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Why Sylvia From The Undoing Looks So Familiar

The psychological thriller The Undoing, Showtime's latest star-studded series, is already a certified hit among viewers. 

Led by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, this tale of east-coast familial drama written by Big Little Lies scribe David E. Kelley and directed by The Night Manager's Susanne Bier has managed to match the premiere ratings of one of HBO's biggest shows in the back half of 2020: social horror Lovecraft Country (via Variety). But considering its high profile and award-winning creative talent, in addition to its much teased shocks and twists, it's not hard to see why so many viewers have eagerly tuned in to The Undoing

The limited series, based on Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel You Should Have Known, centers on Kidman's character Grace Fraser, a successful therapist living the perfect life with her devoted husband (Grant) and son (Noah Jupe). But in the wake of a violent death and her husband's disappearance, Grace finds herself having to dismantle and rebuild her entire life all under the public's very watchful eye. 

While there are quite a few familiar faces among the Showtime series' cast, one of the most unmistakeable is that of Sylvia. On The Undoing, actress Lily Rabe plays Sylvia, yet another successful woman — this time a lawyer and mother — who's a close friend of Grace's. Rabe comes from a family of artists and has spent the last 20 years steadily building a resume full of complex and often dark characters on the big and small screen. Here's why Sylvia from The Undoing looks so familiar. 

Lily Rabe is a regular of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story empire

Although Rabe's racked up quite the diverse résumé during her two-decade-long film and TV career, none of her roles have put her more on the map than her regular work with Ryan Murphy. 

Rabe first crossed paths with the mega-producer in a guest role on an earlier series, Nip/Tuck. The show, which ran for seven seasons on FX, followed the personal and professional lives of plastic surgeons Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon). Rabe appeared on a season 5 episode as Lanie Ainge, the wife of Kyle Ainge (Jeff Hephner), McNamara and Troy's latest client. The two came to the practice following a honeymoon that went south when their car skidded off the road and crashed down a ravine somewhere within the Oregon Coast Range. The two survived ten days in a crashed and freezing SUV but weren't discovered before Lanie and her husband had resorted to cannibalizing themselves in order to survive. 

Around 12 years later, Rabe and Murphy would have yet another macabre meeting — this time with the actress in a much more significant role: Nora Montgomery on American Horror Story: Murder House. Rabe's Nora was an equally entitled, selfish, sad, and confused socialite who was one-half of the titular home's original owners. Among the debut season's main antagonists, Nora is a specter (mostly unbeknownst to herself) who works with Evan Peters' Tate Langdon to steal the baby of the family that's recently moved into her old and very haunted home. 

Following that initial role, Rabe went on to appear in leading, supporting, and guest roles in all but one (including the upcoming tenth season) of American Horror Story. You may recognize her from her appearances as Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Asylum and an episode of Freak Show), Misty Day (Coven and Apocalypse), Aileen Wuornos (two episodes of Hotel), Shelby Miller (Roanoke), and Lavinia Richter (1984).

Lily Rabe appeared on multiple Law & Order spin-offs and led ABC's short-lived mystery thriller The Whispers

Outside the American Horror Story Murphy-verse, Rabe – the daughter of Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe and the late Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated actress Jill Clayburgh — has appeared on New York City stages. She even earned a Tony nomination for her role in The Merchant of Venice. But her small-screen career started on a very different stage, specifically the Dick Wolf TV universe. 

Rabe first guested on "Scared Crazy," a season 5 episode of the NBC series Law & Order: Criminal Intent that centered on a murder of a programmer at tech company. Her very next TV role was on another (and still-running) Law & Order off-shoot: Special Victims Unit. Then, Rabe eventually appeared on the original L&O thereafter. She also popped up in a string of other guest roles on popular broadcast network series like Medium, The Good Wife, and The Walker, and, most recently, FX's Marvel drama Legion

Her first leading role would be on ABC's horror mystery The Whispers, on which she starred opposite Heroes and This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia. Lasting for just one season, the series was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on Ray Bradbury's short story "Zero Hour." Rabe starred as special FBI agent Claire Bennigan, a child specialist who's called to investigate a strange occurrence amongst a town's community of children, who begin sharing stories of "Drill" — an invisible entity who presents itself as an imaginary friend but is a major threat to humanity. 

Rabe's other major TV role was one where she was only heard and not seen: She voiced the antagonistic Honerva on Voltron: Legendary Defender. Once part of the Altean race, Honerva fell in love with Zarkon (voiced by Neil Kaplan), the leader of the Galra, and became the Galran Empress. Both she and Zarkon were soon corrupted by power, and Honerva eventually became the Witch Haggar (voiced by Cree Summer), a high priestess of the Druids and Zarkon's right-hand in his violent quest to conquer the universe. 

Lily Rabe continued her penchant for darker roles in movies like All Good Things and Vice

Despite some of Rabe's more popular work being on the small screen, the actress has appeared in a significant number of films. 

Her earliest work included a small part in 2003's feminist drama Mona Lisa Smile as an art history student, and in the Robert De Niro-led comedy-drama What Just Happened, which is based on writer Art Linson's book and follows a fading Hollywood producer struggling to get his next picture made. Just a year before appearing in a De Niro film, Rabe snagged a supporting role in the 2007 foodie-lovers rom-com No Reservations as Bernadette, one of the waitstaff in a West Village restaurant run by head chef Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Around this time, Rabe's career really started to take off and she began starring in a number of notable projects — like 2010's All Good Things, a Robert Durst-inspired crime thriller led by Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst and directed by The Jinx helmer Andrew Jarecki. The film focuses on real estate heir David Marks (Gosling) and his increasingly volatile relationship with his wife Katie (Dunst), who eventually goes missing and becomes an unsolved disappearance case. Rabe plays Deborah Lehrman, the fictional counterpart to the murdered journalist and writer Susan Berman. Lerhman is mysteriously murdered after her unpublished novel featuring an incident eerily reminiscent of the disappearance of Katie is found after the case against David is re-opened. 

Rabe's other major film credits include another fictionalized take on a controversial figure — this time Liz Cheney — in Adam McKay's critically-acclaimed Vice. She also held a leading role in the indie coming-of-age drama Miss Stevens, which featured a younger version of Dune remake star Timothée Chalamet. One of Rabe's more recent films — the mystery-thriller Fractured, which follows a couple who bring their daughter to a hospital after her arm is fractured, only to realize they've stumbled upon something terrifyingly strange — is also in-line with her long-running penchant for darker roles.