The Untold Truth Of Alicia Witt

Alicia Witt has been a familiar face on film and television screens for more than 30 years, making her screen debut in the 1984 sci-fi flick "Dune" when she was just seven. Just over a decade later, television viewers became reacquainted with Witt when she played the teenage daughter of Cybill Shepherd's character in the NBC sitcom "Cybill," which aired from 1995 until 1998.

Since then, Witt has racked up numerous film and television credits, including roles in TV series such as "Orange Is the New Black," "Law & Order," "Justified," and "The Walking Dead," and in films including "Mr. Holland's Opus," "Urban Legend," and "Last Holiday." Witt has also stepped behind the camera, as writer and director of the 2006 short film "Belinda's Swan Song." 

Having also made headlines due to some tragic personal circumstances, Witt remains an in-demand actor who has continually demonstrated the ability to shift between light comedy and dark drama, and all shades in between. To find out more about this talented performer, read on to discover the untold truth of Alicia Witt.

Alicia Witt was discovered by a famous director

Alicia Witt made her television debut when she was just five, reciting Shakespeare on the pioneering reality TV series "That's Incredible." "It was my first time in front of an audience," she told Pop Entertainment. "I can still remember the feeling I had the moment the audience responded to something that I had done."

Not only did the youngster's performance charm viewers, it captured the attention of the team working on director David Lynch's 1984 sci-fi film "Dune." As Witt explained, the production was having a tough time casting the role of a young child who could speak with the vocabulary and cadence of an adult. "The casting director thought that because I could read Shakespeare, I must be able to do this," Witt recalled.

Witt and her parents traveled to New York City, where she auditioned and won the part. She also, at age five, experienced an epiphany that would remain with her throughout her life. "It was the first time that I realized that acting was a viable career option," she explained. "I always loved acting, but I didn't know that it was a possibility. I knew from that point on that I wanted to do that for the rest of my life." Decades later, Witt shared a special recollection of her childhood experience on "Dune" when she posted a photo of her first passport on Instagram.

Her mother held a strange record

Appearing in a David Lynch movie at age seven isn't exactly the hallmark of an ordinary childhood, yet that was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to Alicia Witt's unorthodox upbringing. Her mother, Diane Witt, actually achieved her own degree of fame long before her daughter — not for acting, but for growing the longest hair of any woman in America, with her achievement verified by the Guinness Book of World Records. 

Back in 1988, Diane was interviewed by UPI about her 10-foot-long locks, which took a whopping four hours to shampoo. "'It's very healthy. I've never colored it," she told UPI, revealing she'd even used her hair to catch fish. "We just tied a worm to it and cast," explained her husband Bob. "It's pretty strong." However, the couple didn't want to focus on Diane's record-setting hair, but on Alicia and her younger brother Ian, both of whom were musical prodigies. "We've really kind of tried to put the hair in the background because of the kids," Diane pointed out. 

Alicia, then 12, told the reporter she found her mom's hair "pretty," but insisted she had no plans of ever letting hers grow that long. The reason, she explained, was that she one day wanted to live on a farm, and felt "long hair could be very awkward" in such a setting.

An encounter with a black cat changed her life

In 2020, Harper Collins published Alicia Witt's book "Small Changes," which blended stories from her life with her approach to overall health and wellness. One anecdote took place in London while shooting the film "The Upside of Anger" in 2003. Walking one night with co-star Keri Russell, Witt found herself hit in the face with a black cat, claws first, which someone had thrown out of a window overhead.

"I didn't register that something significant had happened until I saw the look on Keri's face," Witt wrote. "Touching my face, I realized how heavily I was bleeding. My upper lip was completely split in two." While her wound ultimately healed so successfully that the scar is barely noticeable, she came away from the experience with a whole new outlook.

"From that moment on, I've thought about beauty differently," she explained. "I clearly see that my life can be divided into before-and-after-cat-scratch." According to Witt, she began to stop worrying about her outward appearance, something that led her confidence to grow "immensely." She also began "moving ever closer to living my authentic life, ever since I abandoned the notion that I should try to be some version of what others want me to be." 

