As a teenager, Italianate beauty Carla Gugino began a career as a fashion model but quickly became disillusion. At the suggestion of her aunt, TV spokesmodel Carol Merrill (of "Let's Make a Deal" fame), she took an acting class with former soap star Gene Bua and became hooked, leading to her first screen role in the Shelley Long vehicle "Troop Beverly Hills" in 1989.
Born in Florida, Gugino relocated to California with her mother following her parents' divorce and experienced an unorthodox, bohemian upbringing that encompassed frequent moves as well as a stint living in a teepee in Northern California. Despite her sojourn in the modeling world and her acting classes, Gugino was able to maintain her grades and was named valedictorian of her high school class. Rather than attend college, though, she opted to concentrate on her burgeoning acting career. In fall 1989, she joined the cast of the long-running primetime serial "Falcon Crest" (CBS), but the show was in its last throes and while the role gave her some stature, it did little to move her to the ranks of stardom. Gugino was next tapped to play the youthful incarnation of the title character (essayed by Winona Ryder) in "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael" (1990). Following supporting turns in the 1992 HBO abortion-themed drama "A Private Affair" and the 1993 big screen family drama "This Boy's Life", the actress landed her first film lead as Pauley Shore's bride—a farmer's daughter—in the comedy "Son-in-Law" (1993).
1995 proved to be a banner year for Gugino with high profile roles on the big and small screen. She garnered good notices for her turn as the restlessly unhappy bride and youngest daughter in a Jewish family in "Miami Rhapsody" while her performance as one of a group of turn-of-the-century debutantes in the BBC/PBS co-production "The Buccaneers" demonstrated her range. Despite her ascending movie career, Gugino agreed to co-star in a sitcom, playing the journalist girlfriend of a deputy mayor (Michael J Fox) in ABC's "Spin City." Despite impressive reviews, she departed the show after a dozen episodes in what was reported as a mutual decision. From the producers' standpoint, the series' format needed tweaking and it was thought Fox's character would prove more interesting as a single man, while the actress supposedly did not like living in NYC where the show was taped.
Returning to California, Gugino found several roles in quick succession, although such indie fare as "The War at Home" (1996) and "Lovelife" (1997) did not exactly set box office records. Donning a blonde wig, she gave an impressive performance as a woman with a secret in "Snake Eyes" (1998). Branching out into producing, Gugino debuted with the caper drama "Judas Kiss" (1998), in which she also starred as the leader of a kidnapping plot. After premiering at Toronto, the movie ended up being sold to Cinemax before its video release. Returning to TV, Gugino joined the cast of "Chicago Hope" for its final season. She then co-starred with Antonio Banderas as retired espionage agents who are called back into service in director Robert Rodriguez's amusing, entertaining hit "Spy Kids"—a role she reprised for two sequels, "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams" (2002) and "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" (2003)—played a stripper's best friend in "The Center of the World" and Jet Li's love interest in "The One" (all 2001), and starred in the bizarre and creepy mermaid-as-monster TV flick "She Creature" (2001). In the fall of 2003, she took the title role in the ABC TV crime drama "Karen Sisco" as the beautiful federal marshal created by novelist Elmore Leonard and first played by Jennifer Lopez in the film "Out of Sight" (1998). Although it was one of the best reviewed dramas of that season, the show struggled in the ratings, prompting ABC to yank it from the schedule and relaunch it 2004.
Gugino reunited once more with Rodriguez along with writer-artist Frank Miller for their visually arresting adaptation of Miller's crime noir comic book series "Sin City" (2005); the actress appeared—frequently sans top—as Lucille, the protective lesbian parole officer of the noble but violent antihero Marv (Mickey Rourke). She then landed a regular role on “Threshold” (CBS, 2005- ), Shaun Cassidy’s supernatural drama about a small Florida town recovering from a devastating hurricane rumored to have been caused by aliens from outer space. Gugino played a crisis team scientist who, along with her eccentric, but brilliant colleagues, tries to figure out why a strange alien object that may be altering human DNA entered the Earth’s orbit after the storm. Along with generally positive reviews from critics, “Threshold” helped CBS consistently win Friday nights in the never-ending ratings war.