Actress. Born July 2, 1966 in Newton, Massachusetts, Kathryn Elsbeth Erbe is the oldest of three children born to Elisabeth Magnarelli, a Boston management executive, and Dr. Richard Erbe, an internist. Erbe attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While still in college, she was cast in the sitcom Chicken Soup as Lynn Redgrave’s daughter. After graduation, she moved to Chicago and joined the famed Steppenwolf Theater Company. There she starred in several productions, including A Streetcar Named Desire and The Grapes of Wrath, which won the 1990 Tony Award for Best Play. In 1991, Erbe earned a Best Actress Tony nomination for her role in the play The Speed of Darkness. She also took roles in film and television, playing the daughter of a fussy psychiatrist in What About Bob? and a hockey coach’s love interest in D2: The Mighty Ducks.
In Chicago, Erbe met Terry Kinney, an actor who earlier co-founded Steppenwolf with Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry. The couple married in 1993 and had two children: daughter Maeve in 1996 and son Carson in 2003. From 1998 to 2003, Kathryn Erbe and her husband worked together on the cable prison drama Oz, in which she played a death-row inmate and he played a prison manager. While filming Oz, Erbe was cast on a new series called Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a spin-off of the popular Law & Order crime-and-courtroom drama. The show premiered on September 30, 2001, co-starring Erbe as Detective Alexandra Eames and Vincent D’Onofrio as her eccentric partner Detective Robert Goren. When Erbe became pregnant with her second child in 2003, producers wrote the pregnancy into the script by having her character act as a surrogate mother for her infertile sister.
The show’s popularity made Erbe a recognizable figure, but her celebrity came with a serious downside. She was stalked for years by an obsessive fan who sent her letters, wrote a blog about her and snuck onto the Criminal Intent set for a photograph. The stalker, a musician and convicted sex offender named Charles Nagel, was arrested in 2010.
In 2005, Erbe and Kinney divorced.
In 2009, Erbe and Criminal Intent co-star D’Onofrio announced that they were both leaving the show at the end of the 2009-10 season. “I don’t think either of us thought that we were going to be doing it for eight years,” Erbe told an interviewer. With the series behind her, Erbe lives in Brooklyn, New York with her two children.