- Before pursuing acting, a profession she feared her late father would not have approved of, she enrolled in college to study psychology.
- Received theater training in both New York and London.
- Began her acting career in 1979, and made her Broadway (Loose Ends), TV (The Single Life) and film (Honky Tonk Freeway) debuts all within three years.
- Has said that her role in the 1980s sitcom Alice hindered her film career. Although she had initially rejected the role, she admitted that "the money became so phenomenal that I just had to do it."
- Beat out Delta Burke, Dianne Wiest and Kathy Bates to secure the role of Cameron's mother on the ABC sitcom Modern Family.
- 1997, Tony — Actress (Featured Role--Play): Nominee
- 1996, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Supporting Female: Nominee
- 2001, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Nominee
- Attended Salem College, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States; attended Rose Bruford College of Theater and Performance, Kent, England; North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States (1973)