be both outstanding cop and sensitive single mother. That delicate balance carries over to Vidal's acting schedule, where she splits her Lifetime tour of duty with a recurring role on ER. Yes, she and Christina Vidal are sisters.
BIG BREAK: Starred in Oye Willie, the groundbreaking PBS drama series about a Puerto Rican family living in Spanish Harlem.
CURRENT GIG: Host of E! Entertainment Television's long-running Talk Soup. Just like her predecessors in the Talk Soup
chair, Tyler takes this nightly collection of talk show clips and uses them to both skewer the clip content and showcase her own off-kilter take of the world. She hasn't gone to the videotape parodies or studio crew hijinks as much as former hosts Greg Kinnear, John Henson or Hal Sparks, but her freewheeling humor and persona work well enough without stunts. In fact, she's also the host of the The 5th Wheel,
Universal's dating genre syndicated strip.
BIG BREAK: Weekly stand-up comedy stands at the influential Laugh Factory and Improvisation clubs in Los Angeles.
CURRENT GIG: ESPN/ESPN2 college football play-by-play sportscaster and ESPNews anchorperson. Ward broke a glass ceiling in national TV sports coverage Nov. 22, 2000, when she became the first woman to do play-by-play on a TV network college football game. She set another milestone a month later, doing both ESPN's Division III football championship and the Motor City Bowl game. Now Ward has a full season of solid play-by-play college calls to her name. Time will tell whether she ends up the Keith Jackson of women sportscasters. If not, she's blazed the trail for someone else to take that role, and for others to make the run at pro football assignments.
BIG BREAK: Analyst on games of 1996 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship (ESPN).
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