Veteran acting couple to launch the United Performing Arts Campaign
Former 'L.A. Law' stars Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker have close ties to Wisconsin
Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker have what has to be one of the most successful marriages in show business. They’ve been together for 47 years, ever since meeting while working at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but “it was love pretty quick,” Tucker says. And it was powerful enough to prompt him to divorce his wife of over three years, with whom he had a baby daughter. And it was powerful enough for Eikenberry to call off her engagement to another man.
They obviously made the right choices.
The couple returns to a city they love — Milwaukee — in March in support of United Performing Arts Fund 2018 campaign.
Both Eikenberry and Tucker have been working actors for all their adult lives — in television, theater and film. They’re best known as co-stars of L.A. Law, a popular and critically acclaimed NBC series that aired from 1986 to 1994. The cutting-edge drama, which tackled topics that were daring at the time for network television, won 15 Emmy Awards. Both Tucker and Eikenberry received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for their work in the series, with Eikenberry winning five Emmys and four Golden Globes.
Producer Steven Bochco hired them both after working with them on two episodes of Hill Street Blues, another of the 1980s best series.
Although they’re best known for L.A. Law, each has a lengthy and impressive list of credits. They’ve done a lot of theater together since L.A. Law, and they’ve tried to engineer their schedules to perform in cities that were close to each other.
“Most acting couples don’t like to work together — it’s too close,” Tucker says. “Jill was an ingénue and I was a character guy, and we were not paired together.”
But they discovered that, in their case, their knowledge of one another strengthens their work together. Tucker says on the first day of shooting a double-episode story line for Hill Street Blues, “When we started to shoot the first scene, and we looked at each other, we felt everything the characters felt.”
Eikenberry and Tucker now live in Connecticut, and they have a 350-year-old home in Umbria, Italy, which they restored themselves. Tucker wrote about the experience in his book Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy. The success of the book has led to something of a second career as a writer about food and culture, as well as books about cooking.
Tucker and Eikenberry no longer take roles that would separate them from each other.
The Wisconsin connections
One of the many things Eikenberry and Tucker share is a love of Wisconsin. When the United Performing Arts Fund asked them to serve as honorary co-chairs of this year’s campaign, they accepted. They’ve loaned their celebrity to fundraising here before.
Both stars have Wisconsin connections that they cherish.
Eikenberry was raised in Madison. “I consider it my home, and my dearest friends are there,” she says. “(Wisconsin) is just so beautiful. I have such gorgeous memories of all things water, all the lakes and swimming in the lakes.”
She remembers fondly touring the state one summer with a troupe called “The Wisconsin Idea Theater.”
“I remember touring Wisconsin as being truly magical,” Eikenberry says.
Tucker grew up in Baltimore, but Milwaukee is where “I got my feet under myself as an actor.” Like so many actors who go on to have successful careers, he was once part of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s troupe. The Rep stretched and disciplined him, he says.
“We were rehearsing the next play during the day, and then performing the current productions at night. It was phenomenal experience, especially for young people.”
Tucker toured Wisconsin with Waiting for Godot, performing at University of Wisconsin System’s campuses all over the state.
The couple is delighted to be returning to Milwaukee, which they compare to European cities in that support for the arts is so strong. While here, expect to see them frequently in the media. They plan on working hard to support UPAF’s campaign for the arts in a city they adore.
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