Jessica Capshaw was born in Columbia, Missouri, the daughter of actress Kate Capshaw (née Kathleen Sue Nail) and salesman Robert Capshaw. Her parents were both students at the University of Missouri. The family moved to New York to pursue Kate’s modeling career. Her parents divorced when she was three and Jessica got drawn into her mother’s new world. Kate married director Steven Spielberg when Jessica was 15.
Among her three parents, she is one of 10 biological and adopted siblings. Jessica graduated from Brown University in 1998 with an English degree. She then attended acting classes at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. From there, she got her first acting role on TV’s Odd Man Out (1999).
She is known for her role as Jamie Stringer in The Practice and Dr. Arizona Robbins on the ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. She was introduced in Grey’s Anatomy’s fifth season as an attending surgeon and the new head of pediatric surgery. Originally contracted to appear in three episodes, Capshaw’s contract was extended to the remainder of the fifth season, with her becoming a series regular in the sixth season.
She was established as a love-interest for orthopedic resident Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez). Series creator Shonda Rhimes was pleased with the chemistry between Robbins and Torres, citing the addition of Capshaw to the cast as an element of the season of which she was most proud. Speaking of the new addition, Rhimes said: “I love Jessica Capshaw, and when I say love I mean love. She couldn’t be a more wonderful person, and I feel like the chemistry Arizona and Callie have feels like the Meredith and Derek chemistry to me. I find them delightful to watch.”
In March of 2018, Capshaw was let go from Grey’s Anatomy, with the producers citing creative reasons.
Capshaw married Christopher Gavigan on May 22, 2004, at her family’s East Hampton estate. Capshaw took her husband’s last name at marriage, becoming “Jessica Brooke Capshaw Gavigan”.