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Holly Marie Combs
Holly Marie Combs, July 2012.jpg
Combs in July 2012
Born (1973-12-03) December 3, 1973 (age 49)
  • Actress
  • producer
Years active 1985–present
Bryan Travis Smith
(m. 1993; div. 1997)
David Donoho
(m. 2004; div. filed 2011)
Mike Ryan
(m. 2019)
Children 3

Holly Marie Combs Ryan (born December 3, 1973) is an American actress and producer. She is known for her roles as Kimberly Brock in the CBS series Picket Fences (1992–1996), Piper Halliwell in The WB series Charmed (1998–2006) and Ella Montgomery in the Freeform series Pretty Little Liars (2010–2017).

Early life

Combs was born in San Diego, California, and is of Irish descent. At the time of her birth, her mother, Lauralei Combs was 15 years old, and her father was 17. Combs's biological parents married, but the two split up after two years, feeling they were too young to make a marriage work.

While Combs was learning to walk, she fell and hit her head on a marble table, resulting in a noticeable 'split' at the top of her right eyebrow. She lived in many different homes with her mother, near the beach in San Diego, often having very little privacy, while her mother attempted to pursue an acting career. When Combs was seven, she and her mother moved to New York City where she spent most of her growing years. Combs was 12 when her mother married her stepfather. In New York City, Combs attended Beekman Hill Elementary and then the Professional Children's School. In an interview when she was in Sydney, Australia, for Supanova Expo, she said that she was a certified scuba diver at 13.


Early work: 1988–1997

Holly Marie Combs
Combs at the 1993 Emmy Awards

When she was 14 years old, Combs landed her first major role in Sweet Hearts Dance (1988), a comedy drama film directed by Robert Greenwald. She played Debs Boon, the daughter of Wiley Boon (played by Don Johnson) and Sandra Boon (played by Susan Sarandon). Her next major role was in Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July (1989), a film adaptation of the best selling autobiography of the same name by Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. Combs portrayed Jenny in the film, which also starred Tom Cruise. Her other roles included Helena in the 1989 anthology film New York Stories, and Kim Fields in Hal Hartley's Simple Men (1992). Also in 1992, Combs made an appearance in Temístocles López's Chain of Desire as Diana, and in the slasher film Dr. Giggles, in which she played Jennifer Campbell, the 19-year-old daughter of Tom Campbell (played by Cliff De Young) and girlfriend of Max Anderson (played by Glenn Quinn).

Combs's first major breakthrough as an actress came at the age of 18, in the CBS television series Picket Fences. She portrayed Kimberly Brock, the daughter of Sheriff Jimmy Brock (played by Tom Skerritt) and his first wife Lydia for the show's four seasons (1992–96). Jimmy's second wife, Dr. Jill Brock (played by Kathy Baker), was her stepmother. Combs auditioned for the role in New York. The casting agent told her that she wasn't right for the part because she "didn't have a big enough heart." Combs retorted, "If you're looking for someone with a big heart, what the hell are you doing in New York?". She was later called back and offered the job. Combs won a Young Artist Award for her performance on the show. During 1996, Combs starred as Sophie DiMatteo in Sins of Silence, a drama/horror television film directed by Sam Pillsbury. The following year, Combs portrayed real-life convicted murderer Diane Zamora in the television film Love's Deadly Triangle: The Texas Cadet Murder, and appeared in the fact-based drama film Daughters as Alex Morell, one of the two daughters of a murdered heiress.

Later work: 1998–present

In 1998, Combs landed a lead role in The WB television series Charmed, in which she portrayed Piper Halliwell, the middle of three sisters who are witches. Following Shannen Doherty's departure after season three (2000–01), Combs's character became the eldest sister for the remaining five seasons of the show. Combs also became a producer for Charmed from season five onwards. The series ended its eight-season run on May 21, 2006. In 2007 and 2008, AOL named Combs's character Piper the third greatest witch in television history. Combs was the only cast member to appear in every episode of the series, including the original unaired pilot.

During Charmed, Combs made an uncredited cameo appearance in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven (2001), and starred opposite Charisma Carpenter in the romantic comedy film See Jane Date (2003), portraying the role of "a struggling actress whose career benefits from an affair with an A-list actor." In 2007, she starred in the Lifetime television film Point of Entry (also titled Panic Button) as Kathy Alden, a wife and mother of a single child whose family moves to a "beautiful and supposedly secure gated community after she's the victim of a violent house break-in." The following year, Combs signed a contract with Lifetime to produce and star in a series Mistresses, based on the British series of the same name. However, that version of the show never made it to air. (ABC later made a version featuring Combs's former Charmed co-star Alyssa Milano.) In 2010, Combs was cast in the Freeform series Pretty Little Liars as Ella Montgomery, the mother of one of the main characters, Aria Montgomery (played by Lucy Hale). Combs was a series regular for the first three seasons, but became credited as a special guest star from season four onwards. Pretty Little Liars ended after seven seasons, and Combs returned for the show's final episode on June 27, 2017.

