Katherine Marie Helmond was born on July 5, 1929, in Galveston, Texas. She was raised by her mother, Thelma Malone, and her grandmother; they were Irish Catholics. Young Katherine attended Catholic school, and appeared in numerous school plays and pageants. She took a job at a local theater while still in high school, hammering and sawing the scenery, cleaning the bathrooms and pulling the curtain. Since her stage debut in As You Like It, she worked in New York theatres during the 1950s and 1960s. She operated a summer theatre in the Catskills for three seasons and also taught acting in university theatre programs. She made her TV debut in 1962 but had to wait another 10 years until her breakthrough came in the 1970s. She stayed busy on TV as well as on stage and earned a Tony nomination for The Great God Brown (1973) on Broadway. She honed her acting abilities with Alfred Hitchcock in Family Plot (1976) and in numerous TV series, notably in ABCs cult sitcom Soap (1977), for which she had four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe. On the big screen she starred in Brazil (1985) as Jonathan Pryces mother who is addicted to plastic surgery and snooping in her sons messed-up life. In 1983 she studied at the Directing Workshop of the American Film Institute and then directed four episodes of the series Benson (1979) as well as episodes of Whos the Boss? (1984).