She's a singer-songwriter with several albums

Not only was Alicia Witt reciting Shakespeare at age five, she was also a childhood piano prodigy who seemed bound for a future in classical music. When a new path appeared to pursue acting, Witt's musical aspirations eventually took a back seat. At some point in the 2000s, however, she returned to music, culminating in the 2009 release of her self-titled debut EP

"Making my own music has been a dream of mine for my entire life," she told Pop Entertainment in 2010. "Three years ago, I finally just started doing it. All of the sudden, there were all these songs, and the more I write, the more come out." Since then, Witt has released several more albums, including 2015's "Revisionary History" and her 2021 album "The Conduit." 

In fact, her sideline as a singer-songwriter has taken her full circle from her early years in Los Angeles. As she told Pop Entertainment, she was supporting herself by playing piano in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel when she landed her first role as a series regular on television in the sitcom "Cybill." "I had been playing there four to five nights a week and earning enough of a living to pay my rent and my bills," she told The Washington Times, noting that being cast in a network TV show allowed her to quit that "day job."

The reason she launched a Kickstarter to fund one of her albums

When it came to recording her 2018 solo album "15,000 Days," Alicia Witt took an unconventional path to get it done. In fact, funding for the independent release was entirely crowd-sourced, with the proceeds donated via a Kickstarter campaign she launched. In a message to fans, she laid it on the table by explaining that while she feels "blessed" to have the acting career she's had, she also admitted "my earnings don't currently provide me anything left over to create a project like this." As for why she didn't go the traditional route by getting signed by a record label, she told Forbes that she'd already tried that. "My music manager approached a couple of big record labels and they were like, 'She's how old, again?'"

Witt clarified that she wasn't raising money because "I'm floundering and can't support myself," but "specifically for this incredible project that is not just something I'm recording with my friends in my living room. I'm recording with an extremely accomplished producer that normally a record label would be funding."

Another aspect of the Kickstarter was the opportunity to connect with fans in a far more personal way while working to create a very personal project in which they could also take ownership. "You're not just saying, 'Hey, give me money.' You're saying, 'Come be a part of this incredible thing, let's do it together,'" Witt explained, per Bustle.

Alicia Witt has become staple of Hallmark Channel holiday movies

In addition to her dramatic roles in such gritty TV series as "Justified," and "The Walking Dead," Alicia Witt has also blossomed in holiday-themed rom-coms for the Hallmark Channel. Since appearing in her first Hallmark Channel movie — 2011's "Backyard Wedding" — Witt has gone on to appear in several more, ranging from "I'm Not Ready for Christmas" to "Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane."

While Witt may not be anticipating any Emmy nominations for her work in these light, fluffy Christmas confections, she finds them to be a welcome respite from the darker roles she takes on. "It's fun to come out with a movie where every day you have a happy ending and it's a sweet love story or family story," she told Glamour. "I just spent the last week in winter clothes, and people I really enjoy working with and Christmas lights everywhere, and snow and gingerbread cookies and vegan eggnog. There's very little heaviness on my psyche right now."

Another reason that keeps her coming back for Hallmark holiday movies is the sense of enjoyment that pervades the set. "There's something about the lighter material that I think lends itself to everyone just having so much fun," she explained. "If you're making a movie about something really dark, it does something different to your psyche. You'll get home from work and try to shake it off, and you're kind of in a darker place."

Alicia Witt's post-pandemic success

While Alicia Witt has definitely appeared in her share of Hallmark Channel holiday movies, one holds special significance beyond its heartwarming Yuletide content: "Christmas Tree Lane," in which she plays a the owner of a small-town music store who's trying to prevent her street from being demolished by a greedy developer. Complications arise when she discovers the handsome guy she's falling for (Andrew Walker) is working for said developer.

