In 1984 Cynthia Nixon made Broadway history by appearing in two Broadway plays at the same time. Her roles were short, and the two theaters were only two blocks away from each other, so she would run from one to the other. She was 18 years old.
Nixon’s first onscreen appearance was as an imposter on To Tell the Truth, where her mother worked. She began acting at age 12 as the object of a wealthy school mate’s crush in The Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid, a 1979 ABC Afterschool Special. She made her feature debut co-starring with Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal in Little Darlings (1980). She made her Broadway debut as Dinah Lord in a 1980 revival of The Philadelphia Story. Alternating between film, TV and stage, she did projects like the 1982 ABC movie My Body, My Child, the features Prince of the City (1981) and I Am the Cheese (1983), and the 1982 Off-Broadway productions of John Guare’s Lydie Breeze.
In 1984, while a freshman at Barnard College, Nixon made theatrical history by simultaneously appearing in two hit Broadway plays directed by Mike Nichols. These were The Real Thing, where Nixon played the daughter ofJeremy Irons and Christine Baranski; and Hurlyburly, where she played a young woman who encounters sleazy Hollywood executives. The two theaters were just two blocks apart and Nixon’s roles were both short, so she could run from one to the other. Onscreen, she played the role of Salieri’s maid/spy, Lorl, in Amadeus (1984). In 1985, she appeared alongside Jeff Daniels in Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky at Second Stage Theatre.
She landed her first major supporting part in a movie as an intelligent teenager who aids her boyfriend (Christopher Collet) in building a nuclear bomb in Marshall Brickman’s The Manhattan Project (1986). Nixon was part of the cast of the NBC miniseries The Murder of Mary Phagan (NBC, 1988) starring Jack Lemmon and Kevin Spacey, and portrayed the daughter of a presidential candidate (Michael Murphy) in Tanner ’88 (1988), Robert Altman’s political satire for HBO. She reprised the role for the 2004 sequel Tanner on Tanner.