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.
1996, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Supporting Female: Nominee
2001, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Nominee
1997, Tony — Actress (Featured Role--Play): 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)
Birth Place: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States