Wendy Makkena is an American actress most recognized for her role as Mary Robert in the Sister Act films. She has also appeared in well-known films such as Air Bud, State Of Play, and most recently, 2019’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.
Throughout her career, Makkena has also appeared frequently on television and on the stage.
Wendy Makkena was born in New York, New York on October 4th, 1958. Though not a whole lot has ever been made clear about her extended family or early childhood, we know that her father was a Jewish German who fled the Holocaust with his mother as a young child.
Makkena’s mother, meanwhile, was an accomplished astrology in New York City.
Following her childhood schooling, Makkena was admitted to the internationally renowned Juilliard School in Manhattan, where she would study classical music.
Wendy Makkena showed an aptitude for performing arts at a very young age. She took up the harp at the age of eight, and by 10 had played Carnegie Hall.
Thereafter, she spent her childhood pursuing both ballet and classical music –– ultimately enrolling at Juilliard for the latter.
Though Makkena continued to work on both of her passions, an injury forced her to give up ballet at the age of 18.
It was not until her late 20s that Makkena began to emerge as an actress of note in both theater and television.
Makkena continued to play the harp after giving up her pursuit of ballet. However, a lingering desire to perform on stage eventually led her to acting, and by the mid- to late-‘80s she was experiencing a breakthrough in the profession.
The emerging actress made her Broadway debut in a 1987 run of Pygmalion, playing as a teamaid and parlourmaid in a production that starred Peter O’Toole and Amanda Plummer (in the lead roles of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, respectively).
Just two years later, Makkena was involved in a production of Lend Me A Tenor, serving as a replacement for the key role of Maggie (played primarily by J. Smith-Cameron, whom many know today for her role on HBO’s Succession).
Makkena would grace the Broadway stage again nearly a decade later in Side Man. But it was through TV and film in the mid- to late-‘80s that she truly began to make her name.
Alongside her early Broadway experiences, Makkena began to land roles on television shows, with prominent films soon to follow.
Over the course of her career to date she has starred in numerous beloved projects, working alongside the likes of Robin Wright, John Cusack, Amy Brenneman, and –– most prominently –– Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith.
Below is a look at some of her most well-known and successful roles:
This TV soap opera about a wealthy family in Santa Barbara, California ran on NBC for nearly a decade, from 1984 to 1993.
Wendy Makkena’s time on the program was brief, but it marked her TV breakthrough. She played the role of Katie Timmons –– younger sister of Keith Timmons, a character who served as a sort of playful antagonist of the primary family’s.
This 1992 comedy was not Makkena’s first film, but it is certainly the one that put her on the map. The film stars Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier –– a nightclub performer who joins a convent as part of a witness protection program.
In short time, Deloris transforms the convent choir into a sort of rock-infused gospel chorus, building a new life for herself and those around her, but jeopardizing her identity In the process.
Wendy Makkena played the role of Mary Robert, a novice in the convent who is befriended (and influenced) by Deloris.
Though Makkena was still in the early stages of her career, Sister Act’s popularity (and that of its sequel) is such that it is arguably the role she’s best known for.
A League Of Their Own
Not to be confused with a fresh show in 2022, this 1993 television series adapted the beloved 1992 film almost immediately.
Though short-lived and somewhat poorly received, it was a direct adaptation in which Wendy Makkena played Mae Mordabito (famously played by Madonna in the ’92 film).
Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit
This sequel was released just a year after the original. It concerned Deloris Van Cartier reuniting with her friends from the convent in order to help save a Catholic school (in part by teaching music).
Reprising her role as Mary Robert, Makkena plays a slightly larger role, and crucially helps to discover the talent of Rita Louise Watson (Lauryn Hill) –– a sort of leader among the students who learn to sing from the nuns.
This silly but lovable family film came out in 1997, and concerned a golden retriever (named Buddy) who could play basketball.
The dog is discovered by Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers) after he and his family relocate following the death of his father. Buddy joins the school basketball team alongside Josh, and ultimately helps the boy to find joy again.
Though it is naturally the relationship between boy and dog that people remember this film for, Wendy Makkena played the role of Josh’s mother, Jackie.