As Witt told MediaVillage, the movie is based on an original idea she brought to Hallmark, and had been developing for a few years. "It turned out that when we all kind of came out of that initial COVID shutdown, this was one of the only scripts that Hallmark had ready to film," she explained. "That's why we ended up as the first one out of the gate. We were actually the first major network or studio in the United States to go into production."

In addition to developing the movie, Witt also wrote and sang two original songs in "Christmas Tree Lane." "I'm thrilled to get to share two of my original songs, and I wrote one of them, 'Christmas Will Never End,' especially for this movie," she told Parade. "We need joy and light more than ever before, so my heart is deeply grateful that we can put this movie out into the world this holiday season."

How Alicia Witt has avoided becoming typecast

One thing that remains impressive about Alicia Witt's acting career has been the breadth of roles she played. From portraying an eventual zombie in "The Walking Dead," to her multiple Hallmark rom-coms, Witt has managed to prevent herself from falling into Hollywood's typecasting trap. 

As she explained in a 2009 interview with Contact Music, that has been entirely by design. "My goal is to just keep playing roles that are different from the roles I've played before," she said. While Witt joked that her distinctive red hair had led her "to be cast as the redhead," beyond that she continues to seek out fresh roles that are a departure from what she's done previously. "Like in the past year I've played an attorney, a call girl, an ex-porno star, an entertainment executive — on 'The Sopranos,'" she said. "The whole trick is to completely avoid stereotyping because the truth is, I'm nothing like any of these characters. I'm completely different."

In addition to expressing her versatility as an actor, Witt has another motive behind the projects she decides to take on. "For me, acting is so much more than my appearance or gaining popularity," she told Fox News. "I want to play characters that hopefully inspire people. I hope to make the world a better place in some way."

She's been told to lose weight more times than she can count

Alicia Witt was still in her teens when she was cast in her first series-regular role in "Cybill," and has been working steadily during the decades since. During those years, she'd experienced her fair share of body-shaming when auditioning for roles. As she told Page Six, she found that to be particularly true when she was in her 20s during the 1990s. 

"It was expected and accepted that women could be spoken to and of in a certain way," she explained. "It was considered no big deal to tell a woman, 'You should lose 15 pounds, you should lose 20 pounds.'" In fact, she recalled, she "can't even count" how many times she'd been instructed to lose weight, something that began "when I was a young teenager." These days, Witt refuses to keep a scale in her home, and only finds out how much she weighs during her annual physical. "And I put that out of my head right away because I just don't care," she added.

For Witt, overall health is more important than numbers on a scale. "I eat sensibly," she told the New York Post. "I don't eat red meat or chicken, so I'm sort of a vegetarian. I do eat fish, sushi, vegetables, fruit and I drink a lot of water. I don't deprive myself of anything."

Her best advice for anyone considering a career in showbiz

Alicia Witt has accumulated plenty of experience over the years, and offered some sage wisdom to anyone looking to pursue an acting career. "The advice I always give is that you have to know it's going to be very hard work," she said in an interview with Gephardt Daily. "But it's definitely worth it... if that's what you want to do more than anything."

Witt has also come to terms with the peaks and valleys of a Hollywood career. For Witt, that particularly hit home during a rough patch in the early 2010s, when she found the acting jobs that were so plentiful in the past were suddenly fewer and farther between. "I was scared," Witt admitted in an interview with Page Six. "I was like, 'Is this it?' Is this what they talk about? Your career just dries up? All of a sudden you're not ever going to work again?"

Having weathered that period, Witt now feels that experience was a "real and honest blessing" that led her to focus on her music when acting work was scarce. Ultimately, she came to realize that "what I was here to do was related to so much more than just whether I was cast in acting roles that I had no control over. It was time for me to create my own songs and play them for people, even if nobody liked them or wanted to listen."

