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RIP: Janet Carroll, the Mom From ‘Risky Business’

RIP: Janet Carroll
Warner Bros.

Not every actor can be a star, but plenty of them can become one of “those guys.” While we may not know the performer’s name, we certainly recognize their face. We know them from somewhere and that’s enough. Seeing a familiar working actor pop up here and there is just plain comforting. Jane Carroll was a lifelong member of the “those guys” club. She passed away on Tuesday after a lengthy battle with an undisclosed illness. She was 71.

Although she’s best known for her role as Tom Cruise‘s mother in ‘Risky Business,’ Carroll’s credits are long and varied. For every TV show or movie role that you may remember, there were a dozen in projects that have been lost to time. She never stopped working. In fact, IMDB lists her being in one film coming out this year and another next year. Actors like Carroll don’t get $20 million paychecks. Their craft is their job. They work and they work and they never stop. It’s art at its most blue collar.

In addition to ‘Risk Business,’ Carroll had a reoccurring role as Al Bundy’s boss on ‘Married…With Children’ and played Jim Dial’s wife on ‘Murphy Brown.’ Her varied appearances include ‘Knight Rider,’ ‘Alice,’ the ’80s version of ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Hill Street Blues,’ ‘Golden Girls,’ ‘Designing Women,’ ’21 Jump Street,’ ‘LA Law,’ ‘Quantum Leap,’ ‘Boy Meets World,’ ‘Matlock’ ‘Touched by an Angel,’ ‘Melrose Place,’ ’7th Heaven,’ ’3rd Rock From the Son,’ ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ ‘Ally McBeal,’ ‘Judging Amy,’ ‘Scrubs,’ ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and ‘Law and Order: SVU.’ That’s twenty years of television history in one career.

Prior to her television and film career, Carroll performed on the stage, alongside actors like Cloris Leachman, Lynn Redgrave and John Lithgow. Her varied career even included a brush with jazz music, which led to her appearing on her fair share of albums.

For every star, there are thousands of working actors who make their jobs possible. Performers like Janet Carroll are the reason the movies and the shows we love actually work.

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