Elisa Donovan is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Amber in the film “Clueless” (1995) and its spin-off television series (ABC, 1996-1997; UPN, 1997-1999). She is also memorable as Ginger LaMonica in “Beverly Hills, 90210” (4 episodes, 1995-1996), Morgan Cavanaugh in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (59 episodes, 2000-2003), Cambi in the comedy film “A Night at the Roxbury” (1998) and Brenda in the TV movie “Shark Swarm” (The Hallmark Channel, 2008). More recently, she appeared in the web series “The Lake” (2009) and “In Gayle We Trust” (2010) as well as the movies “A Golden Christmas” (2009) and “Complacent” (2010). She has also acted in several stage productions, including “The Vagina Monologues” (2001) and her one person show “Sweet Dreams” (2008).
The New York born beauty, who appeared in 'N Sync's music video “I Drive Myself Crazy” and Lucious Jackson's “Here,” is a recovering anorexic. She was anorexic between 1993 and 1995 and her weight dropped to 90 pounds. It was not until she suffered a mild heart attack that she decided to turn her life around. Donovan shares her battle with anorexia in a “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul” book. She also published the book “Feeding The Fame” in 2006, which details her anorexia and recovery.
Donovan mentions Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, James Stewart, Sean Penn, Gary Oldman and Edward Norton as her favorite actors/actresses and enjoys the music of Prince, Lauryn Hill, Olive, John Coltrane, Paco de Lucia, Hole, and A Tribe Called Quest. Her favorite books include John Irving's “A Prayer For Owen Meany,” Emily Bronte's “Wuthering Heights” and Charles Dickens' “Great Expectations.” She was once romantically linked to Dodd Mitchell and Donal Lardner Ward.
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of Jack Donovan, a former vice president of AT&T, and Charlotte Donovan, Lisa Adaline Donovan, who would later be popular as Elisa Donovan, was born on February 3, 1974, in Poughkeepsie, New York. She was raised in Northport, Long Island, where she became a skilled equestrian, salsa dancer and gymnast. She started acting at age 7 and had studied it professionally by age 12. While attending Northport High School, she performed in a play about AIDS called “Safe” at The Little Theatre in Long Island. After graduating high school, she trained at the renowned Michael Chekhov Studio in New York and studied classical and dramatic literature, writing and acting at Eugene Lang College New School for Social Research.
Elisa is the niece of deceased actor Warren Hino, who worked in Shakespearean theater and become a major influence to her. She has a sister who is an animal groomer and a brother who is an equestrian.
Currently, Elisa lives in Los Angeles. She supports organizations and charities that encourage environmental, education and health awareness issues. She is a member of Sherry Lansing's charity The Future Fund and the spokesperson for Enviro-thon, a national youth contest that supports environmental awareness and action.
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
7 year old Elisa Donovan made her stage debut in a production of “Westward Ho Ho Ho” and immersed herself in New York theater. After high school, she appeared in the off-Broadway productions “The Baby” and “Mad Love” and the productions “Mad Forest,” “Dark Hours,” “Chamber Music” and “Treading the Boards,” among other plays.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1994, Donovan landed a recurring role on the NBC sitcom “Blossom,” where she was notable as Joey Lawrence's girlfriend Tanya. She went on to play bad girl Ginger LaMonica in four episodes of the Fox popular primetime soap “Beverly Hills, 90210” from 1995 to 1996, and guest starred in the syndication action series “Renegade” and The WB's short lived “Simon” (1995).
Donovan's breakthrough role came when she was cast as Cher's longtime fashion rival, Amber, in the sleeper hit comedy “Clueless” (1995), a big screen adaptation of Jane Austen's book “Emma.” Written and directed by Amy Heckerling and starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash and Brittany Murphy, the picture opened at No. 2 at the box office, with over $11 million weekend gross. It eventually grossed $55 million. The same year, she also appeared in the 20 minute length drama “Café Babel,” which was written and directed by Juan Dapena.
