Alyssa Jayne Milano is an American actress, producer and former singer, best known for portraying Samantha Micelli on the ABC sitcom series Who's the Boss? (1984–1992), Jennifer Mancini on the Fox soap opera Melrose Place (1997–98), and Phoebe Halliwell on The WB television series Charmed (1998–2006).
Milano is the daughter of Lin, a fashion designer and talent manager, and Thomas M. Milano, a film music editor. She is of Italian ancestry. Milano was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and lived there until a neighborhood shooting prompted the family to relocate to Staten Island. She has a younger brother, Cory (b. 1982), who is also an actor. In a 2003 interview, Milano recalled having had a good childhood, having grown up in a "loving, true family." Having grown up in front of the camera, Milano did not feel that it jeopardized her childhood: "I love my family very much - they've really backed my career. I consider myself to be normal: I've got to clean my room, and help in the kitchen."
Milano began her career at age eight after winning a role in an open audition for a national tour of Annie. She was one of the four picked out of an audition with over 1,500 girls. She appeared in off-Broadway productions and television commercials, the latter of which she hated doing because of the long hours. Alongside the theater productions, she played a supporting role in the low-budget independent film Old Enough, which she recalled as a "great" way for "starting out".
At age 11, she won her first major acting role in the television sitcom Who's the Boss? with Tony Danza, Judith Light, Danny Pintauro and Katherine Helmond. She co-starred as Samantha Micelli, the daughter of Danza's character. After Milano won the role, she and her father relocated from Staten Island to Hollywood. The rest of the family followed a year later, because her mother was initially unwilling to give up her home life "for a show that wasn't a guarantee." Although born and raised in Brooklyn, Milano had trouble getting this accent right because she worked to lose it to land more roles in the theater, including in a stage adaption of Jane Eyre. Throughout Who's the Boss?, Milano felt a strong connection with co-star Danza.
As a teen, Milano reportedly inspired Disney animators Glen Keane and Mark Henn to create the look and personality of Ariel in the 1989 film The Little Mermaid. On stage, she starred in Tender Offer, a one-act play written by Wendy Wasserstein, All Night Long by American playwright John O'Keefe, and the first American musical adaptation of Jane Eyre. She returned to the theater in 1991, when she starred in and produced a Los Angeles production of Butterflies Are Free from December 26 until January 19, 1992.
In 1985, Milano was in the film Commando as Jenny Matrix, daughter of John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Appearing at age 12 in an R-rated action film, Milano admitted she was sometimes "freaked out" by the weapons on set. A few years later this film was shown in Japan, prompting a producer to offer Milano a five-album record deal. Milano's albums, which she described as "bubblegum pop", scored platinum in the country, though she in later life showed her discontent in its musical quality. Subsequently, she appeared opposite John Gielgud in the children's film The Canterville Ghost (1986). The film did not achieve much praise or attention.
By the late 1980s, Milano was established as a teen idol, appearing in made-for-television teen films such as Crash Course and Dance 'til Dawn (both 1988). Both projects allowed her to work alongside close personal friend Brian Bloom. Bloom and his brother Scott worked with Milano in episodes of Who's the Boss. This working camaraderie would later expand in 1993 when Milano made a cameo appearance in Bloom's film The Webbers. She produced a teen workout video in 1988 called Teen Steam and achieved some fame outside the USA with her music career, which lasted until the early 1990s. Even though she scored platinum in Japan, Milano had no interest to pursue a music career in the United States, explaining: "I'm not interested in crossing over. I'd much rather have it released where it's appreciated than laughed at." Simultaneously, she wrote a weekly column called "From Alyssa, with love" for the teen magazine Teen Machine. In 1991, Milano wanted to quit acting to pursue an academic career, but was unable to gain release from her contract.
Instead, she auditioned for the female lead role as a homeless teenager in the independent film Where the Day Takes You. Although the crew was reluctant to sign a former child star, she was given a small role as a prostitute in the production, which she filmed in the summer of 1991. Even though she feared that viewers would only recognize her as "the girl from Who's the Boss?", she was noticed by the media, that helped her land the controversial role of Amy Fisher in the high profile TV movie Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story.Milano said that her portrayal of Amy Fisher was more based on Joey Buttafuoco's point of view, and that the film "was the least 'Alyssa' of anything done." The film was shot in the fall of 1992. By then, her role on Who's the Boss had ended, and she feared having trouble obtaining other roles, aware of the fate of many grown-up child stars in that period. Nevertheless, she was excited when she found out the show was cancelled, being ready "to move on", and enthusiastic to "showcase" what she was able to do.
