Wiksteria Lane

Kathryn Joosten portrayed the role of Karen McCluskey on Desperate Housewives in all eight of the seasons.


Kathryn was best known for her portrayal of Mrs. Landingham, secretary to the President (Martin Sheen), on the critically acclaimed NBC drama, "The West Wing" (1999). She has also recurred on "Dharma and Greg", and guest-starred on many hit television series such as Becker, Arli$$, Ally Mcbeal, Providence, Scrubs and over twenty other prime time shows. Kathryn will also be seen later this year on ABC's Daytime Drama, "General Hospital". Her credits were impressive for any actress, let alone one that only began the craft at age 42 and arrived in Hollywood seven years ago.

Although only put into action well into her middle years, Kathryn's dream began in her twenties when her mother died of cancer in 1963. While dying in the hospital, her mother shared that her biggest regret was not following her dreams. Kathryn vowed at that moment that she would someday pursue her own dream of acting.

At the time she was entering into a new career as a psychiatric nurse in a medium security wing for disturbed teenagers. Through that job she met and married a psychiatrist, gave birth to two boys and settled down as a suburban housewife in Lake Forest, Illinois, a well-to-do suburb of Chicago. But Kathryn never forgot her dream of acting, something that she never had time to pursue in between caring for her children and husband. In 1980, her husband's alcoholism led Kathryn to a divorce and a difficult situation; a single mother with two young sons. Rather than lose hope, she took the opportunity to change her life forever and follow her lost dream.

Kathryn took classes at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and performed at community theaters all over Northern Illinois. By day she supported her family hanging wallpaper and painting the mansions of Lake Forest, working as a sales person for a Welcome Wagon company and using her contacts to book film and print locations in the houses she was painting. By night Kathryn was improving her skills and moving from community theater to semi-professional theater.

Her first break was in 1991. Disney held a cattle call for street performers for Disney World. After standing in line for five hours, Kathryn got the part and moved shop to Orlando, Florida. Though she was living behind an adult arcade in the "tourist unfriendly" part of Buena Vista, Kathryn was finally earning her living through performance and loving it. The part only lasted for a year and once again Kathryn was forced to supplement her acting income with other work -- bartending and catering during the day, theater at night. Though the acting gig was over, the move to Florida proved one thing to Kathryn...she had the talent to make it as an actor. She did it once and she could do it again. Unfortunately, it took her two and half years to realize it wouldn't happen in central Florida.

In December 1995, Kathryn again packed a truck and drove to Hollywood. Although she didn't have an agent and had no contacts, Kathryn never hesitated following her dream. In only five months she landed her first part...two lines in "Family Matters". In the six years since then, she has appeared in over a dozen plays, six movies, eleven national television commercials, two pilots, ten drama series and over twenty sitcoms. From her many roles Kathryn is recognized as one of Murphy Brown's secretaries, Frazier's agent's mother and the bingo buddy to Drew Carey's girlfriend. But it is her portrayal of Mrs. Landingham, the foil, friend and secretary to Martin Sheen's President Bartlet on The West Wing that has propelled her into the spotlight she truly deserves.

As an inspiration to us all, Kathryn continued to make her living following her dream. She didn't know who she would play next...a nun, a bartender, a judge. Whatever it is, she would use her talent to touch and amaze us, and we are glad for it.


In 2001, she quit her 45 year smoking habit after being diagnosed with Lung Cancer. In September 2009 she was diagnosed again she subsequently underwent surgery to remove the cancerous growth, and was officially declared cancer free in January 2010. On June 2, 2012, Kathryn Joosten died, at age 72, after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. Ironically, she died exactly 20 days after Karen's on-screen death, also of lung cancer.


Joosten has starred or appeared in the following:

  • Sable
  • Family Matters
  • Roseanne
  • Frasier
  • Thanks
  • Dharma & Greg
  • The West Wing
  • General Hospital
  • The King of Queens
  • Everwood
  • Joan of Arcadia
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
  • Monk
  • Desperate Housewives
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel