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Why Professor Stromwell From Legally Blonde Looks So Familiar

2001's Legally Blonde is one of those movies that require a lot of charisma from its actors, and fortunately, everyone involved seems to have a massive surplus of it. The story of colorful California girl Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) taking her seemingly lighthearted attitude and extremely pink fashion sense to Harvard Law School is basically a variation of the classic Cinderella story, only Elle starts out as a princess archetype and proves herself in the cutthroat world of law over the course of the movie. The end result is so enduringly popular that you can expect Legally Blonde 3 to drop sometime in 2022.

Witherspoon is quite obviously the movie's star, but she doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting by herself. Elle receives ample fire support from folks like Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson) and Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair) — as well as one of the most notorious characters in the movie, Professor Elspeth Stromwell. The stern teacher seems like an obvious villain at first, but she's actually a genuinely supportive person who merely has high standards. In the turning point of the movie, she even delivers Elle one of the better pep talks in cinema. Everyone together now: "If you're going to let one stupid prick ruin your life, you're not the girl I thought you were."

If you were impressed by Professor Stromwell's sheer onscreen presence and wonder where you've seen the actress before, we've got you covered. Here's why Professor Stromwell from Legally Blonde looks so familiar.

Holland Taylor is Judge Roberta Kittleson on The Practice

If there's one single show that most folks probably associate with actress Holland Taylor, it's ABC's The Practice. From 1998 to 2003, she portrayed Judge Roberta Kittleson on David E. Kelley's hit legal drama. The memorably promiscuous judge was so popular that in 2000, she even popped up on Kelley's other popular law show of the era, Ally McBeal. Taylor was in her mid-fifties when she took the role, and per the Los Angeles Timesshe was absolutely overjoyed to play a mature character who's so in touch with her desires. "I think we've gone through a 20-year backlash against portraying women who are humans and fully viable sexually and psychologically, intelligent and capable," the actress said in 1999, while describing the chance to play such a character a "matchless opportunity." Judging by the fact that she won an Emmy for the role that year and was nominated for another in 2000, the world certainly agreed with her. 

Of course, it's not like she just walked in the door and started acting Emmy-worthily. Taylor has been working in the entertainment industry pretty steadily since the late 1960s, and she's had major roles in so many shows that it would be more surprising if you weren't familiar with her work. Older audiences might remember her from The Edge of Night, Bosom Buddies, or perhaps Going Places, while younger viewers might recognize her from her stint as Peggy Peabody on the Showtime drama The L Word or her turn as Ida Silver on Audience's Stephen King crime drama Mr. Mercedes.

Holland Taylor is Truman's mother in The Truman Show

One of Holland Taylor's most high-profile big screen appearances is a highly meta one. She plays actress Alanis Montclair, who in turn plays Angela Burbank, the mother of a man called Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). The movie in question is, of course, 1998's The Truman Show, Peter Weir's peculiar dramedy about a young man who slowly becomes aware that he's led his entire life as the star of a giant TV show. 

Taylor's fake mom character is merely playing the role for a payday, attempts to guilt her "son" into becoming a father, and is utterly dishonest with Truman under orders of the producer Christof (Ed Harris). As such, she's both an effectively awful character and a nice riff on Taylor's overall tendency to play strong women. The Truman Show is an absolute critical darling, certified 95-percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – and Taylor certainly pulls her weight in order to elevate the movie.

Holland Taylor is Evelyn Harper on Two and a Half Men

From 2003 to 2015, Taylor provided Chuck Lorre's long-running CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men a touch of class (of sorts) as Evelyn Harper, the self-obsessed, bisexual mother of Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and Alan (Jon Cryer). An unabashed hedonist whose classy facade constantly fails to hide the dirty mind within, her libido is more than a match for that of her famous The Practice character. However, her actual personality is a very different beast, as her neglectful and aloof manner earns her nicknames like "Uber-cougar," "Black Widow," and "Satan" — from her own offspring, no less. 

In a 2011 interview with AARPTaylor revealed that her personal relationship with her TV sons' actors was considerably closer. "I refer to them as my sons, and get quite a sense of delight thinking of them as mine," she said. "There was a Mother's Day event at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and both Jon and Charlie came and gave me an armful of roses. I was blown away. It was enormously fun." Again, the powers that be agreed, and she's received no less than four Emmy nominations for the role.