Thompson was born on May 31, 1961 in Rochester, Minnesota, one of five children of Clifford and Barbara Barry Thompson, a musician. She has two sisters, Coleen Goodrich and Shannon Katona, and two brothers, Andrew and Barry. Her mother is of Irish descent. She studied ballet as a girl and danced professionally by the age of 14, winning scholarships to the San Francisco Ballet, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and the American Ballet Theatre. When she was 20 years old and dancing professionally with American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company (then known as ABT II), the time came to decide if she would move to the main company. Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was the artistic director at the time, told her, “You’re a lovely dancer, but you’re too stocky.” In her words, that was “my epiphany when I decided to stop dancing and not be a ballet dancer. It was a wonderful moment because I could’ve been banging my head against the wall for another 10 years.” She changed her focus to acting. Moving to New York at age 20, she performed in a number of Burger King advertisements in the 1980s along with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Elisabeth Shue, her eventual co-star in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III.
Thompson made her home-media screen debut in 1982 as Cecily “Sissy” Loper in the interactive live-action video game MysteryDisc: Murder, Anyone? and her movie debut in 1983, with Jaws 3-D. She recalled the film as “the very first movie I ever got, but I lied and said I had done a couple of other movies, so when I showed up, I really knew absolutely nothing. Also, I had said that I knew how to water ski. And I did not. So I had, like, five days to learn really, really complicated water-skiing things, because I had to fit into the Sea World water-skiing show. I don’t even know how to swim!” She followed this with All the Right Moves (1983), Red Dawn (1984), and The Wild Life (1984). Thompson’s most famous role is that of Lorraine Baines McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, with the first film released in 1985. Thompson’s character is the mother of Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, whom Marty meets when she is a 1950s adolescent age after he travels back in time; he has to avoid having Lorraine fall in love with him instead of with his future father, George (Crispin Glover), which leads to awkward scenes where Lorraine is attracted to him. In 1986, Thompson starred in SpaceCamp and Howard the Duck. For the latter film, she sang several songs on the soundtrack in character, as musician Beverly Switzler, who was the lead vocalist for a band called Cherry Bomb. The recordings appeared on the soundtrack album and on singles. Rounding out film appearances in the late 1980s, Thompson starred in Some Kind of Wonderful, Casual Sex?, and The Wizard of Loneliness. She also had a prominent role in the 1989 TV film Nightbreaker, for which she was nominated for a CableACE Award. In the early 1990s, Thompson starred as the mother of the eponymous character in Dennis the Menace (1993), the villainess in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), and a snooty ballet instructor in The Little Rascals (1994). She also appeared in several TV films throughout the 1990s, including The Substitute Wife (1994) and The Right To Remain Silent (1996). Thompson found moderate critical and popular success as the star of the NBC sitcom Caroline in the City from 1995 to 1999. In 1996, Thompson received a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Series, while her show won for Favorite New TV Comedy Series. Thompson also starred in A Will of their Own, a 1998 American television mini-series directed by Karen Arthur. The film follows six generations of females within one family, and their struggle for power and independence in America. The film debuted on October 18, 1998, on the NBC network to strong critical reviews. After a break from acting, Thompson went on to star in several Broadway plays. She later appeared in a TV series called For the People, which only lasted one season. She then starred in a TV film, Stealing Christmas (2003), starring Tony Danza and Betty White. Thompson also appeared in several episodes of the dramedy series Ed and in a guest role for one episode in 2004 on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; she played a woman whose embryos were stolen. In 2005, Thompson began a series of made-for-TV films for the Hallmark Channel, in which she plays Jane Doe, an ex-secret agent turned housewife, who helps the government solve mysteries. Thompson directed two films from the Jane Doe series – Jane Doe: The Harder They Fall and Jane Doe: Eye of the Beholder. Thompson was a featured singer on Celebrity Duets and the second contestant eliminated in 2006. In April 2007, she starred in another television film, A Life Interrupted, which premiered on Lifetime television. Thompson guest-starred on the show Head Case in January 2008. She appeared in the TV film Final Approach, which debuted in the U.S. on May 24, 2008. Her film credits include Exit Speed, Spy School, Splinterheads, and Adventures of a Teenage Dragon Slayer. She starred in the television movie The Christmas Clause, which received good reviews and ratings. Thompson stars in Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake, an adventure game released in November 2012 by Big Fish Games. Thompson’s daughter Madelyn Deutch plays a paranormal television-series host. From 2011 to 2017, Thompson starred in the ABC Family series Switched at Birth, about a family realizing their 16-year-old daughter is not biologically theirs and was switched with another baby at the hospital. In 2014, Thompson was a competitor on the 19th season of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev. The couple was eliminated in the quarterfinals, finishing sixth place. She also played Irene Steele in the film Left Behind. On April 27, 2017, Thompson was cast in the film Little Women, the seventh adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, written and directed by first-time Director Clare Niederpruem. Thompson portrayed Marmee March, the mother who helps her daughters navigate the struggles and heartbreaks of adolescence and adulthood. The film was released on September 28, 2018, to coincide with the book’s 150th-anniversary publishing date.