She suffers from a rare condition known as face blindness

As a childhood musical prodigy who could recite Shakespeare at age five, it's clear that Alicia Witt is not a typical Hollywood actor. Another thing that distinguishes Witt is her admission that she's been diagnosed with a rare condition that's known colloquially as face blindness. She shared that revelation in 2019 when she tweeted, "I have #prosopagnosia. although admittedly most of them do look pretty different even with face blindness." 

According to Britain's National Health Service, prosopagnosia is a condition that people are born with, leaving them unable "to recognize family members, partners or friends." As a result, those with this condition "may cope by using alternative strategies to recognize people, such as remembering the way they walk or their hairstyle, voice or clothing."

If that's the strategy that Witt has utilized, it would help to explain the powerful memory skills she displayed when she competed on "Celebrity Jeopardy!" As Witt told People, she appeared on the celebrity edition of the trivia-based game show twice. "The first time I was on it I won, but the second time I was beat by Fred Savage, who was going to Stanford at the time," she said, referencing the child star of TV hit "The Wonder Years" who went on to become a sought-after television director.

She left Hollywood for Nashville

Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Alicia Witt was a teenager when she moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue an acting career. She lived in the City of Angels for the next two decades or so before deciding it was time for a change of scenery. "I made the choice four years ago to move permanently to Nashville," Witt told Fox News in 2021. "It was the same feeling I felt when I decided to move to LA at 16. But this is the best thing I've ever done for me."

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that same year, Witt insisted that "the decision to live full-time in Nashville is the most important choice I've made. It's helped me to feel authentic in every aspect of my life." Not only has living in the country music capital nicknamed "Music City" been conducive to her other career as a singer-songwriter, she feels that it's also bolstered her acting. "It's helped me to do better work when I am on set," she explained, adding that the city "captured my heart over a span of many years" whenever she had occasion to visit the city.

"I really feel like every morning when I get up, my first thought is, thank God I live in Nashville," she said. "It's nothing against LA ... That's just not where I'm supposed to be living, and we have to live where we feel happy."

Alicia Witt has accumulated an impressive net worth

During the course of a career spanning four decades, it shouldn't be surprising that Alicia Witt has managed to build up a comfortable net worth of $4 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth

If that seems modest by Hollywood standards, Witt offered an explanation. Interviewed by Forbes, she pointed out that there's a vast divide between what a series regular on a TV series can earn (think: the $1 million per episode paid to the stars of "The Big Bang Theory") compared to what she earns in a guest-starring capacity. "It depends, I guess, on what the budget of the show is but it's never more than $9,000 per episode. And it's usually between $5,000 and $6,000," she said.

As an example, she pointed to her recurring roles on "Friday Night Lights" and "Justified." While it may have appeared to viewers she was a series regular, that wasn't the case. As a result, she pointed out, "you're paid as if it's a guest starring thing." Noting those roles once paid "a recurring rate," she added, "Now they just say 'Well, it's going to be 10 episodes out of the 13, but they will all be billed as guest starring roles, and again if you don't like it, there's always someone else lined up who will take the part so you have to decide by the end of the day.'"

The heartbreaking way she lost both her parents

In December 2021, Alicia Witt was unable to reach her parents in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her worst fears were realized when she learned that both her father, Robert Witt, and mother, Diane, had died in their home. According to a report in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, "freezing temperatures, a malfunctioning furnace, a temporary space heater, and a home in need of repairs may have contributed" to the deaths of her parents, who were said to have been "in failing health for some time."

Witt opened up in a heartbreaking Facebook post, sharing her sadness and thanking those who had reached out to her with kindness during those dark days. She also addressed the "misconceptions rolling around" in media reports of her parents' deaths. As she revealed, her parents were "fiercely stubborn, beautifully original souls" who hadn't allowed her within their home for more than a decade. "I struggle, as much as I helped, with what else could I have done — short of petitioning the court system for taking control of two otherwise very sharp, very independent, very capable adults," she continued, noting her parents were "determined to do things their own way."  

She concluded, "Our last words to each other were 'I love you.' That part was simple; never in doubt. They loved me so. I loved them so."