In the 2000s, Slater recorded five albums, singing her own compositions and playing the piano.
Slater was born in Bethpage, New York to a Jewish family. Her parents are Alice Joan (née Citrin), a lawyer and nuclear disarmament peace activist based in New York City, and Gerald Slater, a television executive; they divorced in 1974. She has a brother, David, who is a lawyer in New York City. Slater attended Great Neck South High School and then transferred to the High School of Performing Arts from which she graduated in 1982. Despite common misconception, she is not related to actor Christian Slater, who played her brother in The Legend of Billie Jean.
Slater made her acting debut in the ABC Afterschool Special Amy & the Angel, aired in 1982, alongside James Earl Jones, Meg Ryan, and Matthew Modine. This was also the only film she appeared in exclusively as a brunette. In 1984, she played the title character, versus Faye Dunaway as Selena, in the TriStar film Supergirl. The film, directed by Jeannot Szwarc and including big name actors like Mia Farrow and Peter O'Toole, received mixed reviews, and was not a box-office success. The film was cited as a reason for publisher DC killing off the original comics character (Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)) in 1985, though a new "Supergirl" soon appeared. Slater's performance was not generally blamed.
In her next film, Slater was cast alongside Christian Slater and Yeardley Smith as Billie Jean Davy, a folk hero who styles herself as a modern-day Joan of Arc, in the film The Legend of Billie Jean (1985). Next, she appeared in two high-profile comedies, Ruthless People (1986) and The Secret of My Success (1987). More high-profile roles followed when she appeared in the independent comedy Sticky Fingers (1988) with longtime friend Melanie Mayron, City Slickers (1991) with Billy Crystal, the steamy A House in the Hills (1993) with Michael Madsen, and the action-crime drama No Way Back opposite Russell Crowe (1996). Other noteworthy performances were seen in films including 12:01 (1993), Betrayal of the Dove, and opposite Andy Richter in Seeing Other People (2004).
Slater has appeared on episodes of various television series, including The New Adventures of Old Christine, Supernatural, four episodes as the voice of Talia in Batman: The Animated Series, and others. She was a series regular on the half-season run of the 1990 ABC newsroom drama Capital News and the 2011–2013 two season run of the ABC Family series The Lying Game.
During her career, Slater has revisited her 1984 role of Supergirl. She made a brief guest appearance on Seinfeld as a love interest of Jerry Seinfeld, who in reality is a huge fan of Superman. Slater was seen in a recurring role as Clark Kent's biological mother, Lara, on the TV series Smallville and as Supergirl's adoptive mother in the recent TV series Supergirl.
Slater was a spokeswoman for Preference by L'Oréal in both television and print ads.
Slater co-founded the New York theater group, The Naked Angels, with Gina Gershon. Her stage credits include appearances in Grease and Shakespeare and Friends. Off-Broadway, she starred in Responsible Parties and Almost Romance. She also attended classes at both N.Y.U. and U.C.L.A., to broaden her acting abilities.
Slater has stated that she pursued musical efforts even before doing movies. In the 1989 Patrick Dempsey romantic comedy Happy Together, she sang a medley of Broadway songs as well other songs. In the 1994 movie Lassie, she also sang. For the soundtrack of the film Nowhere In Sight (2000), she contributed the song "The Detour".
In 2003, she released a CD, One of These Days, consisting of her original songs. Notably, the tracks were real-time recordings with Slater singing and playing piano, plus six other musicians total; no multitracking, editing, or dubbing were employed. In 2005, she released a second CD, Crossword, using the same recording approach as the first CD. Both albums were produced by Phil Swann. In 2008 Cortes Alexander recorded Slater's "Any Day Now" and "Love'll Come & Do Just That" on his album Swell. Her third album, Shine, was released in late 2010.
In 1985, DC Comics named Slater as one of the honorees in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for her work on the Supergirl film.
Slater wrote a day in the life of Supergirl tale entitled "A Hero's Journey" which appeared in the 50th issue of the Supergirl comic book.
She married filmmaker Robert Watzke in September 1989. Their daughter, Hannah Nika, was born on August 28, 1995.One of These Days (2003)
Myths of Ancient Greece (2013)
The Ugly Duckling (2015)