Kathryn Joosten

Kathryn Joosten

Kathryn Joosten, renowned for her exceptional acting skills, earned two Emmy Awards during her illustrious career. She gained widespread fame for portraying Karen McCluskey in “Desperate Housewives” and Dolores Landingham in “The West Wing.” Despite starting her acting career after the age of 40, Joosten left an indelible mark in the American cinema landscape, participating in over 50 diverse projects, predominantly in supporting roles.

What we know about this person

Full name:

Kathryn Joosten

Date of birth:

December 20, 1939

Zodiac sign:



Eustis, Florida, USA

Date of death:

July 2, 2012


California, USA

Age at death:

72 years old



Marital status:

Was married




5' 3" (1.6 m)



Early life

Kathryn Joosten, born Kathryn Rausch, arrived into the world on December 20, 1939, in Eustis, Florida. Raised in a typical American household, her parents, though not wealthy, were committed to nurturing her artistic aptitudes. They enrolled her in various extracurricular activities, from dancing and singing to visual arts, in an effort to cultivate her creative skills. Nevertheless, it became evident early on that her true talents lay elsewhere.

Despite this, Joosten showed academic prowess in school, particularly in subjects like biology and botany. She was deeply interested in practical tasks involving the study of nature, including the behaviors of birds and animals, with a special fascination for entomology. This keen interest in the natural world later played a pivotal role in shaping her professional path.


Kathryn Joosten in Desperate Housewives

Work in a clinic

After completing her education, Joosten embarked on a career in nursing, initially working at the Michael Reese psychiatric hospital in Lake Forest, Illinois. At this point, she envisioned a long-term career in the medical field, finding satisfaction and stability in her nursing role.

However, as the 1980s dawned, Joosten observed a disheartening shift in the treatment approach for mentally ill patients. The change from guaranteed inpatient care to a reliance on outpatient medication deeply troubled her. Joosten herself reflected on this change, expressing dismay at how patients were now being treated. This evolving healthcare landscape, coupled with her divorce from her husband, who was also employed at the clinic, catalyzed her decision to seek a new career direction.

First steps in cinema

Following her departure from the medical profession, Joosten took a decisive step towards a new chapter in her life. She relocated to Chicago and enrolled in acting courses, a move that marked the beginning of her journey in the performing arts. In Chicago, she delved into the fundamentals of acting, meeting a host of creative personalities who helped her rediscover her joy and passion. This educational pursuit rekindled her happiness and brought a newfound sense of fulfillment.

Joosten often mused about her late entry into the world of cinema, sharing a mix of joy and regret. She pondered why it took her until her 40s to embark on an acting career, acknowledging the industry’s fascinating and immersive nature. She expressed a sense of lament for not pursuing acting in her youth, having instead dedicated those years to her work in the clinic, which, in hindsight, did not bring her the joy she sought.

This introspection and newfound passion led to her first acting role in 1984 in the low-budget film “Grandview, U.S.A.” Following this debut, she engaged in local theater productions, further honing her craft. Eight years later, Joosten made another significant life choice, moving to Orlando to join a group of artists at Disney World, a project that she found to be both intriguing and promising for her burgeoning acting career.

Kathryn Joosten Movies and TV Shows

  • 2009

    Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

    Aunt Jackie

  • 2008–2015

    The Mentalist (episode “At First Blush”)

    Gloria Williams

  • 2008

    Bedtime Stories

    Mrs. Dixon

  • 2005–...

    Grey’s Anatomy (episode “Shake Your Groove Thing”)

    Stephanie Drake

  • 2004–2012

    Desperate Housewives

    Mrs. Karen McCluskey-Bender

  • 2001–2010

    Scrubs (3 episodes)

    Barbara O’Neil Tanner

  • 1998–2006

    Charmed (episode “My Three Witches”)


  • 1997–2003

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer (episode “Where the Wild Things Are”)

    Genevive Holt

  • 1994–2009

    ER (episode “A Shift in the Night”)


  • 1993–2018

    The X-Files (episode “Trust No. 1”)

    Agent Edie Boal

Film career development

In a pivotal move in 1995, Kathryn Joosten relocated to Los Angeles, a step that marked a new phase in her acting journey. She initially appeared in guest roles on the popular sitcom “Family Matters.” Her career then branched out into several other significant projects, including roles in “Roseanne” and “Grace Under Fire.” This period of exploration and diverse roles culminated in her securing a regular role in the sitcom “Dharma & Greg” in 1999, although, regrettably, the show was canceled after a few seasons.

The early 2000s brought a significant breakthrough for Joosten with her role in the acclaimed series “The West Wing.” In this show, she portrayed Dolores Landingham, the assistant to the President of the United States, a role that earned her wide acclaim for her exceptional acting skills. Her ability to convey the essence of her characters resonated with audiences, further cementing her status as a talented actress. The series featured a notable cast including Allison Janney, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen, and Janel Moloney, among others.

Joosten also made a significant impact in “Desperate Housewives,” where she seamlessly integrated with the main cast comprising Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Nicollette Sheridan, Brenda Strong, James Denton, Doug Savant, and Ricardo Antonio Chavira. Her talent extended to medical dramas as well, with appearances in “Grey’s Anatomy,” featuring Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr., Jesse Williams, Patrick Dempsey, and Sara Ramirez, and in “Scrubs,” starring Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, and John C. McGinley.


Kathryn Joosten in Scrubs

Personal life and family

Joosten’s personal life was marked by her marriage to a psychiatrist from the Michael Reese clinic, last name Joosten. From this union, she had two sons, Jonathan and Timothy, who later also ventured into film projects. Despite media speculation about possible romantic liaisons with some of her co-stars, Joosten consistently refuted these rumors, maintaining her privacy.


Kathryn Joosten died on July 2, 2012, in California, after a long battle with lung cancer. Her final role in “Desperate Housewives” mirrored her real-life struggle, as her character also succumbed to lung cancer. Just two weeks following her character’s death on the show, Joosten tragically passed away from the same illness. Having been diagnosed in 2001, she courageously fought the disease for over a decade. Her passing created a significant void in the acting world.

Published: December 6, 2023
Updated: June 24, 2024