Kate Burton is a British actress best known for her recurring role as Alzheimer's sufferer Ellis Grey on the television dramedy Grey's Anatomy, from 2005-2007.
Burton's parents were noted stage and film actor Richard Burton and actress Sybil Williams Christopher. She is also the step-daughter of Elizabeth Taylor and Jordan Christopher.
Burton earned a bachelor's degree in Russian studies and European history from Brown University in 1979. She also studied at Yale University School of Drama in 1983.
In 2007, Burton was given an honorary doctorate from Brown University.
Burton's first notable role on Broadway was in a 1982 production of the Noel Coward play Present Laughter, which was directed by George C. Scott. The following year, she appeared in the Broadway production of Doonesbury, playing J.J.
Several key roles followed, including roles in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter and Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
In 2002, she portrayed two roles and was nominated for a Tony Award for both. She was nominated as Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of the title role in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the role of Pinhead/Mrs. Kendal in the revival of The Elephant Man.
This dual nomination made her one of only three actors, along with Amanda Plummer and Dana Ivey, to be Tony-nominated for two acting awards in the same year.
2006 was another busy year for Kate as she could be seen Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre opposite Tony Goldwyn in The Water's Edge by Theresa Rebeck.
The same year she was nominated for Best Leading Actress again in 2006 in W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife.
In 2007, she played Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard at Boston's Huntington Theatre.
Early films of Burton's include Anne of the Thousand Days, Big Trouble in Little China, The First Wives Club, Life with Mikey and The Ice Storm. Burton has said of these roles that she usually plays "the sweet wife, or the sweet dead wife".
Burton has also appeared in a number of roles in independent films.
Burton has been perhaps most prolific in her work on television. She made many appearances in the late 1980s and 1990s on episodic television, including appearances on Spenser: For Hire, All My Children and Brooklyn Bridge.
In 1996, Burton won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance as a mother dying of breast cancer in the ABC After school special, Notes For My Daughter.
More recently, she made guest appearances as recurring characters on Law & Order, The Practice, The West Wing, and Judging Amy. She also appeared on the HBO mini-series Empire Falls.
Her current recurring television roles both involve a subplot which includes Alzheimer's disease. She plays the role of Rose on Rescue Me, a friend and possible romantic interest to Chief Jerry Reilly.
Reilly's wife is in a facility with the disease and Rose provides emotional support as her husband also suffered from the disease.
In perhaps her most visible and well known role to date, Burton played the recurring role of Ellis Grey, the Alzheimer's-afflicted former trailblazing surgeon and mother of the titular character on the series Grey's Anatomy, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award.
She is married to Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and one of the producers of the Broadway musicals The Drowsy Chaperone and Curtains.
They have two children, Morgan (born in 1988) and Charlotte (born in 1998).