Thomas Francis Wilson Jr. was born in Philadelphia on April 15, 1959, and grew up in nearby Wayne. While attending Radnor High School, he was involved in dramatic arts, served as president of the debate team (where his partner was future New York Times columnist David Brooks), played the tuba in the high school band, and was the drum major of the school marching band. He studied international politics at Arizona State University and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. In 1979, he got his first significant stage experience as a comedian.
In 1981, Wilson moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. He shared an apartment with fellow aspiring comedians Andrew Dice Clay and Yakov Smirnoff, and later joked that he “taught them both about America”. He had a small role in the second season of NBC’s Knight Rider in an episode titled “A Knight In Shining Armor”. Wilson’s breakthrough role was as the bully Biff Tannen in the 1985 film Back to the Future. He returned in the sequels Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III to not only reprise his role as Biff, but to also play Biff’s grandson Griff Tannen and great-grandfather Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen. In every Back to the Future film, his character ends up in a pile of manure after trying to kill or hurt Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly. He reprised his role as Biff and voiced various Tannen relatives in the animated series. Wilson did not reprise his role as Biff in the initial versions of Telltale’s Back to the Future: The Game released in 2011, being replaced by Kid Beyond. When the game was ported to the PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in 2015 in commemoration of the original film’s 30th anniversary, Wilson returned to provide Biff’s voice in these newer versions. In 1992, he voiced gangster Tony Zucco in Batman: The Animated Series and police detective Matt Bluestone in the animated series Gargoyles. He later went to co-star with Mark Hamill in the video game Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger. It was the third chapter in the Wing Commander series, but the first to feature live action and was extremely popular at the time. The character played by Wilson was Major Todd “Maniac” Marshall, a fellow starfighter pilot to Hamill’s character. Wilson also starred in the sequels Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (1995) and Wing Commander: Prophecy (1997) and contributed his voice to the animated series Wing Commander Academy (1996) in the same role. He also guest starred in an episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in 1997. Wilson played McKinley High School’s Coach Ben Fredricks in the 1999–2000 NBC comedy-drama Freaks and Geeks. Coach Fredricks dated Bill Haverchuck’s mother. Wilson was briefly reunited with his Back to the Future co-star Christopher Lloyd in the 1994 film Camp Nowhere. Wilson has done voice-over work for the Nickelodeon television series SpongeBob SquarePants. He has voiced many villainous characters that are physically strong and menacing, such as Flats the Flounder in the third-season episode “The Bully”, The Tattletale Strangler in “SpongeBob Meets the Strangler”, and the non-villainous character Reg the Club Bouncer in “No Weenies Allowed”. In 2005, he played Coach Phelps in the TV series Zoey 101. In 2009, he released his very first stand-up comedy special and second comedy album, Tom Wilson: Bigger Than You. He hosted a podcast, Big Pop Fun, on the Nerdist Network from 2011 to 2014. The podcast featured Tom sharing stories of his career, as well as informal chats with show business friends including Samm Levine, Blake Clark, Steve Oedekerk and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Wilson currently maintains a YouTube channel, where he regularly vlogs. As of April 2020, his channel has over 34,000 subscribers.
Wilson married Caroline Thomas on July 6, 1985. They have four children together. Wilson is a devout Catholic and released a contemporary Christian album in 2000 called In the Name of the Father. He is also a painter in his spare time, and many of his paintings focus on classic children’s toys. In 2006, he was selected to join the California Featured Artist Series at Disneyland. With the rise in popularity of the Back to the Future series, many people began to ask Wilson questions about his experiences making the films. He found the repetitive nature of the questions to be both hilarious and frustrating, and wrote a song about them titled “Biff’s Question Song” which he includes in his stand-up routine.