Linda Hunt has been in show business for many decades. The Academy Award-winning actress has appeared in more than 50 productions, and since 2009 she’s starred as Hetty Lange in the now-classic television show NCIS.
Hunt has featured in a total of 280 episodes of NCIS, gradually becoming what many would say is one of the best characters on the show. As it turns out, Hunt isn’t only a great actress, but also a very dedicated wife by all reports.
The 76-year-old has been married to her partner, Karen Kline, for more than ten years – in total, the couple have spent more than 30 years by each other’s side. The truth is that their love story really is quite extraordinary!
Linda Hunt was born on April 2, 1945, in Morristown, New Jersey. She was raised in Connecticut by her parents, Elsie and Raymond Hunt. At an early age, though, when Linda was only half-a-year old, her parents started to worry.
Linda Hunt – early life
Linda’s motor skills weren’t developing at the normal rate, and so her mother and father took her to a hospital in New York to seek help.
What doctors found wasn’t exactly the news Linda’s parents wanted. As The Bulletin reported in 1991, examinations showed she was suffering from a form cretinism – a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth – which would likely eventually lead to Linda being institutionalized.
Elsie and Raymond, however, were not going to let hope fade. They were determined to support their beloved Linda, and used books and theater to encourage her and help with her development.
By the time Linda started school, her motor skills were pretty much on par with the average child. Sadly she struggled due to her learning difficulties and short stature.
“I was totally alienated by school almost from the first day, I had a bad experience with a teacher and was made to feel stupid. I felt bad that I didn’t fit in,” Hunt said.
“Everybody either wanted to take care of me or push me around, you know? I was teased a lot, sure I was, of course,” she told CBS.
“Fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, everybody was taking their spurts except me.”
A passion for acting
The harsh treatment was tough on Hunt, as it would’ve been for anyone. She, though, decided to use it as a sort of motivational technique, since she understood that she was unique.
“I was a very determined kid. This happens to kids who are different in any way,” Linda told the Daily Beast.
Though Linda had a rough time at school, her parents were determined to see their beloved daughter succeed in life. Then, at the age of 8, she saw something that changed everything.
Speaking to The Bulletin, Linda explained that she had always had a love for acting and theater. Her biggest source of inspiration came when she was 8 years of age, after her parents brought her with them to see the Broadway musical Peter Pan.
“I’m lucky that I’ve always known what I wanted to do,” she told the newspaper. “[Mary Martin, who played Peter] was astonishing in her belief in the world she was creating, and that was fascinating to me. She had the power to make others believe what was in her mind.”
“It was bigger than life. And that in some sense, I longed to be bigger than life because I wasn’t,” she explained to CBS.
Linda Hunt’s height – dwarfism
At that point, Linda decided that she would devote her life to acting and theater. She explained that she wanted to become a “high priestess of theater”. In high school, she got a private acting coach, and was sent to an excellent boarding school.
Linda’s parents would do whatever they had to in order to see their daughter achieve her dreams.
“I was so lucky my parents were encouraging on every level,” she said.
Yet at the same time as Linda’s parents wanted her to pursue a professional acting career, they were also worried that she didn’t have a backup plan. As a result, her father Raymond encouraged her to study directing as well – he even tried to push her towards a teaching degree for if things didn’t work out.
Luckily, things did. When Linda Hunt finished high school she was diagnosed with hypopituitary dwarfism. The condition halts the regular amount of growth hormones being released into the body. Consequently, Linda is much shorter than the average woman (she stands at 4 feet 9 inches tall).
Naturally, as was the when she was younger, Linda wasn’t about to let any diagnosis stop her.
After studying at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and the Theatre School of DePaul University in Chicago, it was time for Hunt to reach for the stars. She moved to New York City, where her passion for working in theater only grew.
Moved to New York
That said, once in the “Big Apple” she didn’t know what to do or where to begin.
