Roma Downey

This dark-haired actress from war-torn Northern Ireland studied art and acting in England before coming to the US in 1986. Shortly after arriving, Downey made her off-Broadway debut in the environmental theater piece, "Tamara" (1987), and her TV debut in a recurring role on the ABC soap "One Life to Live." She played the ingenue in the 1989 Broadway revival of Somerset Maugham's "The Circle" in the eminent company of Rex Harrison, Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger. Downey received notice portraying Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis from age 16 to 60 in the 1991 NBC mini-series "A Woman Named Jackie." Although criticized by Kennedy loyalists, the miniseries did well in the ratings and Downey spent the next two years starring in a variety of TV-movies made for both cable and the broadcast networks, as well as in the syndicated "Hercules and the Amazon Women" (1994). Among Downey's more notable TV-movies were "Devlin" (Showtime, 1992) in which she portrayed a compassionate girlfriend, and "Getting Up and Going Home" (Lifetime, 1992) in which she was again the girlfriend; this time to a married man simultaneously involved with three women. Such non-virginal roles did not keep Downey from being cast in "Touched By an Angel," a 1994 CBS pilot. Downey portrayed Monica, an apprentice angel just promoted to caseworker, with Tess (Della Reese) as her advisor. While the pilot had dark elements, when CBS put the project on its fall 1994 schedule, the tenor of the series became more spiritually motivated. At first, "Touched By an Angel" was practically overlooked by critics and was near death on CBS' Wednesday night schedule. But the network moved the show behind "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" on Saturday nights in February 1995 and by the fall, it was winning its time period. The show was one of the few network series to openly affirm the existence of a deity, and to speak of God "having a plan" for the characters whose lives Downey's angel affected. Her lilting, yet not overbearing, Irish accent helped give the series a charming edge. The success of the series helped lift Downey's profile, and she starred in "The Last Word" (Showtime, 1995) and "A Child is Missing" (CBS, 1995).