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What Happened To The Actress Who Played Mary Robert In Sister Act?

How do you solve a problem like Sister Mary Robert? In Sister Act, Mary Robert (Wendy Makkena) has joined the choir at Saint Katherine's Convent in San Francisco, but she is so timid that she insists on lip-synching in the back rather than let anyone hear her voice. It's only after the arrival of Sister Mary Clarence/Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) that she learns to lift her voice, which turns out to be the answer to a choir director's prayers. 

Now there's talk of a third movie in the franchise being made for Disney+. Goldberg says she hopes to bring back as much of the original cast as possible, which begs the question, what have the nuns from Sister Act been up to in the years since Sister Act 2's release in 1993?

Plot-wise, that should be an easy question to answer; most of the nuns are presumably still ensconced in their chosen career. But, in the real world, many of the actors who played the nuns have spent the years since showing off a range that would put Sister Mary Robert to shame. Makkena's no exception, having appeared both on the stage and on screens big and small.

A return to the stage

In all honesty, Makkena didn't perform Sister Mary Robert's vocals for Sister Act; her singing voice was actually provided by Andrea Robinson. But before her role as everyone's favorite timid nun, Makkena did what a lot of actor do before landing move roles: she performed on stage. She made her Broadway debut with a small part in a 1987 production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, which starred Peter O'Toole and Amanda Plummer, according to Playbill's vault. 

Following Sister Act, she made her return to the stage to play one of the lead roles, Terry, in the jazz play Side Man in 1998. Makkena would later appear as Carmen Berra — the wife of Yogi Berra — in the off-Broadway run of the Yankees-themed drama Bronx Bombers, which featured, among other people, actor Christopher Jackson as Derek Jeter (via Playbill).

Makkena is also a founder of the children's organic snack food company Ruby's Rockets, which sells dairy-free freezer pops and yogurt alternatives.

Supporting Air Bud

Sister Act isn't the only franchise Makkena helped launch on the big screen. In the original Air Bud — you know, the one in which the dog still plays just basketball and not football, soccer, baseball or volleyball — Makkena appeared as Jackie Framm, the mother of 12-year-old Josh (Kevin Zegers) and 2-year-old Andrea (Jessebel and Kati Mather). Jackie moves her family from Virginia to the fictional town of Fernfield, Washington, after her husband, a test pilot, is killed in a plane crash. She's skeptical at first when her son finds and brings home a Golden Retriever that he's named Buddy, but agrees to let the dog stay with the family until Christmas, while they attempt to locate his owner. When Josh then bonds with the dog over basketball, she decides to allow the family to keep him. Josh joins his school's basketball team, and Buddy's talent for launching the ball through the hoop via his nose earns him a place as mascot and halftime entertainment.

Sitcom veteran

Makkena has appeared on more than 40 television series in her career, according to the Internet Movie Database, but she landed her two longest-running roles in consecutive years in the early 2000s. The first, starting in 2003, was as the title character's mother, Charlotte, in Fox's 1960s-set family sitcom Oliver Beene. The show's biggest names included David Cross, who provided the show's narration as an adult Oliver, and the women who would play small parts as Oliver's crushes: Amanda Michalka as Bonnie and Maggie Grace as the Swedish immigrant Elke. The show received an abbreviated first season as a replacement for Futurama, according to Vulture, but was cancelled part of the way through the second.

Makkena also had a role on a short-lived show with sitcom powerhouse Jason Alexander. On Listen Up!, she played Dana Kleinman, wife of Tony Kleinman (Alexander), who was a thinly-veiled version of the sportswriter and TV personality Tony Kornheiser. The show's ratings were decent, but it was a critical failure and ended up being cancelled after one season.

Part of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

More recently, Makkena appeared in the 2019 drama A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which starred Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers of children's television fame. Makkena played Dorothy, the second wife of Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), whose son Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) is profiling Rogers for Esquire. Jerry cheated on Lloyd's mother while she had cancer and abandoned the family when Lloyd and his sister were kids, and much of the film concerns how meeting Rogers helps Lloyd reconnect with his father. As Dorothy, Makkena is not so much the target of Lloyd's anger as a living reminder of it, and so she attempts to be unobtrusive in her scenes with the feuding family. 

In an interview with Alternative Mindz, Makkena said "Once I was on the set and I went to speak with Tom while he was in costume, I was just star struck and so I decided I would use that a little bit and go 'Well this is got be how Dorothy feels.' She doesn't know anybody and she's new to the family. She has not been introduced to anybody, so just lean into that."

Makkena's involvement in Sister Act 3 is currently up in the air, but safe to say if Sister Mary Robert makes her return, it won't be to remain unobtrusive.