Combs and Doherty starred in their own road trip reality show Off the Map with Shannen & Holly, which premiered on Great American Country on January 2, 2015. The six-episode series followed the pair traveling across southeastern United States, with stops in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Viewers were able to vote on activities Doherty and Combs would partake in at each destination on Great American Country's official website. In January 2016, Combs starred in the Hallmark Channel television film Love's Complicated, playing the lead role of Leah Townsend, a big city novel writer and senator's daughter who is "known for being a people pleaser."

Personal life

In 1993, Combs married actor Bryan Travis Smith; they divorced in 1997.

On February 14, 2004, she married her long-time boyfriend and the former Charmed key-grip David Donoho. They have three sons together. In November 2011, she filed for divorce from Donoho, citing irreconcilable differences.

In 2016, Combs began dating restaurateur Mike Ryan. On September 3, 2017, Combs announced their engagement. On September 7, 2019 it was reported that they married in Carmel, California.


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Walls of Glass Abby Hall Classmate
1988 Sweet Hearts Dance Dens Boon
1989 New York Stories Helena Costume Party Girl
Born on the Fourth of July Jenny Turner
1991 Nobody Can Hear You Scream Melinda Ashwood
1992 Simple Men Kim Fields
1992 Dr. Giggles Jennifer Campbell Lead role
Chain of Desire Diana Richards
1995 A Reason to Believe Sharon Digby
Evil in the Basement Karen Ford
2001 Ocean's Eleven Herself Cameo
Year Title Role Notes
1990 Guiding Light Louisa Young 2 episodes
1991–1994 As the World Turns Denise Jones 5 episodes
1992–1996 Picket Fences Kimberly Brock Main role (83 episodes)
1994 A Perfect Stranger Amanda Hale Television movie (NBC)
Island City Erin Sloan Television movie (PTEN)
1996 Sins of Silence Sophie DiMatteo Television movie (CBS); lead role
1997 Love's Deadly Triangle: The Texas Cadet Murder Diane Zamora Television movie (NBC); lead role
Our Mother's Murder Alex Morell Television movie (Lifetime); lead role
Relativity Anne Pryce Episode (1.14): "Billable Hours"
1998–2006 Charmed Piper Halliwell Lead role (179 episodes)
Producer (seasons 5–8)
2003 See Jane Date Natasha Nutley Television movie (ABC Family); co-lead role
2007 Panic Button (original title Point of Entry) Katherine Alden Television movie (Lifetime); lead role
2010–2017 Pretty Little Liars Ella Montgomery Main cast (seasons 1–3)
Special guest star (seasons 4–7); 62 episodes
2014 Hell's Kitchen Herself Season 12 Episode 6: "15 Chefs Compete"; Blue kitchen VIP guest
2015 Off the Map with Shannen & Holly Great American Country reality series (6 episodes)
2016 Love's Complicated Leah Townsend Television movie (Hallmark Channel); lead role
2019 Grey's Anatomy Heidi Peterson Episode (16.03): "Reunited"
2020 Pretty Little Wine Moms Re-Watch Herself Episode: "The Pilot"
2020 Homeward Bound: Surviving the Coronavirus Episode: "Wet Suits, Mary Poppins and Pretty Little Wine Moms"
As producer
Year Title Role Notes
2002–06 Charmed Producer 90 episodes
2008 Zack's Life Executive producer
2009 Mistresses Co-producer Television film
2011 Summer of Love Executive producer
2012 "Naked in Venice" Producer Music video by Radical Something
2014 "You Feel Amazing" Producer
"Pure" Producer
2015 Off the Map with Shannen & Holly Executive producer Episode: "Kentucky Bourbon & Broncos"
2016 Why Just One? Associate producer Documentary
2018 Sharkwater Extinction Producer Documentary

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Title of work Result Ref.
1993 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actress in a New Television Series Picket Fences Won
1994 Outstanding Youth Ensemble in a Television Series Nominated
1995 Best Performance by a Youth Actress in a TV Mini-Series or Special A Perfect Stranger
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Picket Fences
2001 RATTY Awards Outstanding Ensemble in a Science Fiction Series Charmed
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Science Fiction Series
2002 Best Science Fiction Lead Actress
2003 Won
2007 AOL TV Top TV Witches (Piper Halliwell) 3rd
2011 E! Online Top 10 Most Bitchin' Witches (Piper Halliwell) 6th
2016 The Huffington Post Top 10 Greatest Witches of All Time (Piper Halliwell)

See also

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