The daughter of an opera singer, Williams went to Brown University with the hopes of becoming a child psychologist but decided to pursue an acting career instead. After landing a starring role on the daytime soap opera Guiding Light, the stage-trained actress made an unforgettable film debut in the buff in the 1979 drama Kramer vs. Kramer. Bigger parts in other movies followed, notably as a mother in the supernatural chiller Poltergeist and as a thirty-something reuniting at a funeral with college friends in The Big Chill. She later appeared in myriad series and TV-movies, earning multiple Emmy nods in the process. Williams also branched out into directing and garnered an Oscar nod for her 1994 short film On Hope. She continues her prolific output with a host of guest spots on popular shows such as Law & Order: SVU, Dexter and Private Practice.
- Joined Actor's Equity at age 18.
- After graduating from college, joined Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI.
- Early TV work included stints on the soap operas Guiding Light and Somerset.
- Film debut was a nude scene in 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer.
- Best-know for her starring roles in Poltergeist (1982) and The Big Chill (1983).
- Served for five years a member of the Screen Actors Guild national board and was also president of the non-profit SAG Foundation.
- 1995, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Nominee
- 1988, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special: Nominee
- 1989, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Nominee
- 1984, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special: Nominee
- 1994, Oscar — Best Short Film, Live Action: Nominee
- Frances Faye Williams — Mother
- Nick Pasquin — Son
- John Pasquin — Husband
- Will Pasquin — Son
- Sarah Pasquin — Stepdaughter
- Roger Williams — Father
- Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States (BA, 1970)
- Birth Name: Margaret JoBeth Williams
- Birth Place: Houston, Texas, United States
- Profession: Actor