Linda Purl (born September 2, 1955) is an American actress and singer, perhaps best known for portraying Ben Matlock's daughter Charlene Matlock in season one of Matlock.
Purl was born in Greenwich, Connecticut into a theatrical family, her mother being a Broadway actress, her father an actor, and her grandmother the founder of the Actors' Equity Association. At age five, she moved to Japan, where she spent her childhood, becoming the only foreigner to train at the Toho Geino Academy. While at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo, Purl performed in several plays, gaining the role of Louis in The King and I, Bet in Oliver!, and the role of Helen in The Miracle Worker. Furthermore, she was discovered by Toho and appeared in several films.
At age 15, Purl returned to the United States. She attended high school at Wykeham Rise School, a private boarding school for girls, specializing in creative and performing arts, in Washington, Connecticut. While still in High School at Wykeham Rise, she had a role on the soap opera The Guiding Light. After attending Finch College, Ms. Purl went to England to study under Marguerite Beale, before returning to the United States to study at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, and later with Robert Lewis.
After playing a small role in Jory (1973), Purl's first major movie role was in Jonathan Demme's 1975 comedy, Crazy Mama. Subsequent movie appearances have included W.C. Fields and Me (1976), Young Pioneers' Christmas (1976), Leo and Loree (1980), Visiting Hours (1982), The High Country (1984), Viper (1988), Natural Causes (1994), Mighty Joe Young (1998), The Perfect Tenant (2000), and Fear of the Dark (2003).
Linda Purl has played several roles on television series, starting with The Secret Storm— a daytime "soap opera" drama (1973–1974). In 1978, she appeared as newlywed Molly Beaton in the ABC western drama series, The Young Pioneers, set in the Dakota Territory of the 1870s and based on the novels of Rose Wilder Lane. She also acted alongside Shaun Cassidy in the 1979 TV movie Like Normal People. On Happy Days she played two different roles: Richie's occasional girlfriend Gloria in season two of the show (1974), and Fonzie's steady girlfriend Ashley eight seasons later (1982–1983). She also played secret agent Kate Del'Amico in the short-lived series Under Cover, and played Brett Robin in the 1994-1995 series Robin's Hoods.
She has also featured in many movies made for television, including Testimony of Two Men, The Night the City Screamed, Little Ladies of the Night, and Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs. She voiced Delilah in a 1985 direct-to-video episode of The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.
Purl appeared in an all-star cast in the well-regarded historical-biographical TV mini-series of Eleanor and Franklin in 1976, broadcast on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network. Here she portrayed Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt.
As a guest star, Purl has appeared in a 1974 episode of the long-running Hawaiian-locale Hawaii Five-O called "The Hostage", as teenage babysitter "Ruthie" held captive by a deranged veteran. She played two different roles on The Waltons; early in its run, in 1974 where she played sophisticate Alica in the season three episode, "The Spoilers", and in the season five episode, "The Heartbreaker" (1977), where she played Mary Ellen's sister-in-law (and Jason's love interest) Vanessa, and sang a couple songs in this episode. In 1981 she starred in Manions of America. In 1984 she played Nydia, the blind flower girl in the mini-series "The Last Days of Pompeii". In 1985, she appeared in a Murder, She Wrote episode entitled "Murder at the Oasis". In the first season of Matlock (1986–1987), (starring long-time comedy actor Andy Griffith, now in a usually-dramatic role), Purl played Charlene, Ben Matlock's lawyer daughter. She was cast in the series First Monday (2002) as Sarah Novelli, a real estate agent and Justice Joseph Novelli's wife.
After an absence from the "little screen" for almost three decades, Purl appeared in the role of Pam Beesly's mother on NBC's The Office TV series, starting with the season six episode "Niagara" in 2009-2010. Purl appeared in several more episodes throughout the series and was a romantic interest for Steve Carrell's character. In May 2010, Purl made a guest appearance on Desperate Housewives. In 2011, Purl made guest appearances on Showtime's Homeland, playing Elizabeth Gaines. She played Barbara Pelt, mother of Debbie Pelt, in two episodes of HBO's True Blood in 2012. In 2017 Purl appeared in one episode of Designated Survivor. She played an old college supervisor of President Kirkman who assists in appointing nominees to the Supreme Court in the episode, "The Ninth Seat".
Purl has been a regular performer (and part of the original cast) of the international touring play Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners. In November 2007, she appeared at the Théâtre Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo, directed by Marc Sinden, as part of his British Theatre Season, Monaco.
In 2008, Linda Purl opened at the Cleveland Play House in Cleveland, Ohio in the production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, playing Amanda.
Purl launched a jazz music career after leaving Matlock and has released several albums of music, most recently Out of This World – LIVE.
Purl has been married four times, all of which ended in divorce. Her first marriage was in 1980 to Desi Arnaz, Jr., son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; the couple divorced a year later in 1981. From 1988 to 1992, she was married to screenwriter William Broyles Jr.. In 1993, she married screenwriter and producer Alexander Cary, Master of Falkland, with whom she has a son, Lucius (b. 1995). She and Cary divorced in 1999. Lastly, she was married to James Vinson Adams from 2006 to 2011.
- 1974: Hawaii Five-O; episode: "The Hostage" as Ruthie
- 1975, 1982-1983: Happy Days as Ashley Pfister/Gloria (27 episodes)
- 1977: The Waltons; season 5 episode: "Heartbreaker"
- 1985: Murder, She Wrote; episode: "Murder At The Oasis" as Terry Shannon
- 1986–87: Matlock; season 1 episodes as Charlene Matlock
- 1986: The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible; "Samson And Delilah" as Delilah
- 1988: Murder, She Wrote; episode: "Mourning the Wisterias" as Crystal Wendle
- 1993: Murder, She Wrote; episode: "Dead Eye" as Laura Callan
- 1998: Walker Texas Ranger; episode: "Crusader" as Barbara Conway
- 1998: Mighty Joe Young as Dr. Ruth Young
- 2002: Fear of the Dark
- 2002: First Monday as Sarah Novelli (12 episodes)
- 2003: Crossing Jordan as Joan (1 episode)
- 2009: Bones as Mrs. Diana Annenburg (1 episode)
- 2010: Criminal Minds as Colleen Everson (1 episode)
- 2010: Desperate Housewives as Lillian Allen (1 episode)
- 2011: Homeland as Elizabeth Gaines (3 episodes)
- 2012: True Blood as Barbara Pelt (2 episodes)
- 2009-2013: The Office as Helene Beesly (8 episodes)
- 2014: Major Crimes as Doris (1 episode)
- 2014: Reckless as Barbara Fortnum (4 episodes)
- 2017: Designated Survivor (TV series) as Julia Rombauer (1 episode)