Yancy Butler is an American actress whose ticket to fame was her role as Detective Sara Pezzini from the supernatural TV series ‘Witchblade’.
Yancy Victoria Butler was born on July 2, 1970 in Greenwich Village, New York City, USA. Her parents are Joe Butler, a former drummer who is now the lead singer of the band ‘The Lovin’ Spoonful’, and Leslie Vega Butler, a former actress who is now a manager of the Broadway company.
With parents as artists and grandparents with a theatrical background, Yancy was fascinated with the performing arts during his childhood. To prepare for her future in the entertainment business, at the age of 13 she attended workshops at the illustrious HB (Herbert Berghof) Studios, one of New York’s original performing arts studios.
“Don’t feel lonely, the whole universe is inside you.” – Rumi⠀
Pre-quarantine 📸 by @davidsobel28 ⠀
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— Yancy Butler (@RealYancyButler) May 29, 2020
She also took ballet classes at the renowned Joffrey Ballet School and dance classes at the prominent The Ailey School. Yancy also managed to graduate in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and was awarded the honor of being a Griggs Scholar.
After college, in 1991, she landed a role in ‘Law & Order’, a newly launched television show airing on NBC, starring Steven Hill and Jerry Orbach. This cameo appearance paved the way for producer Dick Wolf to team up with Robert DeLaurentis Yancy for her first starring role as Sgt. Eve Edison for “Mann & Machine” in 1992. It aired on NBC on April 5, 1992, but it was canceled after nine episodes, with the last five episodes being treated as burn-off – airing during unpopular time slots.
It was heavily criticized for being too similar to another failed comedy series in the 1970s. However, she received generally favorable reviews for her performance.
In 1993, the Dick Wolf/Robert DeLaurentis production created “South Beach” just for her. It was a Modesty Blaise inspired action drama TV series. This time she played the role of Kate Patrick, a criminal who was given the choice to work for the government instead of going to prison. However, it was another failed project as after filming seven episodes, only the first six aired before being canceled by the NBC network. It ran from June 6 to August 12.
The dismal rise of her TV series saw her accept movie roles in between filming the TV shows. In 1992 she filmed the movie ‘Hard Target’ with Jean Claude Van Damme. It was her first foray into film and it was also acclaimed director John Woo’s first Hollywood film.
The film was released in 1993 and grossed approximately $74 million against a budget of $19.5 million.
It was followed by another action movie, “Drop Zone”, in 1994 starring Wesley Snipes and Gary Busey directed by John Badlam. It was a commercial failure, although it started off with a decent opening debut. It failed to attract more viewers with a profit of $28 million against a budget of $45 million.
In 1995, to avoid being typecast in action movies, Yancy accepted a movie role of a sexy dance instructor starring Patrick Stewart and Campbell Scott in a movie titled “Let It Be Me”. It was followed by ‘The Ex’, an erotic thriller film based on a novel by John Lutz starring Nick Mancuso and Suzy Amis. She played the role of an ex-wife determined to destroy her former husband’s newfound happiness.
Returning to the small screen, Yancy took part in the TV series “Brooklyn South”, police drama, which ran from September 22, 1997 to April 27, 1998. Just when she thought the show would be renewed for a 22-episode second season already aired, network executives canceled right after the final episode of Season 1 aired. It struggled on the TV ratings, even reaching 10.5 million viewers as it took on ABC’s Monday Night Football and NBC’s Dateline Monday.
Her biggest breakthrough
In 2000, she landed a lead role in a made-for-TV supernatural action movie based on a popular comic book titled “Witchblade”, for the TNT network. She played the role of Detective Sara Pezini, who can wield a magical artifact weapon to bring justice.
It was a commercial success and was highly viewed on TV during its broadcast with 5.2 million viewers. The result was so competitive that it was comparable to the numbers popular TV shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” were making at the time. Following its success, the same network ordered a full-fledged 11-episode TV series version of it for its first season and was renewed for a 12-episode second season. It ran from June 12, 2001 to August 26, 2002. The series gained a cult following and would have lasted longer, but Yancy’s personal life spiraled out of control and affected her work. It was canceled after the second season. The TNT network, on the other hand, claimed that they wanted to end the series on a high note.
After “Witchblade,” she took a much-needed break and dealt with personal issues. In 2004, she started making movies again and the most notable ones were “The Last Letter” with William Forsythe and Grace Zabriskie, “Wolvesbayne” in 2009 as the powerful old vampire Lilith, and the “Lake Placid” franchise movie series where she played the role of a tough fighter named Reba.
Yancy is still active in making movies for television and independent films, as well as appearing in a number of small-role TV series.
Yancy is currently single and has no children. There was no news that she was engaged to anyone, but it was believed that she was in a relationship with Jeff Havey, her leading man in “The Hit List” in 1993.
The relationship did not last long and no one knew the reason for the breakup. She also dated Earl Ward Jr. in 2007, as well as with a certain James Driscoll who stalked and harassed her after their breakup.
Although her dating history was sparse, she was often in the news for her long battle with alcoholism. She was arrested several times by the police. The first was in November 2003 in Delray Beach, Florida for disorderly intoxication. She was sentenced to a substance abuse rehabilitation program.
The second was in 2007 when she crashed her car into a guardrail and police found out she was driving under the influence. Yancy was held for several hours and was released after posting $500 bail.
Days before this arrest took place, her then-boyfriend, Earl Ward Jr., called 911 asking for help calming Yancy down after he refused to hand her the car keys. Apparently, police found out she was heavily intoxicated and presumably smoked crack cocaine as well.
The latest was in Sag Harbor in 2017 when she was charged with drunk driving after someone found her unconscious, slumped over the wheel of her car, driving onto a sidewalk. She swallowed when asked by the police officers and her breath test result was well above the limit of 0.18. Additional charges were filed after 14 Xanax pills were discovered in her purse and after she allegedly spit in the commanding officer’s face.
Interesting facts and rumours
- An ex-boyfriend pursued her and harassed her by making threatening phone calls after she broke up with her. He even posted several defamatory posters outside the treatment center where she was undergoing a rehab program. He entered a plea deal when he was arrested and charged.
- TNT’s network executives believed her “Witchblade” series would become another “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” after gaining high ratings and a loyal audience. An additional budget was approved for the production of the show and for promotional purposes. Due to her personal issues, they decided to keep it short so as not to risk tainting the “Witchblade” brand with scandal for future reboot plans.
Yancy is 5ft 7ins. (1.73 m) tall and weighs about 56 kg. She is white with long wavy dark brown hair and hazel eyes.
Sources estimate her net worth as of early 2020 to be around $2 million. To this day, she still makes movies and makes guest appearances on TV.