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See Tony-Nominee Amy Ryan's Incredible Career, From Broadway to The Office and Back

A chameleon to her core, she made people shiver on Law & Order and in Gone Baby Gone but cackle at The Office.

By Jessica White

Few performers can say they have chartered a career as versatile as Amy Ryan: The Office fan favorite has solidified legend status as an applauded stage, television, and film star and even earned three Tony nominations (including one in 2024)

How to Watch

Watch every episode of The Office on Peacock.

Beginning her sprawling career on stage and later transforming into a television and big-screen powerhouse, Ryan has honed her skill for creating compelling roles to shift into whatever character she's playing.

RELATED: What to Know About Holly Flax from The Office

Whether she's impersonating Yoda as the cheeky HR rep Holly Flax or spinning a tale as a sinister guest star on Law & Order, Ryan always delivers an unforgettable performance that showcases her mind-boggling talent for bringing imperfect characters to life.

Boasting whip-smart comedic timing and haunting depth to her performances, Ryan's multi-decade career is a testament to her ceaseless dedication to the craft.

Steve Carell as Michael Scott and Amy Ryan as Holly Flax in The Office.

Who is Amy Ryan?

Ryan is a Queens native and a Tony- and Oscar-nominated actress who got her start on the stage.

She was born on May 3, 1968 and, after graduating from New York City's High School of Performing Arts at the age of 17, she appeared in various touring , off-Broadway and regional productions throughout the late 1980s, including her appearance as Lena Truitt in the Second Stage Theatre Company's revival of The Rimers of Eldritch in 1988.

She made her television debut on a soap opera in 1990.

She made her Broadway debut in 1993 as Tess in The Roundabout Theatre Company's production of The Sisters Rosensweig and later returned to Broadway in 1997 as Natasha in the revival of Anton Chekhov's beloved The Three Sisters.

She had been set to make her film debut in 1996's Grace of My Heart, but the role was cut after shooting. She ultimately first appeared on screen in 1999 in the film Roberta, playing the protagonist's girlfriend Judy.

She also wasn't done with the Chekhov's work: Her performance as Sonya in the 2000 Broadway production of the Russian playwright's Uncle Vanya earned Ryan her first-ever Tony nomination.

Amy Ryan's Broadway Roles

Amy Ryan and actor Brian Murray attend the "Uncle Vanya" Broadway Play Special Performance

After Ryan's applauded performance in Uncle Vanya, she continued to collect dynamite roles within the New York City theatre circuit.

In 2001, Ryan starred in Roundabout Theatre Company's production of The Women and Second Stage Theatre's run of Crimes of the Heart as Peggy Day.

In 2005, Ryan took on the mythic role of Stella Kowalski in the Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, where she starred opposite John C. Reilly as Stanley. It was a praised performance that earned Ryan her second Tony Award nomination of her esteemed stage career.

She made a triumphant return to Broadway in 2024 in the revival of Doubt: A Parable. Starring opposite Liev Schreiber, Ryan stole the spotlight as Sister Aloysius Beauvier in the drama set in the 1960s. The play centers around a staunchly conservative principal of a Catholic school (Ryan) who suspects sexual misconduct from the school's beloved progressive priest. Ryan's stirring performance earned her yet another Tony Award nomination.

Amy Ryan during the opening night of "Doubt: A Parable" on Broadway

What TV shows has Amy Ryan been in?

Ryan made her television debut in the long-running soap opera As The World Turns in 1990. The following year, she guest-starred in an episode of the sitcom Brooklyn Bridge and appeared alongside Scott Bakula in a Season 4 episode of the original Quantum Leap.

In 1992, she guest starred in an episode of Home Improvement and appeared in six episodes of NBC's Emmy-winning drama I'll Fly Away.

In 1993, Ryan joined the legions of New York actors who have guest starred on Law & Order (more on that below!). Shealso made guest appearances in the crime drama Sirens and ER in 1995.

She landed a recurring role as Chloe Banks in The Naked Truth, a sitcom centered around a tabloid news publication, in 1995.

At the turn of the century, Ryan guest starred in a Season 7 episode of NBC's hit procedural Homicide: Life on the Street and seven episodes of the crime drama 100 Centre Street.

RELATED: Celebrities Who Appeared on Law & Order Before They Were Famous

After delivering gripping performances in several crime dramas — including Homicide — Ryan joined the Season 2 cast of The Wire as Beadie Russell, a port authority officer who brushed shoulders with McNulty (Dominic West) after finding a hidden compartment with thirteen dead bodies of young women inside. (Her character appeared in Seasons 2 through 5.)

Ryan continued with crime dramas with her 2006 appearance in Kidnapped as Maureen Campbell.

And, of course, in 2008, she joined the cast of The Office (more on that below).