In 1996, Donovan made her television movie debut in “Encino Woman,” a sequel to the Les Mayfield 1992 box office hit “Encino Man.” She also reprised the role of Amber in the television series version of “Clueless,” with Rachel Blanchard replacing Alicia Silverstone in the role of Cher. The sitcom ran from September 1996 to May 1999. It was nominated for a 1997 Young Artist for Best Family TV Comedy Series.
After appearing in a television series pilot titled “Justice League of America” (1997), Donovan returned to features in the comedy “A Night at the Roxbury” (1998), which was based on a skit on the popular television series “Saturday Night Live” titled “The Roxbury Guys.” The film was not well received by critics, but has since collected a cult following. Donovan portrayed Cambi, a gold digging model, in the film. She next played Nora in the independent film “Pop” (1999, directed and written by Brian Johnson), E.D. in Mark F. Schwartz's short “15 Minutes” (1999) and Salli in Kwyn Bader's “Loving Jezebel” (1999). Also in 1999, she appeared in an episode of “Just Shoot Me” called “Jack Gets Tough.”
Entering the new millennium, Donovan worked with Jaime Pressly, Rachel Hunter, Anthony Head and Jordan Ladd in the E! Entertainment Television original movie “Best Actress” (2000), had the recurring role of Annie in “Jack & Jill” (2 episodes, 2000) and joined the cast of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” when the sitcom was moved from ABC to The WB in 2000. Playing Morgan Cavanaugh, Sabrina's roommate, she would remain in the series until its demise in 2003. Donovan doubled her regular gig with performances in such films as Mark Goffman's short “Rebound Guy” (2001, as Alexandra), Bruce Cacho-Negrete's award winning indie comedy “Liar Clubs” (2001, with Amy Jo Johnson) and David DeCoteau's “Wolves of Wall Street” (2002). She also performed with Bijou Philips and Lisa Nicole Carson in Eve Ensler's “The Vagina Monologues” (2001) at The Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills.
After “Sabrina” left the airwaves, Donovan received a two episode role in CBS' “Judging Amy” (2004) and starred as Eve Simon in the television film “Eve's Christmas” (2004, opposite Sebastian Spence). She also appeared in the indie film “Bandwagon” (2004), starring Karri Bowman, and the short “A Girl's Guide to Depravity” (2004), by Heather Rutman. She resurfaced on television two years later when she made a guest appearance in CBS' “NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” playing Rebecca Kemp. The same year, she also appeared in the films “National Lampoon's TV the Movie,” “Kiss Me Again,” a drama helmed by William Tyler Smith, and the comedy “Rocker,” opposite Camille Solari, Danielle Nicolet and James DeBello.
2007 saw Donovan star in the Lifetime television movies “Framed for Murder” and “It Was One of Us,” where she played June Baldwin and Carson O'Conner, respectively. She then portrayed Red in the Jo D. Jonz comedy “15 Minutes of Fame” (2008), Brenda in The Hallmark Channel movie “Shark Swarm” (2008), alongside Daryl Hannah, John Schneider, Armand Assante and F. Murray Abraham, Jen in Beni Tadd Atoori's comedy “Chasing Happiness” (2009), Belinda Bannister in ABC Family's “The Dog Who Saved Christmas” and Anna in John Murlowski's comedy “A Golden Christmas” (2009). She was next cast as Leslie in the series “The Lake,” which ran on the internet during August 2009, and appeared in an episode of Disney Channel's “Sonny with a Chance” (2009). Meanwhile, on stage, Donovan starred in the one woman show “Sweet Dreams,” which premiered at the Audrey Skirball Theatre at The Geffen Playhouse in May 2008.
Recently, in 2010, Donovan played the supporting role of Jennifer in “Complacent,” a small budget independent film written and directed by Steven R. Monroe. She then played an insurance agent named Gayle Evans in the web series “In Gayle We Trust” on NBC.com.
Donovan is set to reprise the role of Belinda in the sequel “The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation” (2010, TV) and Laura Conners in the upcoming comedy film “A Valentine's Date” (2011), opposite John Schneider, Tom Skerritt and Brad Rowe.