“I moved into a shoebox-sized apartment in the city when I was in my early 20s with my father’s help,” Hunt recalled.
“I was very young and very lost, I didn’t even attempt to act professionally. That would of meant getting an agent and going to auditions. I wasn’t capable of doing any of that. It was truly emotionally beyond me.”
Instead, Linda got some smaller jobs working backstage at theaters off-broadway, and her community of friends helped her keep her spirits up. At the same time, she underwent a range of treatments for her dwarfism. They weren’t successful, leading her to question if she really could succeed in the industry. In the end, she moved back to her parents’ to rethink her decision.
Now, as mentioned, she had previously had a private acting coach while at school. It turned out that moving back to her parents’ house was the best thing she could have possibly done.
“My acting coach reminded me again about the importance of acting in my life,” Linda explained.
“And the knowledge that this was my gift. I had lost myself for a while, and that awareness gave me back to myself. Soon, I was sending out resumes and reading for parts.”‘
In 1975, Linda made her Broadway debut, starring in Ah, Wilderness. That, in turn, led her to landing her first onscreen gig. In 1978, she appeared in the film Fame – just four years later, Hunt made history.
Linda Hunt – Academy Award
Linda got the role of Billy Kwan in the film The Year of Living Dangerously, starring alongside Mel Gibson. The film became a huge success, and Hunt received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was the first person ever to win an Academy Award for playing a cis-gender character of the opposite sex.
Since then, Linda’s career has gone amazingly well. For the last ten years, she’s been a true star on NCIS, having amassed a staggering 280 episodes as Operations Manager Henrietta “Hetty” Lange.
Things have been pretty quiet around Linda after she missed season 12 due to COVID-19 concerns. Fans of the series have speculated whether or not she will come back, but, fortunately, news about her future seems promising indeed.
“Linda had both her vaccines, she was feeling great, and she came back. And she was so happy to be back. She had been gone for so long and hadn’t really interacted with anyone, so she was just so thrilled to be back on set,” NCIS showrunner R. Scott Gemmill told TV Insider.
“The minute I saw her, she’s like, ‘Let’s talk about next season,’ so I think that as tough as last year was, for a lot of reasons, she, like the rest of us, is starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel and feels good about coming back to work,” he added.
Linda Hunt marriage – partner Karen Kline
Linda Hunt’s career took off in the late 1970s. That was also when she met the love of her life, whom she is still married to today.
Hunt and her wife, Karen Kline, have been married since 2008, but the couple met a long while before that, and their love story is truly wonderful!
Karen and Linda first encountered one another for the first time in 1978. Speaking with CBS News, Karen explained that when she saw Linda for the first time, it was her fashion sense – rather than her height – that really struck her. And fortunately, Karen confirm the fact that height really doesn’t matter.
“I was kind of struck [by] Linda’s corduroys,” she said.
Their initial connection to each other has turned into a lifelong romance.
“Karen’s six years younger, but I forgive her daily,” Hunt said. “I do; I forgive you for being younger.”
— Alice Short (@AliceShort3) September 27, 2014
Just as fans don’t know much about her NCIS character, Hetty’s, private life, Linda and Karen aren’t especially open either. The couple very much keep out of the public eye, and do their best to remain private about their relationship.
Linda Hunt – net worth
What is known, however, is that the couple don’t have any children – they have three adopted dogs instead – and live in a beautiful Hollywood home built back in 1919. In a feature piece for the Los Angeles Times, the couple let the public inside their house.
“This house has whimsy and a special kind of elegance,” the Oscar-winning actress told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s welcoming.”
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Linda Hunt has a fortune of around $12 million!
Linda Hunt is a true role model for many. Despite the rough treatment she got from her classmates as a young girl and having to move back to her parents when things didn’t work out, Linda never gave up and kept her dream alive.
Today it seems like she’s living her best life alongside her beloved partner Karen – we wish only the best for them in the future!
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