Embeth Jean Davidtz (born August 11, 1965) is an American-born South African actress.
Davidtz was born in Lafayette, Indiana while her father was studying chemical engineering at Purdue University. Both her father John and her mother Jean are South African. Later the family moved to Trenton, New Jersey, but moved back to South Africa when Davidtz was 9 years old, where her father took up a teaching post at Potchefstroom University.
She graduated from The Glen High School in Pretoria in 1983, and earned a degree (cum laude) in Drama & English Literature from Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
Davidtz made her professional acting debut at age 21 with CAPAB (Cape Performing Arts Board now known as Artscape) in Cape Town, playing "Juliet" in a stage production of Romeo and Juliet, at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre.
Performing in English and Afrikaans, the bilingual actress also starred other local plays, including Stille Nag (Silent Night) and A Chain of Voices, both for which she was nominated for the South African equivalent of the Tony Award.
Her film debut came in 1988 when she starred in the South African-filmed, American horror film, Mutator, and shortly after won a major role in the politically sensitive South African made-for-television film A Private Life, as the daughter of an interracial couple.
She garnered a South African equivalent of an Oscar nomination playing a rape victim who becomes deaf and mute, in the psychologically intense Afrikaans feature film, Nag van die 19de (Night of the 19th) in 1992.
After meeting with an agent in London, Davidtz moved to Los Angeles in 1992 and immediately landed a role in her first American film, Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness. Soon after she appeared in two NBC projects, the made-for-television film Till Death Do Us Part and the miniseries Deadly Matrimony. She was also seen in Laura Ziskin's short film "Oh, What A Day", opposite Viggo Mortensen.
Director Steven Spielberg spotted the 5' 8" actress in Deadly Matrimony and cast her in Schindler's List as Helen Hirsch, the brutalized Jewish maid, a poignant portrayal which won her many accolades. Apparently Davidtz initially thought it was fellow South African actor Arnold Vosloo playing a phone prank on her when Spielberg called her for an audition.
Though she would later admit to being unhappy with the project, Davidtz had a high-profile leading role in the fact-based film Murder in the First (1995) but better displayed her versatility in the Merchant Ivory production Feast of July (also 1995); she garnered glowing critical praise for her deft portrayal of a young woman who, in searching for the lover who abandoned her, ultimately brings tragedy to the family that offered her refuge.
More redeeming was her character in Matilda (1996), a feature based on Roald Dahl's children's fantasy. Here she played the role of the aptly-named Miss Honey, a sweet, warm-hearted teacher who brings out the best in the neglected girl genius.
In 1998, Davidtz played a theologian helping Denzel Washington crack a supernatural wave of crimes in the mystery drama Fallen and played a femme fatale linked to Kenneth Branagh in Robert Altman's take on a previously unused John Grisham manuscript, The Gingerbread Man.
The following year, Davidtz brought a witty charm to her portrayal a 19th-century woman of the world in Patricia Rozema's reworking of the Jane Austen comedy Mansfield Park and played a dual role in the futuristic fable Bicentennial Man.
A supporting role in the film adaptation of Bridget Jones' Diary (2001) saw Davidtz play a haughty villain for a change, while she proved even greater adaptability that year as she began her run on the CBS drama Citizen Baines, playing the daughter of a defeated United States Senate incumbent (James Cromwell) who is herself leaning towards a career in politics.
Mixing up period dramas in 1999's Wayward Son and the 2001-lensed Secret Passage with horror thrillers like 2001's Thir13en Ghosts, Davidtz emerged as a skilled performer with varied and versatile strengths. In 2002, she was then cast in the Michael Hoffman drama, The Emperor's Club, a movie which co-starred Kevin Kline as a professor and Emile Hirsch as a headstrong student.
In Junebug (2005), Davidtz played an outsider art dealer from Chicago brought to North Carolina by her husband (Alessandro Nivola) to meet his family for the first time. His eccentric family — which boasts of his knotty mother (Celia Weston), laconic father (Scott Wilson), cranky brother (Benjamin McKenzie) and awe-struck sister-in-law (Amy Adams) — becomes easily fractured from his wife’s presence, exposing long-dormant frustrations and anxieties.
Davidtz guest-starred on the hit ABC drama series "Grey's Anatomy" as Dr. Derek Shepherd's sister Nancy in Season 3 Episode 6 "Let the Angels Commit".
Davidtz had long-term relationships with actors Harvey Keitel and Ben Chaplin.
She married entertainment attorney Jason Sloane in a Jewish wedding on June 22, 2002, and has two children, Charlotte Emily (born in 2002) and Asher (born in 2005).