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Erika Christensen - Biography & Career

Erika Christensen was born in Seattle on August 19, 1982, and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles. During her childhood, she was heavily involved in singing, dancing and acting while working in theater groups like the Serendipity Theatre Company and Pasadena Dance Theatre, and by the age of 12, she decided to become a professional actress.

Her first professional gig was a commercial for McDonald's, followed by a part in the video for Michael Jackson's song "Childhood." Despite minor accomplishments in dancing and singing (she also sang back-up vocals on Neil Diamond's The Christmas Album II), Christensen stuck to her plan and made her film debut in the 1997 big-screen version of Leave It to Beaver.

Her role as Wally Cleaver's girlfriend Karen was attention grabbing, and many television guest spots soon followed. Some shows she appeared in between 1996 and 2001 include Frasier, The Practice, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Touched by an Angel, and Nothing Sacred, for which she was nominated for a Young Star Award in 1998. She capped off this period with a made-for-TV feature, the Disney vehicle Can of Worms.

A young, rising star, Christensen would soon have a rare opportunity to display her talents among other very well-established stars. Apparently, one reading was all it took to convince Traffic director Steven Soderbergh that she was perfect for the part of a drug-addicted teen.

Convincing Erika's parents was another story, as the role made tough demands involving drugs and sex. After meeting with the director and realizing the professionalism he would bring, as well as the importance of the story in a social and political sense, Mr. and Mrs. Christensen approved.

Erika's role in Traffic was, for many, the cornerstone of the entire film, which won four Academy Awards. Though the film is a detailed look at the drug trade, she is the only drug addict actually depicted in it. Her convincing downward spiral as a private schoolgirl-turned-junkie was performed with authority, and it won Christensen awards such as Best Breakthrough Female Performance at the MTV Movie Awards, Female Standout Performance at the Young Hollywood Awards, and a part in the Outstanding Performance by a Cast trophy at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

After the gritty drama of Traffic, Erika was happy to relax and contribute to The Geena Davis Show's 2001 season. Of course, she wasn't given that much of a break, as she was soon called upon for the starring role in 2002's Swimfan (a.k.a. Swimf@n)

Something of a teenage Fatal Attraction, Swimfan had Christensen playing a young, obsessed, quasi-psychotic high school girl. She followed it up with a fine performance in lighter fare like The Banger Sisters, with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn, and returned to drama with Home Room, in which she played the survivor of a high school shooting spree. For the latter, she met with actual shooting victims, in the same way that she had visited rehabilitation centers to research her role in Traffic.

Erika's next film, The Perfect Score, about a group of students who go to illegal lengths to get the answers to the SATs, is due out September 2003. She still lives in Los Angeles and is a dedicated member of the Church of Scientology. She is single, and claims to not have time for boyfriends. Expect to see a lot more of this fine actress in the future.