Shawnee Smith (born July 3, 1970) is an American film and television actress and musician. Smith is best known for her roles as Amanda Young in the Saw films and Linda in the CBS sitcom Becker.
Smith once fronted the punk/metal band Fydolla Ho, with which she toured the United States and the United Kingdom, and is also the other half of Smith & Pyle, a desert country-rock band, with actress Missi Pyle.
Shawnee Smith was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the second child of Patricia, an oncology nurse, and Jim Smith, a financial planner and former US Air Force pilot. The family relocated from South Carolina to Van Nuys, California when she was a year old. Smith's biological parents divorced when she was two and her mother remarried when she was eight. She attended Ranchito Avenue Elementary School in Panorama City, California. She also attended North Hollywood High School in North Hollywood, California and graduated in 1987.
Smith began acting as a child appearing on stage in A Christmas Carol repertory from age 8 to 11 and starred in a stage play with Richard Dreyfuss at age 15. She also performed in the original stage production of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday and won the Dramalogue Critics Award for her performance. She was the youngest actor up to that time to receive such an honor. She made her television debut in a McDonald's commercial titled "Best Friends" in 1978. She joined the Screen Actors Guild at age nine and made her feature film debut in John Huston's 1982 adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie, as one of Aileen Quinn's fellow orphans. In 1985, Smith co-starred in two troubled-teen melodramas, Not My Kid and Crime of Innocence. In 1987, Smith co-starred in the hit comedy film Summer School as pregnant student Rhonda Altobello. The following year, she starred with Kevin Dillon and the late Joe Seneca in a 1988 remake of the Steve McQueen classic The Blob as Meg Penny.
Smith played a rich teen who helps John Candy locate her kidnapped sister in 1989's Who's Harry Crumb?. That same year, she co-starred with Jennie Garth and Barbara Eden in the short-lived TV series Brand New Life. The following year, Smith co-starred as the daughter of Anthony Hopkins and Mimi Rogers in the remake of Michael Cimino's thriller The Desperate Hours. Smith took a three-year break from acting in the early 1990s primarily because she had outgrown teenage roles and had a hard time finding work. During that time she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and competed in a triathlon. Near the end of the hiatus she decided to sell all her belongings and relocate to North Carolina to visit family and go back to school. When she was about to start attending classes she landed a small role in Leaving Las Vegas and has had steady work ever since.
Smith's best-known television role was Linda, an air-headed nurse's aide, in the CBS hit comedy series Becker with Ted Danson. She served as a regular cast member in all 129 episodes from 1998–2004. Another well-known television role was that of Julie Lawry in the 1994 miniseries The Stand, based on the novel by Stephen King. She also appeared as a waitress in The Shining miniseries, which King adapted from his own novel. Besides her regular role on Becker and the cameos in the Stephen King miniseries, Smith made several guest appearances on television shows, such as Cagney & Lacey, Married With Children, Murder, She Wrote, The X-Files, Players, and Law & Order: Los Angeles. In 2003, she lent her voice to an episode of the Disney cartoon Kim Possible as Vivian Porter. Smith has become well-known in recent years because of her role as Amanda Young in the Saw films. She has also been acknowledged as a "scream queen" due to the number of horror films she has appeared in. In the DVD commentary of Saw, the producers revealed that her scenes were filmed while she was battling a terrible case of the flu. It is also revealed in the DVD commentary of Saw II that she was four months pregnant with her second child, Jakson, during filming. Her pregnancy was kept a secret from everyone except director Darren Lynn Bousman. He mentioned in the commentary that Smith's daughter Verve accidentally told him about the pregnancy during filming. She also wore a man's watch while filming Saw III, which she kept. She has also said that although she is briefly shown in Saw IV and Saw V, she was never on set. Any scenes featuring her were dubbed from file footage. On March 20, 2009, producer Mark Burg released a statement confirming that Smith would be in Saw VI. She arrived in Toronto on March 31, 2009 to begin filming brand new flashback sequences.
Smith has repeatedly admitted that she hates being scared and has a hard time watching the Saw films, or any horror movie. She originally turned the role of Amanda Young down because it was very upsetting to her. After turning the role down, she was shown the eight-minute short film by Leigh Whannell and James Wan and changed her mind after the role was offered to her a second time. Smith in the jaw trap became the image on the film poster. She also revealed at SawMania 2008 that her name was initially brought up for the role of Amanda because Saw director James Wan was a big fan of her films in the 1980s and had a longtime crush on her. Director Darren Bousman and Leigh Whannell have also talked about their crushes on Smith in the Saw DVD commentaries.
In 2006, Smith made an appearance in the ten-minute short film trailer Repo! The Genetic Opera by director Darren Lynn Bousman. Smith's character was Heather Sweet, the surgery addicted daughter of GeneCo president Rotti Largo. The trailer was filmed in Toronto, Canada and was an adaptation from the stage version. Bousman filmed the trailer after completing Saw III to try and pitch the idea to film producers. Smith did not reprise her role as Heather Sweet when Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures picked up the film in 2007 and was replaced by Paris Hilton. The characters name was also changed from Heather to Amber.
In 2008, Smith played Detective Gina Harcourt in the FEARnet original series 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust. The series premiered on July 17, 2008 on FEARnet.com in six 4–6 minute webisodes along with behind the scenes clips. This series is a continuation of the first webisode series 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails. It is still available on FEARnet.com and can also be seen in its entirety (about 30 minutes straight through) on FEARnet On Demand. She also made her producing debut with this series.
Smith was the host and one of three mentors on the VH1 reality program Scream Queens which aired from October 20, 2008 to December 8, 2008. In January 2010 it was announced that Smith would not be returning as host and mentor for Season 2 due to scheduling conflicts. She was replaced by Jaime King.
In 2009, Smith played the role of Dr. Ann Sullivan, a child psychiatrist, the third installment of The Grudge series, The Grudge 3. The film was a direct to DVD release in May 2009.
Smith appeared as a guest star in the series premiere of Law & Order: Los Angeles on September 29, 2010. This will be her first television appearance since Scream Queens aired in 2008.