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Vernon was born in Canada, one of two daughters to character actor John Vernon and former actress and model Nancy West. Kate's sister is the singer Nan Vernon.
Following her family's move to California, Kate expressed an interest in becoming an architect on graduating from school, but then felt she'd have to be locked away if she failed to express herself as an actress. Despite her father's opposition, she followed her heart and started acting in her early 20's, working in both film and television.
She worked steadily on television through the 1980s and 1990s, guest-starring in some of the top shows of the era: L.A. Law, Murder, She Wrote, Nash Bridges - even foraying into science-fiction with her appearance in Star Trek: Voyager.
Her film career spans both the large screen and a range of made-for-TV movies.