There must be something in the water, because Kansas City born celebrities are off the charts.
Of course, you would have to live under a rock if you didn’t know that Royals fans Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet, and Jason Sudeikis were from Kansas City, but did you know that Chris Cooper of Adaptation, American Beauty and The Bourne Identity was born in Kansas City? And as far as his connection to the Royals goes, as a young man, he did some construction work, including helping with the construction of Royals Stadium, now known as Kaufman Stadium.
Here’s something else you may not know, famous Kansas City celebrities have spent a lot of time at the Academy Awards. Of course, the above mentioned Chris Cooper won best supporting actor for Adaptation. And don’t forget KC born Don Cheadle was nominated for Hotel Rwanda and Crash.
The same goes for Oscar-winning director Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, Kansas City, Nashville, Gosford Park, the list goes on and on) and Oscar-winning actress Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway, Parenthood, Hannah and Her Sisters, Edward Sissorhands, Practical Magic, The Birdcage…)
As this cold winter drags on and cuts off your internet TV, forcing you to watch antenna TV, you can rejoice every time Mary Tyler Moore whines to Mr. Grant played by KC native Ed Asner. But did you know, Asner was born to a Russian Orthodox Jewish family in Kansas City on Nov. 15, 1929. He was the last of five children born to Morris David and Elizabeth Seliger Asner. His father ran a scrap iron business. They named their fifth child Yitzhak Edward Asner. Asner played football at Wyandotte High School and was an all-city tackle. His activities listed for his senior year also reveal his artistic side. In addition to school council, he was involved in dra matics, plays, radio production and Quill & Scroll.
Guess who else attended Wyandotte High School? Dee Wallace! She also went to the University of Kansas before breaking into both TV and cinema screens in the mid 1970s. Through her appearances in several well remembered horror and sci-fi films, Dee quickly gained a cult following among the fantasy film fans.
Dee always seemed to be on the wrong side of some malevolent person or evil creature....she was pursued by a clan of cannibal killers in The Hills Have Eyes, terrorized by a pack of werewolves in the The Howling, got a break from the horror, as a sympathetic mom in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and nearly ends up lunch for a rabid St. Bernard in Cujo.
If you are searching for funny Kansas City celebrities, Ellie Kemper of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Office, and Bridesmaids fits the bill. And yes, Kansas Citians, she is a Kemper - as in Commerce Bank! Sure, she moved to St. Louis early in life, but we still claim her as KC’s own.
Or there’s always, Eddie Griffin from Malcom & Eddie and Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo. Eddie was a Jehovah’s Witness and raised by his single mom, Doris Thomas, a telephone operator. He moved to Compton, California at 16, but returned to the Midwest to enroll at Kansas State University for a biological engineering major.
Don’t forget Edie McClurg of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Little Mermaid, and Frozen. This Kansas City native has accumulated hundreds of credits during her 40-year career. She even has an honorary doctorate from University of Missouri-Kansas City. McClurg earned her undergraduate degree there in 1967 and served as a DJ and producer at KCUR before relocating to California to pursue her ambitions.
High on everyone’s list of favorite child actors should be Todd Bosley of Little Giants, Jack, and Scrubs. He was born in Overland Park and attended Blue Valley North High School. Little known fact: He has danced in every movie he’s appeared in.
Another child star is young and funny Bebe Wood of The Real O’Neals and The New Normal. An only child, Wood attended St. Agnes Catholic School in Roeland Park for first through fourth grades before she moved to home-schooling. Wood caught the acting bug at the age of four, and while she’s not even 18 yet, she is a successful actress and has even started to direct.
Kansas City, KS was the birthplace of Empire and Selma star Trai Byers. His father was in the Air Force, so his family moved every few years to other states, always alternating with a return to KCK. After his freshman year of high school, Byers relocated to Georgia.
He returned in 2004 to earn a communications degree at KU. After time at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, he attended the Yale School of Drama. Byers came back to Lawrence in 2012 to work on “Jayhawkers.” The period drama focuses on how the influence of KU basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain helped integrate then-segregated Lawrence. Byers plays Nathan Davis, a real-life jazz musician who befriended Chamberlain.
Byers attended D.D. Eisenhower Middle School in KCK with another future celebrity: singer Janelle Monae. This Oscar and Grammy-nominated star graduated from F. L. Schlagle High School. “From performing at Big Eleven Lake and Indian Springs Malls talent shows ... This place, Kansas City, has taught me so much about myself,” said the Wyandotte wunderkind.
Did you know Gillian Flynn, author/screenwriter whose works include Gone Girl, Sharp
Objects and Dark Places was from Kansas City. Before she was a best-selling novelist and screenplay writer, Flynn was a shy, Bishop Miege High School student, who was so quiet at school that she was almost removed from her Honors English class. Her teacher wouldn’t have it though, explaining that she was the best writer in the school. He didn’t know how right he was.
There are so many more Kansas City celebrities that haven’t been listed (Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Burt Bacharach…), but you can discover them on your own.