From 2010 to 2020, while also appearing in various films, Ryan: appeared in eight episodes of the drama series In Treatment as Adele (2010); played Heidi Strand in two hysterical episodes of Broad City (2015–2017); and guest starred in two episodes of the anthology web series High Maintenance as Gigi.

In 2021, she joined a legendary cast of comics in the mystery sitcom Only Murders in the Building, starring alongside Selena Gomez and the hilarious duo Steve Martin and Martin Short. At this point in her career, Ryan had deservedly earned a reputation for her sweet-but-not-what-they-seem characters, which perfectly translated when playing professional bassoonist Jan Bellows in the murder mystery.

As of April 2024, Ryan starred opposite Colin Farrell in the neo-noir drama Sugar, a mind-boggling private detective story following an investigator who gets a case after a wealthy movie producer's granddaughter disappears. Ryan played Melanie Matthews, a woman who ends up teaming up with Farrell's Sugar to unearth the secrets surrounding a missing girl.

Amy Ryan as The Office's Holly Flax

Steve Carell as Michael Scott and Amy Ryan as Holly Flax pose together

Few could forget Ryan's role as the beloved HR Rep Holly Flax from NBC's The Office. Appearing in 20 episodes across four seasons, Holly was the woman who ended up falling in love with the wacky Michael Scott (Steve Carrell).

After making her first appearance in Season 4, it didn't take long for audiences to fall in love with Holly's dorky humor and sexual innuendos as the female incarnation of Michael.

RELATED: What Happened to Michael Scott on The Office?

After Michael and Holly's on-again-off-again relationship, they ultimately got engaged in Season 7, Episode 19 ("Garage Sale").

However, after Holly's job moved her to Colorado, Michael chose to leave Scranton to start their next chapter together, with audiences bidding farewell to the iconic Dunder Mifflin boss in Season 7, Episode 22 ("Goodbye, Michael").

Amy Ryan's Law & Order Episodes

Amy Ryan attends the IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village

As a seasoned New York actress, it should come as no surprise that Ryan has appeared as five different characters across Dick Wolf's sprawling franchise.

Her first guest appearance was in 1993 in the flagship Law & Order in Season 3, Episode 16 ("Jurisdiction"), as a woman named Amy. She followed that up in 2000 with an appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in Season 1, Episode 11 ("Bad Blood"). Ryan played Lorraine Hansen, the wife of the main suspect, who touched base with SVU's Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to explain how shocked she was by her husband’s hidden life.

RELATED: 25 Celebrities Who Guest Starred On Law & Order: SVU

In 2003, Ryan returned to Dick Wolf's universe in 2003 in Law & Order: Criminal Intent for Season 2, Episode 12 ("Sweet Sorrow"). She played a young woman named Julie Turner who behaved so erratically that her parents paid a man to leave their engagement. When her mom turned up dead, Julie was the clear culprit, but her motive was more sinister than believed: The investigation revealed that her fiancé was cheating on her with her own father. Upon this discovery, Julie stabbed and killed her father before the cops could stop her, rattling the detectives.

Ryan returned to the flagship Law & Order in 2006 for Season 16, Episode 12 ("Family Friend"). This time, she played Valerie Messick, a freshly widowed woman navigating the murder of her husband. Valerie and her partner had ties to the mob, so she threw her own testimony to coordinate the exoneration of her husband's killer so that she could subsequently have him assassinated.

RELATED: The Most Nail-Biting Moments Ever from Law & Order: Criminal Intent

The following year, Ryan appeared in Criminal Intent Season 6, Episode 19 ("Rocket Man") playing Edie Nelson, the wife of a renowned yet unfaithful space program commander. After discovering her husband's affair, Edie helped orchestrate the murder of his mistress by making a separate woman believe she was in the throes of an affair with her husband... by sending her flowers laced with steroids. The drugs led the fake mistress to kill the actual one in rage, with Nelson revealed to be the puppet master of the chaos..

Amy Ryan's Filmography: From Gone Baby Gone to Wolfs

Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan and Ben Affleck attend a screening of "Gone Baby Gone"

Ryan starred in a mythic portfolio of big-screen hits after making her film debut in the 1999 drama Roberta

She played Rachel Louise Prescott in You Can Count on Me, appearing as the main characters' mother alongside Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, and Matthew Broderick in Kenneth Lonergan's 2000 directorial debut.

She scored minor parts in the films Keane (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), and 2005's biopic Capote, where she briefly appeared as Marie Dewey — a housewife enamored by the famous author played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. In 2006, she appeared as Queenie in the dramedy Marvelous .

Many regard Ryan's performance in Ben Affleck's 2007 directorial debut Gone Baby Gone as her big film break. Her supporting role earned her several award nominations — including at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and 2008 Academy Awards. Ryan starred as Helene McCready, a problematic mother whose daughter's kidnapping triggers a white-knuckled investigation.

