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Why Dr. Rachel Cranston From NCIS Looks So Familiar

Dr. Rachel Cranston, a supporting character on the CBS procedural "NCIS," is a dedicated, intelligent professional woman who has been locked in a multi-episode pas de dux with the notoriously recalcitrant Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), who refuses to submit to psychotherapy with her. Dr. Cranston first pops up in the 2011 episode "A Man Walks Into a Bar..." from Season 8. In that episode, fans learn that Rachel is a psychologist with some surprising connections to the show's main cast. She's the older sister of the late NCIS Special Agent Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander), a fact that first surfaces when she arrives to give psychological examinations to the "NCIS" crew. The gang discovers that Dr. Cranston took the assignment knowing that they had been Caitlin's colleagues and friends, and she'd been hoping to find closure for her sister's sudden death by interviewing them.

Dr. Cranston also features on Season 9's "Nature of the Beast," where Gibbs calls on her to help Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) when he suffers temporary amnesia after being shot. She shows up a third time in "Psych Out," also part of Season 9, when the friend of a psychiatrist who was found hanged in a suburban home. She helps the team comb through the clues to find the real perpetrator of the crime. Finally, in Season 11's "Double Back," she returns to help counsel Tony when he encounters another traumatic event.

The actress who plays Dr. Rachel Cranstone will definitely seem familiar to anyone who's familiar with big-screen hits from the '90s and small-screen dramas from the '00s. 

Wendy Makkena got her start on a soap opera

According to her IMDb profile, Wendy Makkena got her start in an acting environment that fostered many young actors — the world of the soap operas. Her first credited role is an eight-episode run on the NBC soap opera "Santa Barbara," where she portrayed Katie Timmons in 1986. Katie is the little sister of crooked D.A. Keith Timmons (Justin Deas), and she dies by suicide after she is romantically rejected by Cruz Castillo (A. Martinez). Years after Katie's death, Keith tries to claim revenge on Cruz for hurting his sister but ultimately fails to drive the cop out of town.

Makkena jumped from the small screen to the big screen with her next role, appearing in the 1988 hit baseball drama "Eight Men Out" as Kate Jackson, wife of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), who takes part in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The team fails at fixing the World Series, and Jackson ruins his reputation, sending the world of baseball into a tizzy. After popping up in the TV shows "Dream Street," "Law & Order," and "Monsters," Makkena's career would take off in a whole new way.

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She gained worldwide attention for her Sister Act

Wendy Makkena reached worldwide notice with her role as the shy Sister Mary Robert in the 1991 blockbuster "Sister Act." The action-comedy follows Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg), a Reno-based entertainer who finds herself in witness protection and is forced to hide out in a convent after seeing her mobster boyfriend (Harvey Keitel) murder an informant. While hanging out at the convent, Deloris becomes emotionally involved in the fate of the financially flagging parish and the convent's poorly organized choir, finding several diamonds in the rough and teaching them how to have fun while they sing.

One of the most heartwarming arcs throughout the movie is Makkena's as Sister Mary Robert, who must overcome her shyness to embrace the talent she harbors with her serious set of pipes. By the time the film's 1993 sequel, "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit," rolls around, she's finally found joy in her ability to sing out. And guess what, "Sister Act" fans — a third movie is supposed to debut on Disney+ at some point in the near future. And, if you're curious as to whether or not those soaring vocals were really Makkena's, unfortunately, they were not. Sister Mary Robert's singing voice in both films was provided by actress Andrea Robinson, per Digital Spy.

Makkena helped Air Bud get his game on

Between "Sister Act" and "Sister Act 2," Wendy Makkena traded habits for home-field advantages, taking over for Madonna in the role of "All The Way" Mae Mordabito in the short-lived CBS sitcom adaption of Penny Marshall's big-screen hit "A League of Their Own," according to her IMDb page. However, generations of '90s kids perhaps know her best as Jackie Framm, single mom of Josh (Kevin Zegers) and owner of everyone's favorite basketball-loving golden retriever, the titular "Air Bud."

In the heartwarming 1997 movie, Jackie and Josh don't know that Buddy actually escaped from his abusive owner at a circus, which explains his mastery of the art of balancing a ball on the tip of his nose while jumping on his hind legs. Soon, Buddy is the star of Josh's school basketball team, his fractious relationship with his mom is on the mend, and the Framm duo must team up to protect Bud from being dognapped by his former owners.

She played a 1960s housewife on the short-lived '00s sitcom Oliver Beene

During the early '00s, Wendy Makkena became a journeywoman actress and a frequent face on multiple long-lived drama series. According to her IMDb profile, she appeared as Susie Nixon on CBS' "Judging Amy" eight times, showed up on "Law & Order" again as a different character, and appeared on nine episodes of the Denis Leary-led series "The Job." 

This spate of recurring roles helped Makkena land leads in two short-lived comedies. The first was the '60s-set Fox sitcom "Oliver Beene," in which she plays Charlotte Caraline Beene, the off-kilter mother of the titular Oliver (Grant Rosemeyer). The series also starred Grant Shaud ("Murphy Brown") as her husband and Andrew Lawrence ("Recess") as the couple's eldest son. The quirky series only lasted for two seasons and was eventually canceled in 2005. Makkena then ended up in the CBS sitcom "Listen Up!" where she played Dana Kleinman, the wife of Jason Alexander's sports talk show host Tony Kleinman, for a single season.

Makkena had a supporting role in a charming movie about Mister Rogers

Post-"NCIS," Wendy Makkena appeared twice on the Prime Video limited series "Alpha House," the TNT drama "Rizzoli & Isles," and Netflix's "The Discovery." She also appeared on the CBS procedural "Bull," which stars her "NCIS" co-star Michael Weatherly in the lead role of Jason Bull.

But, most intriguingly, Makkena appears in the Fred Rogers biopic "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." In the tearjerker, she portrays Dorothy, the second wife of Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), father of protagonist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys). In the movie, it is revealed that Jerry egregiously cheated on Lloyd's mother as she lay dying, effectively abandoning Lloyd and his sister in the wake of her death. When Jerry tries to reconnect with Lloyd, Lloyd finds it hard to forgive him and is bitter that Jerry's marriage with Dorothy seems so solid. However, there is a tender moment between the Vogels when Fred comes to visit (via YouTube), allowing Dorothy to bear witness to Fred's calming demeanor. 

Whether she's playing a mom, the girl next door, or a femme fatale, Wendy Makkena manages to project pure sincerity. After four decades in Hollywood, her career continues to thrive — and that is truly a testament to her talent.