She was born in Seattle, Washington to Steve Christensen (an insurance worker) and Kathy (a construction manager), though she was raised in Los Angeles, California. Of Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Welsh, and Irish descent, she started out on television in commercials for McDonald's. Erika had several small roles in various television programs before starting her movie career. These shows include Frasier, The Practice, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Touched By An Angel.
Erika Christensen was named one of People Magazine's 'Breakthrough Stars of 2001'. For her performance in Traffic she received the awards for Female Breakthrough Performance at the MTV Movie Awards, Female Standout Performance at the Young Hollywood Awards, and Outstanding Performance by a Cast Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Christensen is also a member of the Church of Scientology. Her parents raised her in the faith and home-schooled her.
More on Erika Christensen
One of the clearest illustrations of Erika Christensen's talent as an actress
is the fact that when she played a teenage drug addict to perfection, complete
with heavy lids and desperate eyes, she had never so much as puffed a cigarette.
Though she was only 17 when she landed her breakout role in the movie "Traffic"
in 2000, Christensen had been doggedly pursuing her acting dream for over 5
With Erika Christensen's round face and full lips, questioning eyes and flawless complexion, Christensen found acting work easily in her younger years. Growing up outside Los Angeles, she also had access to training and auditions. She had made up her mind by the age of 12 that she wanted to act for the rest of her life. Her mother helped her realize her goal by being supportive but was careful not to try and push Christensen into a life she wasn't sure she wanted. But she was absolutely sure of her calling and eventually her parents came to see that their daughter was very serious about her dream. She was trained in dance, singing and acting and was schooled at home. She received her G.E.D at the age of 16 to free her up to pursue acting full time.
As a youngster, Erika Christensen acted in several local theater productions, playing a variety of roles. She played spunky Beverly Clearly character Ramona Quimby in a Burbank production and had supporting roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Nutcracker" throughout the San Fernando area of Southern California. Her first professional role came when she landed a national commercial for McDonald's in 1995. Following this, she was immediately cast in Michael Jackson's video "Childhood" and sang back-up on Neil Diamond's "Christmas Album II." Though none of these gigs were exactly what Christensen had in mind when she set out to be an actor, they were solid jobs that gave her crucial experience and a good level of national exposure. Her break into film came in 1997 when she was cast as Wally Cleaver's girlfriend in Disney's big screen adaptation of the hit tv show "Leave It To Beaver." Her substantial role gave her the biggest chance yet to show her acting skills and her career quickly picked up speed.
She began landing guest spots on primetime television series, including "Frasier," "The Practice" and "3rd Rock From the Sun." Her guest spot on the short-lived Catholic themed show "Nothing Sacred" earned her a nomination for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a TV Drama Series by the Hollywood Reporter sponsored Young Star Awards. She also landed another film role, in Disney's "Can of Worms." But Christensen would take a bold departure from all her previous roles when she was cast as the drug-addicted daughter of a high-ranking drug official at the White House in "Traffic."
Initially Erika Christensen's parents were wary of her accepting the role in "Traffic" which called for the 17 year old actress to have graphic s-- scenes involving her sleeping with her dealer to get more drugs. But director Steven Soderbergh convinced them of the film's artistic and political merit and they agreed to let Erika take the part. Clearly the decision paid off. "Traffic" was one of 2000's most critically acclaimed films, winning a host of accolades, including four Oscars. Christensen's portrayal of a rich girl gone horribly wrong won her widespread praise and the reputation of a risk-taking and serious actress.
Following the success of "Traffic," Erika Christensen chose her roles carefully. Staying with her girl-next-door appeal, she had a recurring role on the family sitcom "The Geena Davis Show" in the 2000-2001 season. Capitalizing on her newfound edgy and daring persona, she appeared in a couple of independent films in 2002. She played the survivor of a school shooting in "Home Room" and an obsessed seductress in "Swimfan." In 2002 she also appeared in the Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon feature "The Banger Sisters." A determined young woman who fearlessly went after her goals, Christensen has had the pleasure of enjoying the fruits of her labor at an early age. And given this gifted thespian's determination and persistence, it is likely she will celebrate many more successes as her career continues to progress for years to come. Following a turn as Emily Bronte's Cate in MTV's misguided contemporary telepic update of "Wuthering Heights" (2003), the actress appeared as Anna, a parent-pleasing high schooler desperately in need of excitement who joins a plot to heist the SAT key in "The Perfect Score" (2004).
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