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Why Dr. Sara Sitarides From Seinfeld Looks So Familiar

It was in the Season 9 episode "The Slicer" when fans of "Seinfeld" met Dr. Sara Sitarides, aka Dr. Pimple Popper M.D. In the episode, Jerry has a date with an attractive doctor, only to find her arrogant as she spends the entire date making him feel bad for not having a profession that involves saving lives. Jerry decides not to ask her out on a second date until he realizes that she's a dermatologist — a type of doctor that Jerry can't imagine doing much more than prescribing aloe for everything. Jerry plans a "revenge date" and takes her to a fancy restaurant, where he accuses her of only treating zits, calling her "Pimple Popper M.D." Jerry's plan backfires, of course, when one of the patients she treated for skin cancer comes up to her in the restaurant and thanks her for saving his life.

Dermatologists seem to have a special fondness for this particular "Seinfeld" episode, particularly dermatologist Sandra Lee, who named her TLC show — "Dr. Pimple Popper" — after this particular episode. "It's sort of tongue-in-cheek and pays homage to the 'Seinfeld' episode that many of us dermatologists feel a little connection to," Lee told Insider.

But fans who watch the episode might find Dr. Sitarides to be a familiar face.

Soap opera stardom

Marcia Cross got her start in soap operas in the 1980s. In 1984, she did over 70 episodes of "The Edge of Night." While 70 episodes would be a lot for a prime-time series, it was barely a drop in the bucket for a series that ran five days a week from 1956-1984, although she was on the show through its finale (per IMDB). She went on to do two episodes of "Another World" followed by 10 episodes of "One Life to Live" as Kate Sanders.

Despite her brief time in soaps, fans of the genre still remember her as an alum of the daytime serial format. Even as recently as 2019, articles about her from both Soap Central and Soap Opera Spy identified her in their headlines as being Marcia Cross from "One Life to Live." 

In the '90s, the actress graduated from daytime to primetime soaps, first with a seven-episode appearance as Victoria Broyard on the "Dallas" spin-off "Knots Landing." But it was another primetime soap opera that gave her her first major role, again as a doctor.

She played Dr. Kimberly Shaw on Melrose Place

Marcia Cross was introduced as the unpredictable Dr. Kimberly Shaw on "Melrose Place" in the Season 1 episode "A Promise Broken." She started as a guest star before graduating to full cast member. In a 2020 cast reunion interview for Stars in the House, Cross explained what it was like in the early days on "Melrose Place." "I was just trying to survive," Cross explained. "I just got like one show and then they would say 'Will you come back for two shows?' 'Will you come back again?' So I was doing that for a while."

Cross became a central part of the "Melrose Place" legacy, particularly when her character was believed to be killed off in a car accident in the Season 2 episode "Collision Course," only to return later that season in "The B**** is Back." The episode culminates in the show's famous scene when Kimberly removes her wig to reveal a scarred head. In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, series creator Darren Star explained how much he loved Cross on the show, especially after she came back from the dead. "She was brilliant in the role," Star told the outlet. "As fun as Dr. Kimberly Shaw was in the beginning, it was straightforward. And the Kimberly that came back was just off the rails, and we had the best time writing that character."

Her appearance in "Seinfeld" came shortly after her final appearance on "Melrose Place" in the Season 5 episode "The Dead Wives Club." Her next recurring role wouldn't come for about six more years, where she played, yet again, a doctor. Are you sensing a theme?

She played Dr. Linda Abbott on Everwood

Marcia Cross took a bit of a hiatus from acting following her time on "Melrose Place." According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, this time was partially so Cross could receive her master's degree in psychology but also because she found herself typecast after "Melrose Place." "There was a lot of typecasting that I was crazy," she told Entertainment Weekly. "I totally understood it, but I got tired of hearing it. I thought that either I would have a chance at some point or not."

The soap opera veteran premiered in the Season 2 episode of the WB series "Everwood" entitled "My Brother's Keeper." She plays Dr. Linda Abbott, the younger sister of Dr. Harold Abbott, who returns from her globetrotting adventures with Doctors Without Borders to work for her brother's practice. Dr. Harold Abbott is reluctant to trust her not to leave again, but eventually, he agrees to allow her into his practice. That is until the character does, in fact, leave later in the same season in "Do or Die."

In the aforementioned Entertainment Weekly article, "Everwood" creator Greg Berlanti admitted that he had never seen "Melrose Place" but cast the actress because of how well she resembled the character in real life. "In TV you look for the actor to embody as many of their character's traits as possible," Berlanti explained. "Since so many times the actor gets the [script] the day before she shoots, there's not really time for a transformation."

While her stint on "Everwood" was a bit short-lived, she quickly landed a starring role, and it was the first show that she remained a cast member on from pilot to finale.

She played Bree Van de Kamp on Desperate Housewives

In 2004, Marcia Cross took up the role of the "perfect" wife and mother, Bree Van de Kamp, on ABC's "Desperate Housewives." With Cross so well known for her work on soap operas and "Desperate Housewives" having such a serialized style, the question of whether the show was a soap opera came up more than a few times.

In a 2005 interview with Vanity Fair, Teri Hatcher and James Denton rejected the label of "soap opera" for the show, saying the term typically has a negative connotation. "You think bad lighting, bad writing, bad acting," Hatcher told Vanity Fair. A 2014 article in The Atlantic, however, praised the show as a great example of a primetime soap. However, the author did point out that the show's creator, Marc Cherry, appeared in a Season 2 episode of "Arrested Development" called "Righteous Brothers" in which his home is being protested by religious groups, and he tries to assuage them by calling his show a "satire."

In real life, however, Cherry distanced himself from the label of "satire" in a 2004 interview with the Associated Press (via Today), in which he said he didn't want to suggest he was making fun of the show's setting. "Satire sounds like you're making fun of something," he told the outlet. "And the truth is I'm not making fun of the suburbs. I love the suburbs. I love the values of the suburbs, loved my family, our neighbors."

With eight successful seasons on the air, Cross was certainly still in her wheelhouse if the show is referred to, by some, as a soap opera, even if it was one of the rare instances where she didn't play a doctor. But since then, she's been stepping firmly outside of her normal comfort zone.

She played President Claire Haas in Quantico

ABC's drama about the FBI, "Quantico," only lasted three seasons before its cancelation, but Marcia Cross starred on the show as President Claire Haas until her final episode near the end of Season 2, "GLOBALREACH." Deadline described her role:

Despite her character's position as the president of the United States, in an interview with TV Insider, Cross was asked if her character was a villain of the series. "She is an ambitious woman, but I think of her as a hero who wants to save the country through political office," Cross responded.

A Deadline description of her character addresses this dichotomy: "The public sees a skilled politician, a passionate advocate for her causes, a force for good, but her family sees a different woman: one whose ambition comes before all else."

Shortly after her time on Quantico, the "Desperate Housewives" actress was diagnosed with anal cancer, and according to her interview with Coping With Cancer Magazine, she was focused on recovery for a few years after that. Now that she's made it out to the other side, she's focusing on destigmatizing anal cancer.