Celebrities you didn’t know were from St. Louis
A walk along the Delmar Loop will provide you with a whole who’s who of famous St. Louisans: Scott Joplin, Chuck Berry, T. S. Eliot—the list goes on. But there are also plenty of younger, more contemporary celebrities who are from St. Louis. Here, Cadenza looks into some celebrities whose St. Louis roots aren’t so well-publicized.
With her exceedingly warm and friendly disposition, it’s no wonder that Ellie Kemper has her roots in the Midwest. Best known for playing adorable receptionist Erin on “The Office” and innocent newlywed Becca in “Bridesmaids,” Kemper was born in Kansas City, Mo., and moved to St. Louis when she was five years old. She went to high school at the private John Burroughs School, where she developed an interest in theater and comedy. In fact, one of her high school acting teachers was Jon Hamm, a fellow St. Louis native and John Burroughs alum. And although Kemper attended Princeton University, she has a number of connections to Wash. U.: her grandmother is the namesake for the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on campus, and her father, David W. Kemper, serves as vice chair of Wash. U.’s Board of Trustees. –Katharine Jaruzelski
The actress known for her roles as Cindy Lou Who (in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) and Jenny Humphrey (in “Gossip Girl”) is a St. Louis native, despite the fact that she didn’t spend that much time here. Born in 1993, she spent most of her childhood flying to either New York or Los Angeles as she attempted to break into Hollywood as a child star. The actress-turned-rocker also received dance training at the local Center of Creative Arts. Now the frontwoman of the rock band The Pretty Reckless, Momsen got her start songwriting when she wrote a piece trying to get people to donate to the Humane Society. Her morbid tendencies also apparently took hold early on—she once composed a song about her dad’s dead dog while playing on her backyard swingset. Her family eventually moved away after age 10, but she still credits St. Louis as her home when she tours here occasionally. –Kimberly Henrickson
Born in Western Springs, Ill., and raised in Webster Groves, Jonathan Franzen isn’t quite a celebrity, but he’s famous nonetheless. Known for his novels “The Corrections” (2001) and “Freedom” (2010), Franzen is heralded as one of America’s greatest contemporary authors. His debut and lesser-known novel “The Twenty-Seventh City” (1988) is set in a declining St. Louis in the year 1984. His fiction shows a general fixation on the Midwest: the town of St. Jude in “The Corrections” is a fictional substitute for St. Louis, and some of his other novels are set in Evanston, Ill., and St. Paul, Minn. If you don’t know Franzen from his writing, then perhaps you might recognize him from an episode of “The Simpsons” titled “Moe’N’a Lisa” or in Gary Shteyngart’s trailer for his memoir “Little Failure,” which also featured actors James Franco, Rashida Jones and Alex Karpovsky. Franzen is currently working on his fifth novel.–Tina Xiang
Jon Hamm, the star of acclaimed AMC drama “Mad Men,” is a St. Louis native. He lived in the suburbs of Creve Coeur and Ladue and attended John Burroughs School. He would later return to teach acting at Burroughs, and Kemper (featured above) was among his students. Many Washington University students already knew that fact from when Kemper spoke in Graham Chapel in April 2012. After struggling as an actor, he finally broke through in 2007 thanks to “Mad Men.” He’s been nominated for an Emmy for that program six times and also received three nominations for his memorable guest-starring performance on “30 Rock” as idiot doctor Drew Baird. He has remained true to his St. Louis roots by remaining a diehard fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues. Hamm can often be spotted in paparazzi photos wearing a Blues hat, but most people notice his ample blessing in the below-the-belt region. So next time somebody questions why you would choose to go college in St. Louis, say that it’s the birthplace of American manhood. –Georgie Morvis
Born and raised in St. Louis, Evan Peters has deep roots here. Growing up in the Ballwin area, he went to St. Joseph Catholic School in Manchester, Mo. When he was 14, he moved with his family to Grand Blanc, Mich. After only living there for a year, Peters moved to Los Angeles with his mom when he was 15, landing his first TV roles in commercials and “Phil of the Future.” His roles in each of the three seasons of “American Horror Story” are his most popular and have brought him the most fame. On the set, he’s acted with other St. Louis natives, like Riley Schmidt, the actor who portrayed the Rubber Man in season one of the show. Peters has said he misses the Midwestern spirit and interconnectedness of St. Louis while he’s in Hollywood. Lucky for him, the majority of his immediate family still lives in St. Louis, and he often comes back to town for holidays and summers.
There is an outtake from season six of “The Office” where Jenna Fischer and Kemper are shooting a talking-head interview together and Fischer breaks from character to remark that both women are just “two girls from St. Louis.” It’s no surprise. Like Kemper, Fischer seems to embody the Midwestern spirit: cheerful and down to earth. Although she was born in Indiana, she was raised in suburban St. Louis and attended Nerinx Hall High School, a private, all-girls Catholic school in Webster Groves, Mo. She also stayed in Missouri for college, studying theater and journalism at Truman State University. While she is best known for her role as Pam Halpert on “The Office,” Fischer started her professional acting career here in Missouri by performing with a touring murder mystery dinner theater group while in college. She speaks highly of her St. Louis roots in interviews and on talk shows, praising Imo’s Pizza and always making St. Louisans look good. –Elena Wandzilak
John Goodman is a Missourian through and through. The Golden Globe-winning actor was born in raised in St. Louis and attended Affton High School in South County. He was involved in theater in high school, but he also played varsity football, which earned him a football scholarship to Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo. He honed his acting talents in college, where he learned alongside fellow future stars Kathleen Turner and Tess Harper. An injury eventually ended his college football career, prompting him to move to New York City to pursue an acting career. Since then, Goodman has become a household name thanks to all his notable TV and movie roles, including his parts in “Roseanne,” “Monsters, Inc.” and a number of collaborations with the Coen brothers. Although Goodman now lives in New Orleans, he’s still proud of his St. Louis roots, as evidenced by his love for the St. Louis Cardinals.