This CBS legal drama ran from 1999 to 2005. Its primary focus was on Amy Gray (Amy Brenneman), a Harvard attorney who moves home to Connecticut after separating from her husband.
For six seasons, Amy took on an array of legal cases while juggling assorted family dramas. Makkena guest starred as Susie Nixon –– a supervisor at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, where Amy’s mother Maxine (Tyne Daly) worked.
The Job was a two-season sitcom, and a satire of ‘90s police dramas. Makkena appeared in nine episodes (as Karen McNeil) from 2001 to 2002, but the show revolved primarily around Dennis Leary in the lead role.
The Job was canceled after its second season, though to some extent it is seen as having lived on in FX’s Rescue Me –– a similar and more successful program.
Airing on Fox from 2003 to 2004, Oliver Beene was a family sitcom about a young boy in the 1960s. Grant Rosenmeyer starred as the boy, with David Cross narrating certain events as a version of the boy in the future.
Wendy Makkena, however, played a prominent role as Charlotte Beene, the boy’s mother who helped to keep the house in order.
This CBS sitcom ran for 22 episodes between 2004 and 2005, and left the air despite respectable viewership.
Its primary focus was on a sports show host named Tony Kleinman (Jason Alexander), who was modeled on the real-life writer and commentator Tony Kornheiser.
Alexander was the solo star to some extent, but Wendy Makkena held a legitimate co-starring role as Dana Kleinman –– Tony’s wife, and the occasional focus of his commentary.
The Mob Doctor
Based on a book by Ron Felber, The Mob Doctor was a Fox drama that aired for one season in 2012.
The primary characters were Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro), a doctor in partial service to the mob, and Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe), a Chicago mob boss protecting Grace.
Wendy Makkena’s role was as Daniella Devlin –– Grace’s mother, as well as someone from Constantine’s past.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
This critically acclaimed film was released in 2019, and starred Tom Hanks as the legendary television personality Fred Rogers.
Rather than focusing exclusively on Rogers however, the film largely took the perspective of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist assigned to cover Rogers.
Wendy Makkena played the part of Lloyd’s second wife Dorothy, in what was arguably her most visible role since Sister Act and its sequel.
A hard-hitting dramatic film released in 2021, Spiked told the story of a border town in conflict following the murder of a migrant worker.
Loosely based on a true story, the film made use of an ensemble cast, in which Wendy Makkena played the role of Margaret. Unfortunately, Spiked was not widely seen nor particularly well received.
Sister Act 3
Not a great deal is known yet about Sister Act 3, but Whoopi Goldberg has confirmed its development, all these years after the first two films.
As of this writing, Goldberg and Makkena are the only listed cast members on IMDB.
What is Wendy Makkena doing now?
As is clear from her recent work in Spiked and her upcoming part in Sister Act 3, Wendy Makkena is continuing to act! However, she has also launched some side ventures over the years.
First and foremost, Makkena teaches her craft. Working in the New York City area, Makkena teaches “highly individualized” acting classes, both in small group settings and private sessions. She also offers career counseling and on-set coaching to actors.
Outside of acting altogether, Makkena also runs a successful popsicle company. Said company is called Ruby Rocket’s, and Makkena launched it in 2013 in an effort to get her daughter (Ruby) to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Makkena worked up recipes of frozen fruits and vegetables that appealed to her daughter as treats, and then brought on ex-JP Morgan Partners CFO Marcia Bateson to help launch the business.
Ultimately, Ruby Rocket’s became a nationally distributed brand (though activity seems to have slowed since the onset of the pandemic).
Alongside her acting and popsicle businesses, Wendy Makkena also maintains a presence on Cameo, where she sells personalized videos and messages.
Relationships / Marriage
Wendy Makkena has been married to Bob Krakower since 1997. Krakower is a career producer, writer, director, and casting director who now works as a respected acting coach in New York.
His credits include the films Varsity Blues (casting director) and Bobby Z (screenwriter), and his acting students have been nominated at the Emmys, Tonys, and Academy Awards.
Wendy Makkena and Bob Krakower have one daughter together.