Birthplace: Kenosha, WI
You Know Her As: Major Lila Gureau on China Beach; Ellen McGrath on Picket Fences. Mom from Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead (1991), Lynda Hansen on NBC’s Providence.
Did you Know?: Tomei is a non-smoker in real life, and for her role on “Providence,” she used herbal cigarettes.
Concetta Tomei was born on December 30, 1945 and grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin as an only child. Since being an only child was quite lonely, Concetta recounts that “animals were my friends and probably my surrogate brothers and sisters.” Likewise, her father was a police officer who enjoyed doing animal rescue work and he often brought the animals home because he didn’t want them ending up in a shelter. Concetta explains saying that “there would be a litter of kittens and they would want to put them to sleep and my day would bring them home to find homes for them.” Furthermore, she indicted that she grew up loving animals “because of the great love that my mom and dad both had for them.”
While her love for animals was a great passion , Concetta went on to pursue other passions and earned a BS in education from the University of Madison. She taught junior high school in Milwaukee for four years, but she could not ignore her desire to be on the stage. At that time, Tomei became a student at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Arts.
Tomei never actually planned on becoming a performer. In an interview to talkinbroadway.com, she said, “I owe my entire career to my mom and dad, because they allowed my to follow by dream, and then they supported that dream financially. They wanted me to get a degree first. Then, after four years of teaching-I loved teaching, but it’s not my passion. I wanted to see if I had any acting talent, or anything to offer.”
Her career aspirations took her to New York where she soon made her Broadway debut in “The Elephant Man,” then toured opposite David Bowie in the production. Later she appeared in the Off-Broadway production of “Cloud Nine,” directed by Tommy Tune. While in New York expanding on her acting career she still maintained her rescue work, Concetta explains: “I was feeding and trapping cats and doing all those things that I don’t do anymore because it broke my heart and was so time consuming that I didn’t have enough time for my life or career.” She indicated further that though she doesn’t do rescue work anymore she helps by “giving whatever I can, whenever I can, to organizations that do that kind of work and those who are the real warriors out there.”
As her career continued to flourish, Concetta began to focus on acting in TV roles and she moved to Los Angeles in 1986. One of her first TV appearances was in “Amy and the Angel,” an “ABC Afterschool Special.” By 1992 she had been in several episodes of “Picket Fences,” “Wings” and “L.A. Law” with short continuing roles. Later she had brief one-time roles appearances in TV shows like “Ellen,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Murphy Brown,” and “7th Heaven” to name a few. Her most memorable appearances were larger roles like the 1991 movie “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” and on TV shows like “China Beach” and most recently “Providence.” Since “Providence” regularly featured pets on the set as part of the show, Concetta was thrilled to be a pert of the cast. She says “when I first got the role on Providence, I didn’t know there were going to be so many animals on the show, but when I saw that a lot of the scripts had animals in them, I was thrilled to be part of a show that was so concerned with raising the consciousness and awareness about animals. They may be secondary plotlines, but they throw the awareness out there. There is no more powerful medium than television to do that.”
Furthermore, she said, “You have to have a love of what you do. So many people hate their jobs…I was so lucky to find an occupation that I love with all my heart.”
Tomei is married to Norman Mottar Jr., an attorney and businessman. They reside in Los Angeles and have no children.
Biography By Stacy Raduechel