In the same year as her award-winning performance in Gone Baby Gone, Ryan: appeared in the biopic Neal Cassady as Carolyn Cassady, a film that follows the aftermath of Jack Kerouac's On The Road; reunited with Hoffman in the horror film Before the Devil Knows You're Dead as Martha Hanson; and appeared in the comedy-drama Dan in Real Life as Eileen Burns. (The film was one of many on-screen collaborations between Ryan and Carrell.)

Ryan then earned accolades for her role as Carol Dexter in the 2008 adaptation of the mystery drama Changeling. Directed by Clint Eastwood and set in 1920s Los Angeles, Ryan starred alongside Angelina Jolie as two women who were unjustly committed to a psych ward.

She then starred in and executive produced The Missing Person, a 2009 mystery thriller following an alcoholic P.I. tailing a man who faked his own death following 9/11. The same year, Ryan starred in the dramedy Bob Funk as Ms. Wright. She followed that up in 2010 by starring in Phillip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut Jack Goes Boating, a romance drama where she starred opposite Hoffman as his love interest, Connie. (The film marked Hoffman and Ryan's third collaboration together.) She also appeared in the 2010 British action thriller Green Zone alongside Matt Damon.

In 2010, she also starred opposite Paul Giamatti in the sports comedy Win Win as his wife, Jackie Flaherty.

A few years later, in 2013, she appeared in the romance drama Breathe In, the prison thriller Escape Plan, and the bio-drama Devil's Knot, where she appeared alongside Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.

Ryan continued to flaunt her award-winning talent in 2014's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Ryan played Sylvia, the ex-wife of Michael Keaton's washed-up Hollywood superhero Birdman. The film's ensemble cast was widely acclaimed and Birdman collected various awards and accolades, including four Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.

Ryan kept busy in 2015 by appearing in four films: the comedy flick Don Verdean; the drama Louder Than Bombs; the film adaptation of Goosebumps starring Jack Black; and Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies. In Spielberg's thrilling historical crime thriller, Ryan starred as Mary McKenna Donovan, opposite fellow big screen titans Tom Hanks and Alan Alda.

RELATED: Where to Watch and Stream Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

In 2016, Ryan duked it out with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart in the action thriller Central Intelligence as Agent Pamela Harris. She  kept the thrills coming in that year's The Infiltrator as Bonni Tischle and the creature comedy feature Monster Trucks as Cindy Coley.

She starred in Abundant Acreage Available as Tracy Ledbetter in 2017, a drama executive produced by Martin Scorsese, with Ryan playing a woman grieving the loss of her father.

Steven Carell, Amy Ryan and Timothee Chalamet attend the "Beautiful Boy" Afterparty

Ryan teamed up with Carrell again in 2018 to star in the drama Beautiful Boy, alongside Timothée Chalamet. The film follows the lives of a family navigating a son's drug addiction, with Ryan playing Carrell's ex-wife and the boy's mother.

The following year, Ryan appeared in the dramedy Late Night as Caroline Morton, which was a bit of an Office reunion, as well: Mindy Kaling wrote and produced the film.

RELATED: Mindy Kaling Reveals Her Favorite Episodes of The Office

Ryan then starred opposite Margaret Qualley in the thriller Strange but True, a 2019 film adaptation of the 2004 John Searles novel of the same name. Ryan followed that role up in 2020 in the biographical film Worth as Camille Biros, where she again starred opposite Keaton withStanley Tucci.

In 2020, she starred in the biopic Lost Girls as real-life activist Mari Gilbert. The film centers around the then-unsolved series of murders committed by a Long Island serial killer, with Ryan playing Gilbert, a mother who lost her daughter and became an advocate for the victims. (A suspect was first charged in the case in 2023.)

Ryan took her preternatural skill for sinister roles to the next level in Ari Aster's 2023 psychological odyssey Beau Is Afraid. Starring alongside Joaquin Phoenix's titular character, Ryan appeared as Grace, a married woman with a troublesome teenager who opens up her home to Beau after he goes on a quest to attend his mother's funeral.

One of Ryan's most recent film projects to date is the action comedy Wolf, directed by Jon Watts and co-produced by George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The film is set to premiere in September 2024.

What awards has Amy Ryan won?

Aside from her three Tony Award nominations and 2008 Academy Award nomination for Gone Baby Gone, Ryan has taken home dozens of awards throughout her multi-decade career.

For her performance in Gone Baby Gone, she also won Best Supporting Actress at several critics choice ceremonies, including but not limited to the 2007 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, the 2007 Florida Film Critics Circle Awards, the 2007 Satellite Awards, the 2007 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, and the 2008 Critics Choice Awards.

In 2007, Ryan and the cast of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead scored the award for Best Ensemble Performance at the Gotham Awards.

She joined the cast of Birdman to collect the Sierra Award for Best Ensemble at the 2014 Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards. The Birdman cast also scored the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards.