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Mary McDonnell Biography

Birth Name:
Mary Eileen McDonnell
Birth Place:
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States

Fast Facts

  • Made her stage debut in 1978, appearing in Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Buried Child
  • Was in the Portland Stage Company with Sarah Jessica Parker, and lived in the same apartment house
  • Taught drama at Vassar College summer theater in the mid-1980s, and later at the New York Stage and Film Company
  • Husband Randle Mell played a homeless man opposite her in the 1991 movie Grand Canyon
  • Has worked twice with director John Sayles, on 1987's Matewan, her first major film role, and 1992's Passion Fish, for which she garnered an Oscar nomination
  • Like George Clooney, she appeared on the short-lived CBS sitcom titled E/R before landing a role on the famous drama ER (as Noah Wyle's mother)
  • Has played both a First Lady (in Independence Day) and a President (in Battlestar Galactica)


  • 2012Independent Spirit Awards-Robert Altman Award: winner
  • 2011Emmy-Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: nominated
  • 2002Emmy-Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: nominated
  • 1993Golden Globe-Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama: nominated
  • 1992Oscar-Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: nominated
  • 1991Golden Globe-Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: nominated
  • 1990Oscar-Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: nominated