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Why Holly From Big Shot Looks So Familiar

Few egos are allowed to go unchecked on television. 

Every arrogant jerk needs someone to burst his bubble. Every loudmouth gets a person who can tell him to shut up. When a Disney+ sports dramedy — no, not Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, but the service's other sports dramedy, Big Shot — stars a well-known but occasionally volatile coach played by a legendary 1980s heartthrob, chances are it's going to pair him with a moderating influence. 

On paper, that's the role for Holly Barrett, the assistant coach of the basketball team at a fancy all-girls academy that appoints well-known but anger-prone Marv Korn (John Stamos) to run its team. Marv was a men's college coach before being ousted by the NCAA, and it's safe to say there's going to be some rough patches as he and his new team learn to work together. It seems likely that down-to-earth Holly will be the one trying to smooth things over. 

The character of Holly was originally written to be younger, and so the series had originally cast Unreal's Shiri Appleby, but Deadline reported that the decision was later made to tweak Holly and Marv's relationship in order to make them closer in age and more like peers rather than mentor/mentee. Needing a substitute, show creator David E. Kelley reached for an actress he knew he could trust, a veteran of both of his shows and multiple high school series – Jessalyn Gilsig.

Jessalyn Gilsig played a social studies teacher on Boston Public

Big Shot won't be the first time Jessalyn Gilsig has worked on a series about high school life, or on one developed by Kelley. Her big break came when she landed a lead role in a different school-set show, Boston Public. It was a part she worked up to — appearing first in small roles on Kelley's other shows The Practice and the short-lived Snoops – before the showrunner tabbed her for his next project.

As social studies teacher Lauren Davis, Gilsig was often tasked with playing one of the adults in the room not just in the classroom full of students, but also with her eccentric and unorthodox peers. It was a tough role to fill at Winslow High School, where nearly every week seemed to bring a new brewing scandal, be it one involving the curriculum or something more sordid relating to sex or violence.

It's perhaps not surprising then that Ms. Davis didn't make it past the second season before taking a new job at a private school somewhere. Gilsig, for her part, told Backstage that she left because she felt the loss of Kelley as he started to take a step back from writing the show to focus on other projects. "Ultimately the show changed a lot," she said. "So I really had to sort of assess where I was, and I said, 'I'm really not growing. I'm not becoming a better actor from this.'"

She played a recurring love/hate interest on Nip/Tuck

Gilsig returned to the theater after Boston Public, according to Backstage, but it wasn't long before she secured another big television role as a promiscuous real estate agent named Gina Russo on FX's Nip/Tuck.

Gina first meets Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) at a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting, an encounter that does not prove helpful for either of their recoveries. Gina discovers she's pregnant, and Christian helps to care for the child even after he learns he's not the father. He is eventually granted custody after the biological father dies, which Gina protests and then learns to accept. 

Gina learns in season 2 that she's HIV-positive, which brings a more sympathetic note to hers and Christian's relationship as he helps her learn to manage her diagnosis. But the love/hate dynamic never truly goes away. This leads to what E! calls one of the most shocking moments in Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy's long career of producing shocking moments for television — when Gina seduces Christian on the rooftop of his practice and ends up falling to her death during the act.

Jessalyn Gilsig played a jealous wife on Glee

In 2009, Murphy brought Gilsig back for another difficult and unlovable role in a new project of his, the musical comedy Glee. Gilsig played Terri Schuester, the jealous and scheming wife of glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), who fakes a pregnancy, manipulates his co-workers, and drugs the glee club in increasingly desperate efforts to keep her husband, who's been growing closer to school guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays). Spoiler alert: Yeah, they don't work. 

She was perhaps designed to be a character whom audiences loved to hate, but in the end, viewers mostly just hated her. Gilsig told the Los Angeles Times that the, umm, glee with which critics and audiences attacked Terri was hard not to take personally at times, but that she ultimately just wanted to do a good job. "[Murphy] was very candid about it being a really difficult part," she said. "How else can Will come off as sympathetic if he's going to flirt so blatantly with this woman at school unless he has this really dysfunctional marriage at home? So in some ways I knew I was a sacrificial lamb."

Gilsig played a shrewd widow on Vikings

Soon after her time as a regular on Glee came to an end, Gilsig got a role that took her about as far from Lima, Ohio, as you can get, playing the powerful Siggy on the historical drama Vikings.

Siggy begins the series in a position of power, as the wife of Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), ruler of Kattegat. But it isn't long before her husband loses his power struggle with Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), forcing her to use her cunning to survive. Though she never forgives Ragnar for killing her husband, she allies herself with him, navigating the complicated relationship between him and his brother Rollo (Clive Standen). She soon proves to be a valuable — if not entirely trustworthy — member of the circle of power protecting Kattegat, particularly when Ragnar is leading raiding parties overseas.

But Gilsig's time on the show came to a premature end. She told Entertainment Weekly that family concerns made her reluctant to commit to the show's long overseas shooting schedule and that she approached showrunner Michael Hirst about leaving the show. The ending the pair developed for Siggy's character was one of the show's more memorable, both for how peaceful it was on a series that favors grisly, traumatic deaths and for what it revealed about her ultimate loyalties. 

When two of Ragnar's sons foolishly fall through a frozen river, Siggy dives in after them, pulling them to freedom. While still in the water, she has a vision of her own dead daughter, which convinces her to let herself go and succumb to the cold.