Milano put her plans to pursue academic goals on hold, due to her negative prospect of having to be in class for four more years after experiencing eight structured years on a set. Instead, she auditioned for nearly every film role in her age bracket, including B movies and finally tried to shed her "nice girl" image by appearing nude in several erotic films targeted at adults, such as Embrace of the Vampire (1994), Deadly Sins (1995), and Poison Ivy II: Lily (1996). Milano said the nude appearances taught her to begin requiring a nudity clause in her contracts giving her "full control" over all her nude scenes.
Simultaneously, Milano continued her work for television. In 1994, she was considered to replace Shannen Doherty in the successful teen series Beverly Hills, 90210. She played the lead in several made-for-TV films, such as Candles in the Dark (1993), Confessions of a Sorority Girl (1994), The Surrogate (1995) and To Brave Alaska (1996). In 1996, Milano appeared opposite Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon in the thriller Fear. Even though the film did not receive very positive reviews, the Los Angeles Times called Milano "very good" in the production.
Her performance in Fear led to a starring role in Hugo Pool (1997), her first film released through cinemas since Commando. Despite the milestone, Milano was soon out of work and after a period of six months, she decided to return to television. She portrayed bad girl Jennifer Mancini on Melrose Place (1997–1998), Meg Winston in Spin City, and most notably as Phoebe Halliwell on the eight-year run of the popular hit TV series Charmed (1998–2006). Her role on Melrose Place was offered to the actress by Aaron Spelling himself in late 1996 . The stint garnered her new fame and she was named the most successful and popular actress on the primetime soap, alongside Heather Locklear. Milano and Holly Marie Combs became producers for Charmed during the show's fourth season. She played the role of Eva Savelot in MCI Inc. commercials. In 2007, Milano filmed a pilot for ABC entitled Reinventing the Wheelers. The series was not picked up for the 2007–2008 season, but instead, Milano appeared in ten episodes of the show My Name Is Earl. This reunited her with Jaime Pressly, who guest-starred in the two-part Season 5 premiere of Charmed, "A Witch's Tail".
Milano's commercial work includes appearing in the "Josie" music video by Blink-182, as well as 2007 television ads for Veet and Sheer Cover. She also appeared in mid-1980s commercial for Hi-C Milano was part of TBS's special coverage installment Hot Corner for the 2007 Major League Baseball playoffs. She reported at Fenway Park during the ALDS between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. She also reported at Chase Field during the NLCS between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. Milano starred in the 2008 film Pathology alongside Milo Ventimiglia and was then cast in a television sitcom, Single with Parents, which was pulled prior to production.
On March 20, 2009, it was announced that Milano would provide a voice for Ghostbusters: The Video Game. In a 2010 interview, she told the press that she had 'a blast' working on the game, although she recalled it being 'odd' having to grunt in a room alone. It was speculated that following the voice over in the video game, she was set to star in Ghostbusters III, although Milano claimed she was never approached. On March 24, 2009, her book on her baseball fandom, Safe At Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic, was released. Milano has signed on to star in and produce My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, a romantic comedy in which she plays a woman with a relationship dilemma.
Milano starred in the sitcom Romantically Challenged as Rebecca Thomas, a recently divorced single mom attorney in Pittsburgh who has not dated "since Bill Clinton was president". The series premiered on ABC on April 19, 2010. On why she accepted the role, Milano commented:
"I was so attracted to the writing. Our creative showrunner is Ricky Blitt from Family Guy and I was struck at how funny the female characters were written. Usually the female characters are written pretty straightforward, like the straight-man but with Ricky’s writing, the women get to be equally as funny. That was what hooked me. James Burrows, who’s our director, is another major part of what attracted me to the show. It just seemed like a really good package and something that I could commit to in the long-term."
On May 16, 2010, the series was cancelled after four episodes had aired.
She appeared with Owen Wilson, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate in the comedy Hall Pass (2011) She produced and led the cast of Lifetime's TV film Sundays at Tiffany's. which was her second collaboration with Lifetime, after Wisegal (2008).She played Nurse Mindy in New Year's Eve.
Milano currently stars as Savannah Davis in ABC drama series Mistresses which is about the romantic lives of four women. Milano also signed on as host and judge during season three of Project Runway: All Stars.