Claim to fame: actress (Empty Nest and Biloxi Blues)
DOB: March 15, 1957
Diabetes type: 1
Born in Greeneville, Tennessee, Park Overall is an American film and television actress best known for her role as Laverne opposite Richard Mulligan on the television sitcom Empty Nest. Over the course of her career, the comedienne has developed a dry, deadpan sense of humor ornamented by a deep Southern drawl and sharp, sassy wit. A diverse performer, Overall began her career on stage prior to making the jump to film, television, and voice acting. The actress has made a name for herself as a character actor, appearing in a number of films and television series playing predominantly unusual or eccentric parts.
The daughter of Frances Bernard Overall, a professor of English, and Thomas Wesley “Jack” Overall, Jr., a federal judge, Park showed talent for acting at a surprisingly young age. Seeing their child’s potential, the Overalls encouraged their daughter to become involved in various theater groups in Tennessee prior to being sent to boarding school in England. Upon her return, Overall attended the University of Tennessee and pursued a degree in English. Not a serious student, Overall spent much of her time in theater groups and socializing outside the classroom. She transferred, and ultimately received a degree in English from Tusculum College in Greeneville.
Following college, Overall moved to New York City, where she got involved in off-Broadway productions. Her first film role came in the form of the low budget, poorly received 1983 film Body Passion. The film garnered little praise, and failed to impress audiences despite Overall’s solid performance. Still active in theater, she spent a period of time in Harford, Connecticut portraying Becky Lou in a version of Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime. Having achieved acclaim for her stag acting in Connecticut, the young actress returned to New York to make her first Broadway appearance as Rowena in Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. Overall wowed audiences and critics with her performance, and was later asked to reprise the role in the 1988 film production of Simon’s play.
That same year, Overall attempted to break into the world of television with the NBC sitcom Empty Nest. The show was a spin-off of the acclaimed series The Golden Girls, and followed the life of the recently widowed Dr. Harry Weston and his daughters. Overall appeared in the role of Laverne Todd, the wisecracking Southern aide to Weston. The role was perfect for Overall, since she was a wisecracking Southerner in real life, and she developed a loyal fan base as a result of her performance in the role.
Her ability as an actress now proven, Overall received a number of offers to appear as minor characters in various high-profile films opposite well-known celebrities. Throughout 1988, Overall appeared in Vibes, starring Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper, Talk Radio, starring Alec Baldwin, and Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. However, television remained her platform, and offered Overall countless opportunities to explore the depth of her abilities. Outside of Empty Nest, Overall appeared in a number of TV movies, many of which were dramatic in nature and a departure from the snappish humor audiences had loved in the character of Laverne. Her versatility was hard to ignore when she appeared in the 1998 Lifetime movie Fifteen and Pregnant. The taboo subject of teenagers getting pregnant, along with minor themes of adultery and promiscuous sexuality, brought attention to the film, and awarded it mixed reviews. All of the actors received recognition for their honest, sympathetic portrayals.
Throughout the 2000s, Overall appeared only occasionally in film and television, usually in minor roles in productions that failed to impress critics. Most notably, she had a reoccurring role on the American sitcom Reba as Lori Ann. With Empty Nest, Overall, like co-star Richard Mulligan, was nominated three times for a Golden Globe Award. The pair also shared a close friendship due to their diabetes, and the constant back-and-forth of parenting each other to make sure they maintained their diabetes health.
Though her visibility on screen has diminished, Overall is no less in the public eye. On April 24, 2012, the actress announced her intention to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate for her home state of Tennessee. Set to run against Senator Bob Corker, Overall stated in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, “Somebody had to do it, and if nobody else will do it, I will do it.”