Melora Hardin had carved out an impressive career in movies and television before becoming Jan on NBC’s hit, “The Office” (2004- )
She was born in Houston, TX and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Her father, Jerry Hardin is a prolific character actor who has appeared in over 100 films and TV shows; her mother, Diane Hardin, was the acting coach behind young stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Biel. Hilary Swank, Kellie Martin, and River Pheonix. But as a child, young Melora didn’t need any encouragement to go into show business. Inspired by Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Hardin was acting, creating shows with neighborhood kids, singing and writing songs even before she began taking ballet lessons at the age of five. Her first television role, in a Little Rascals-inspired show called “Cliffwood Avenue Kids” (NBC, 1977) came at the age of 8, followed by a string of guest star appearances on seventies staples like “The Love Boat” (ABC 1977-1986) and “Diff’rent Strokes”(NBC, 1978-1985).
At age 13, Hardin won a scholarship to study with the Joffrey Ballet Company in New York, and throughout her teens kept up a busy schedule that included rigorous dance training – as well as landing recurring TV roles on “Little House on the Prairie” (NBC, 1974-1983) and big screen gigs with “Papa Was a Preacher” (1985) and “Soul Man” (1986).
In a role that might have made her a star sooner, Hardin was set to play McFly’s love interest in “Back to the Future” (1985), but was recast because of her height when her co-star to be, Eric Stolz, was let go and Michael J. Fox, who was shorter than Hardin, was given the lead.
Hardin attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York State and when not studying or acting headed off on solitary world travel adventures that continue to inform her as a well-rounded actress. While at Sarah Lawrence the devoted dancer got her first major headlining moment in 1988, playing Baby in the short-lived TV adaptation of “Dirty Dancing” (CBS, 1988-89).
Throughout the nineties, she maintained an impressive schedule as a working actress. In 1991 she played the dream role of a vintage-era nightclub singer in “The Rocketeer,” contributing several songs to the film’s soundtrack. On television she made steady appearances on shows like “Quantum Leap” (NBC, 1989-1993) and “Caroline in the City” (NBC, 1995-99) and several juicy, memorable character moments like getting Ross to talk dirty on “Friends” (NBC, 1994-2004).
Then in 1997 Clint Eastwood cast her in the pivotal role of Christy Sullivan opposite Gene Hackman in ‘Absolute Power’.
In 2000, she began starred in the gritty USA drama, “Cover Me: Based on the True Life of an FBI Family” (USA, 2000-01). Several other smart, adult women characters followed on “Boston Legal” (ABC, 2004- ) and “Judging Amy” (CBS, 1999-2005) and in 2004 she began to be seen on the critical fave “Monk,” playing wife to the obsessive compulsive investigator (Tony Shaloub).
However a pilot she had filmed earlier called “The Office” based on the famed British series of the same name plucked her away from that with it’s sudden and highly touted success. Her portrayal of no-nonsense boss and occasional sex object, Jan Levinson, is an enormous hit with viewers.
Being part of an award-winning show opened new doors for Hardin, who appeared in the Golden Globe winning film “Thank You for Smoking” (2006), “27 Dresses” (2007) and “17” (2008) with Zac Efron and Matthew Perry.
Hardin recently made her feature film directorial debut in 2007 with the movie ‘You’. She has also released two CDs of original, theatrical-tinged vocal stylings – ‘the meloradrama’ and ‘Purr’. And she has sung and performed at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.
At the beginning of 2008 Hardin also starred in a one-woman singing act of her own at the Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles. ‘At the Water Cooler’ was directed by Richard-Jay-Alexander, who recently directed one of Melora’s heroes, Barbra Streisand, in her latest European tour.