Premiering on Sept. 8, 1997, David E. Kelley’s eccentric law dramedy starring Calista Flockhart as the titular character won seven Emmy Awards and four Golden Globes during its five-year run on Fox. Now, Variety looks at what the most memorable fictional Cage and Fish lawyers have been up to since the show debuted 20 years ago.
David E. Kelley
While “Ally McBeal” was on the air, Kelley was also producing the legal drama “The Practice” for rival broadcast network ABC. In an unprecedented move, the shows shared a crossover in 1998. A year later, Kelley won both the drama and comedy series Emmy Awards for the two shows. Since “Ally McBeal” went off the air in 2002, though, he has focused more on writing, producing, and directing dramatic television from “The Practice” spinoff “Boston Legal” to the Kathy Bates-led “Harry’s Law,” and most recently, adaptations “Mr. Mercedes” for the Audience Network and “Big Little Lies,” which starred Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley, for HBO.
Calista Flockhart (Then)
Calista Flockhart played Ally McBeal.
Calista Flockhart (Now)
As the titular character, Flockhart was at the center of all “Ally McBeal” stories, whether they took place in the world of court cases, bad dates, or her own inner mind/biological clock. Flockhart has continued her work with ensemble dramas since this show, from “Brothers and Sisters” to “Full Circle.” She is currently recurring on the superhero drama “Supergirl” on The CW.
Greg Germann (Then)
Greg Germann played Richard Fish.
Greg Germann (Now)
As one half of the partnership behind Cage and Fish, Germann’s Richard became known for his character’s weird mottos and obsession with wattles. Germann himself has become known for roles on a number of television shows through the years, including “House of Lies,” “Raising Hope,” “NCIS,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “Once Upon a Time.” He can currently be seen on the Netflix dark comedy “Friends From College.”
Jane Krakowski (Then)
Jane Krakowski played Elaine Vassal.
Jane Krakowski (Now)
Krakowski has come a long way since playing Ally’s assistant! Right after “Ally McBeal” came to an end, she had an arc as a doctor on “Everwood,” and had stints in about a dozen movies before stepping into the shoes of high maintenance actress Jenna Maroney on Tina Fey’s Hollywood comedy “30 Rock.” Krakowski reteamed with Fey in 2015 for the NBC-turned-Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” where Krakowski has been ever since, in the role of socialite Jacqueline White.
Peter MacNicol (Then)
Peter MacNicol played John Cage.
Peter MacNicol (Now)
It took Ally years to bring John out of his shell and get him doing gymnastics in the unisex bathroom at his firm. But MacNicol hasn’t needed any assistance having a thriving career since his days at Cage and Fish. In 2007, MacNicol spent time on Fox’s dramatic phenomenon “24,” which he followed up with strong arcs on CBS procedurals “Numb3rs” and “CSI: Cyber,” as well as the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” He can now be seen on the HBO political comedy “Veep” and Disney Channel’s “Tangled: The Series.”
Lisa Nicole Carson (Then)
Lisa Nicole Carson played Renee Raddick.
Lisa Nicole Carson (Now)
The former on-screen prosecutor, who also contributed to the “Ally McBeal” soundtrack, re-teamed with Kelley in 2012 and reprised her role as Renee for a special episode of his then-drama “Harry’s Law.” Since then, though, Carson has combined her love and talent for singing and acting with a role in “The New Edition Story.”
Gil Bellows (Then)
Gil Bellows played Billy Allen Thomas.
Gil Bellows (Now)
Billy may have tried a lot of cases, but the one he will always be remembered most for is the one he died during, keeling over in court in the third season. Bellows himself has since gone on to memorable roles in “Smallville, “Flashforward,” “11/22/63,” and most recently, “Patriot.”
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Then)
Courtney Thorne-Smith played Georgia Thomas.
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Now)
Thorne-Smit stuck around “Ally McBeal” even after her on-screen husband died in the third season. But in 2001, she began splitting her time with what became a guest role on this law dramedy with her new gig opposite Jim Belushi on the family sitcom “According to Jim.” She was there for eight years before moving onto the raunchier sitcom “Two and a Half Men” for another five years. Though originally known for dramatic fare like “Melrose Place,” Thorne-Smith has become a comedy queen, most recently appearing on “Fresh Off the Boat.”
Shepard played a lounge singer who worked at a bar the Cage and Fish lawyers would frequent after hard days at work. Her original song “Searchin’ My Soul” was the show’s theme song and her most popular track from her time on the series, which netted two full soundtrack albums, as well as a couple of compilations that included a holiday album. Shepard has released an additional three studio albums and two live albums since her time on “Ally McBeal.” On the acting front, Shepard most recently appeared on Tracey Ullman’s “State of the Union” in 2009.
Portia de Rossi (Then)
Portia de Rossi played Nelle Porter.
Portia de Rossi (Now)
De Rossi joined the cast of “Ally McBeal” in its second season as a new kind of comic relief brought into the firm. She harbored ambitions of becoming partner and had close relationships with her colleagues, from her friendship with Ling (Lucy Liu) to her romantic entanglement with John (Peter MacNicol). De Rossi herself has seen her ambitions take off since the show, first by playing Carolyn Bessette Kennedy in the infamous “America’s Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story” TV movie and then with iconic roles on “Nip/Tuck,” “Better Off Ted,” “Scandal,” and “Arrested Development,” the latter of which she is resuming for Netflix’s second season of the cult comedy revival.
Lucy Liu (Then)
Lucy Liu played Ling Woo.
Lucy Liu (Now)
Liu joined the cast in the second season as the matter-of-fact new lawyer who had a biting wit and seemingly endless knowledge (especially when it came to things of a sexual nature). Liu went on to become known for roles in the “Charlie’s Angels” movie franchise, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” series. But she never strayed too far from TV, taking roles on everything from short-lived “Friends” spinoff, “Joey,” to cult favorites “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Southland,” to CBS procedural and Sherlock Holmes adaptation “Elementary,” on which she currently still stars and sometimes also directs.
James LeGros (Then)
James LeGros played Mark Albert.
James LeGros (Now)
LeGros started his work on “Ally McBeal” in the third season, coming in to replace the newly deceased Billy (Gil Bellows), much to Ally’s personal discomfort, but the audience’s eventual delight. Since then, LeGros has had memorable turns on “Friends,” “Sleeper Cell,” “Girls,” “Revenge,” “Justified,” and “Person of Interest.”
Robert Downey Jr. (Then)
Robert Downey Jr. played Larry Paul.
Robert Downey Jr. (Now)
“Iron Man” himself appeared on “Ally McBeal” for only one season (the fourth), though his role was originally supposed to be bigger. Brought in to play Ally’s new boyfriend, Downey won a SAG and a Golden Globe for the role before succumbing to his drug addiction and entering rehab, rather than continuing on with the fifth, and final, season of the show. Luckily, he got clean and went on to continue his movie star status not only with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also more traditional dramatic fare like “Zodiac” and comedic turns on films like “Tropic Thunder.”
The animated dancing baby that often appeared to Ally to represent her biological clock was actually just a sample file produced and prepared by the original Character Studio development team at Unreal Pictures and Kinetix/Autodesk. Due to its royalty-free access, it appeared in movies, television, video games, and viral videos long after “Ally McBeal” was done with it, including “Family Guy,” a Delta Air Lines safety video, and “White Rabbit Project.” Today this 3D animation style has been refined by more advanced visual effects and motion capture companies, and quite frankly, if “Ally McBeal” were on today, she’d probably be seeing an animated emoji face instead.