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Why Ms. MacElroy From Young Sheldon Looks So Familiar

The title character of "Young Sheldon" (Iain Armitage) has his heart in the right place — mostly. But the child prodigy often irritates and confounds the adults around him, not just because he misses social cues, but also because of his incredible intellect.

Ms. MacElroy, his English high school teacher, is especially frustrated by Sheldon's peculiar behavior. She even admits to sending him out on fake errands so she doesn't have to deal with him all the time.

In her final episode, MacElroy appeared in Sheldon's video supporting his decision to go to college. The teacher admitted that she not only had nothing left to teach the precocious junior scientist but acknowledged that he was probably smarter than her (which Sheldon confirmed).

MacElroy was featured in 14 episodes of "Young Sheldon" from 2017 to 2020, but the actor who plays her, Valerie Mahaffey, has also appeared in dozens of television shows and films (via IMDb). These are some of her most famous performances.

She played the insufferable Patrice on Seinfeld

According to IMDb, Valerie Mahaffey has racked up a formidable 88 screen credits over the years, with her first being Alexandra/Sarah in the 1977 TV movie "Tell Me My Name." The actor then joined several shows as a regular cast member, including the cult soap parody "Fresno." However, these projects were largely short-lived. Instead, Mahaffey has created a consistent career out of guest star performances on television and supporting roles in films.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Mahaffey appeared in hit series ranging from "Newhart" to "Quantum Leap." One of her most famous performances was on the 1991 "Seinfeld" episode "The Truth" as Patrice, a pretentious accountant who's been dating George (Jason Alexander). When she demands that George tell her the truth about why they're breaking up, she checks herself into a clinic. This causes problems for Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), as Patrice was filing his taxes.

Mahaffey's high, oddly pitched voice was perfect for comedy. And soon after filming "Seinfeld" and a guest role on "Cheers," Mahaffey would appear in the television role which won her an Emmy. 

She was the only actor to win an Emmy for Northern Exposure

Valerie Mahaffey told Gold Derby that she's often played characters who are "a little askew." Her character on "Northern Exposure," Eve, is a perfect example and one of the most famous. Introduced in 1992, Eve only appears in five episodes of "Northern Exposure" overall. But Eve, like many of the eccentric characters on the influential CBS series, is extremely memorable.

The hypochondriac, wealthy girlfriend of Adam (Adam Arkin), Eve is introduced whacking Joel (Rob Morrow) on the head with a skillet. She then insists the physician treat her for various fictional issues, and her eccentricities only build up from there. Later Adam and Eve get married and even have a child, Aldridge.

Mahaffey's performance was so striking that the actor won an Emmy for playing Eve in 1992. According to Gold Derby, Mahaffey hadn't expected to win and was so flustered that she still regrets not kissing her husband before she went onstage. As a result of her success, though, Mahaffey would join a promising sitcom with a strong comedic ensemble. 

Mahaffey was a sweet but spoiled senator's daughter on The Powers That Be

"The Powers That Be," which focuses on a United States senator's dysfunctional family, not only featured one of the all-time great sitcom casts, including David Hyde-Pierce, John Forsythe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Peter MacNicol, Valerie Mahaffey, and Holland Taylor. It was also co-created by David Crane and Marta Kaufmann, shortly before they moved on to "Friends," and produced by sitcom maven Norman Lear (via The AV Club).

However, the show only ran for 21 episodes from 1992 to 1993 over two seasons. Taylor felt that "the network didn't really understand what they had on their hands, and it did not have a long life, much to everyone's sorrow" (via Vulture). Mahaffey especially earned laughs as spoiled daughter Caitlyn Van Horne, with her child-like cry for "Mummy" becoming a signature phrase.

After "The Powers That Be" ended, Mahaffey continued guesting on "Northern Exposure" and appeared on other short-lived series, including "The Client" and "Women of the House." She also took supporting roles in several films, including one that may be recognizable to millennials.

She has a small role in Jungle 2 Jungle

"Jungle 2 Jungle" is probably no one's definition of a cherished childhood classic at this point. Tim Allen stars as Michael, a selfish but successful stockbroker. Michael encounters trouble when he meets the teenage son he never knew, Mimi-Siku (Sam Huntington), a member of a Venezuelan tribe who quickly has problems adapting to New York City life. The 1997 film did fine at the box office (via The Numbers) but received extremely negative reviews from critics, including a 19% "Rotten" score from Rotten Tomatoes. The inherent racism of the premise has also been commented on extensively as well (via ATTN).

But Mahaffey is still giving a fine comedic supporting performance in the film as Jan Kempster, the wife of Richard Kempster (Michael Short), Michael's business partner, and mother of Karen (Leelee Sobieski), Mimi-Siku's crush. Jan's attempts to calm Richard down after Mimi-Siku eats his prized fish by calling this an "inter-cultural misunderstanding" are especially funny, in part because of Mahaffey's gentle delivery. Even when Mimi-Siku is causing chaos in her household, her motherly attempts to soothe tensions are a highlight of the problematic comedy.

She played the infamous Alma Hodge on Desperate Housewives

Arguably one of Mahaffey's most unhinged performances was the recurring role of Alma Hodge on Season 3 of "Desperate Housewives." The ex-wife of Orson Hodge (Kyle MacLachlan), Bree's (Marcia Cross) new husband, Alma had previously faked her own death to torment Orson. But in her first appearance on the show, she turns up alive and well, and ready to turn her ex's life upside down.

With the help of Gloria (Dixie Carter), Orson's own mother, Alma drugs and rapes Orson, in an attempt to get pregnant. But with Bree's help, Orson cuts Gloria off and makes it clear to Alma that he wouldn't help her raise their child. Gloria then locks Alma in her attic so she can't interfere with her murderous plans. But when Alma escapes, she falls off the roof and dies instantly. It's an ignominious end to a notable, and awful, "Desperate Housewives" character.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She received acclaim for her role as a lonely widow in French Exit

Mahaffey is arguably most famous for her television appearances instead of her movies. It's a compliment then, that Living Out Loud praised her performance in "French Exit" as "a film role to match her television work." She was even nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for the movie (via Entertainment Tonight).

The actor plays Madame Reynaud, a lonely Parisian widow whose party for Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) turns out to have no other guests. Reynaud is overly passionate and desperate, but also genuinely wants to be friends, despite Frances' cold insistence that "I've no need of friends in my life."

Mahaffey noted to Living Out Loud that she was surprised at how funny people found Reynaud: "She has the guts to stand up once and a while when people push her too far, and I think that's a great thing that she's so enthusiastic." Like many of Mahaffey's other characters, Reynaud is odd, even eccentric, but she's also very unapologetically herself — a quality the actor has brought to more modern supporting roles ranging from "The Mindy Project" to her latest stint on "Young Sheldon."