Mary McDonnell

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Mary McDonnell
Mary mcdonnell cropped.jpg
McDonnell at the Battlestar Galactica panel at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con International
Born Mary Eileen McDonnell
(1952-04-28) April 28, 1952 (age 62)
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Years active 1970s–present
Spouse(s) Randle Mell (1984?–present; 2 children)

Mary Eileen McDonnell (born April 28, 1952) is an American film, stage, and television actress. She received Academy Award nominations for her roles as Stands With A Fist in Dances with Wolves and May-Alice Culhane in Passion Fish. McDonnell is well known for her performances as President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, the First Lady in Independence Day, Rose in Donnie Darko, and Captain Sharon Raydor in the TNT crime drama The Closer and spinoff series Major Crimes.

Personal life[edit]

McDonnell was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Ithaca, New York. After graduating from the State University of New York at Fredonia, she attended drama school and joined the East Coast's prestigious Long Wharf Theatre Company, with which she worked for over 20 years. McDonnell is married to Randle Mell (born 1951), who is also an actor. McDonnell and Mell currently reside in Pacific Palisades, California. They have two children: Olivia (born 1987) and Michael (born 1993).


McDonnell won an Obie in 1980 for her work in the play Still Life. On Broadway, she has performed in productions of Execution of Justice, The Heidi Chronicles, and Summer and Smoke.

After more than 21 years of theater and television work, McDonnell made her film breakthrough in 1990 as Stands With A Fist, the daughter of American settlers raised by Sioux Indians, in Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves. Portraying the adopted daughter of Graham Greene's character Kicking Bird, McDonnell, then 37, was actually two months older than Greene and less than two years younger than Tantoo Cardinal, who played Black Shawl, her adoptive mother. McDonnell was extremely nervous about shooting her sex scene with Kevin Costner, requesting it to be toned down from what was scripted.[citation needed] She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.

McDonnell's role in Passion Fish (1992) brought her another Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Her other notable films include Grand Canyon (1991), Sneakers (1992), Independence Day (1996), and Donnie Darko (2001). McDonnell also starred with Patrick Swayze in the 1988 movie, Tiger Warsaw. In 1997 she played the judge in the film 12 Angry Men. The film also featured future Battlestar Galactica castmate Edward James Olmos.

On television, McDonnell had her first regular part in 1980 on the soap opera As the World Turns. She starred in 1984 on the short-lived medical comedy E/R, alongside Elliott Gould and George Clooney. Coincidentally, she guest-starred in 2001 on the NBC medical series of the same name, ER, which also featured Clooney. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role on the show as Eleanor Carter, the mother of Dr. John Carter played by Noah Wyle, who also had a role in Donnie Darko. She plays Dr. Virginia Dixon, a surgeon with Asperger syndrome for three episodes of Grey's Anatomy in 2008 and 2009.[1]

McDonnell at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con International

In 2003, McDonnell starred in the mini-series Battlestar Galactica as Laura Roslin. The mini-series led to the subsequent weekly series, with McDonnell reprising her Laura Roslin role. The series ended in March 2009. McDonnell received worldwide recognition for her performance in the show, part of which was shown when she was invited to the United Nations for a retrospective and discussion with Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama).

McDonnell took part in a special session entitled Battlestar Galactica at the 2009 World Science Festival.[2] The session also included Michael Hogan, as well as scientists Nick Bostrom and Kevin Warwick. In 2011, she appeared in the role of Kate Roberts, the mother of Emma Roberts's character in Scream 4.[3]

From 2009 to 2012, McDonnell had a recurring role in The Closer as Capt. Sharon Raydor, a police captain in the Force Investigation Division, who often butts heads with Kyra Sedgwick's Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning character.[4] McDonnell received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2011 for the role.[5]

McDonnell's character is the lead in the spin-off, Major Crimes, which debuted August 13, 2012, after The Closer wrapped up its final season in the summer of 2012.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1980 As the World Turns Claudia Colfax
1984 Garbo Talks Lady Capulet
1984–1985 E/R Dr. Eve Sheridan TV series (20 episodes)
1987 Matewan Elma Radnor
1988 Tiger Warsaw Paula Warsaw
1990 Dances with Wolves Stands With A Fist
1991 Grand Canyon Claire
1992 Passion Fish May-Alice Culhane
1992 Sneakers Liz
1994 Blue Chips Jenny Bell
1995–1996 High Society Dorothy "Dott" Emerson TV series (13 episodes)
1996 Independence Day First Lady Marilyn Whitmore
1996 Mariette in Ecstasy Prioress
1997 12 Angry Men Judge TV film
1997 Woman Undone Terri Hansen
1998 You Can Thank Me Later Diane
1998 Evidence of Blood Dora Overton TV film
1999 Replacing Dad Linda Marsh TV film
1999 Mumford Althea Brockett
2000 A Father's Choice Susan Shaw TV film
2000 For All Time Laura Brown TV film
2001–2002 ER Eleanor Carter TV series (5 episodes)
2001 Donnie Darko Rose Darko
2002 Locket, TheThe Locket Helen Staples TV film
2003 Nola Margaret Langworthy
2003 Battlestar Galactica President Laura Roslin TV miniseries (2 episodes)
2004–2009 Battlestar Galactica President Laura Roslin TV series (73 episodes)
2004 Crazy Like a Fox Amy Banks
2005 Mrs. Harris Vivian Schulte TV film
2008–2009 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Virginia Dixon TV series (3 episodes)
2009 Killer Hair Rose TV film
2009 Hostile Makeover Rose Smithsonian TV film
2011 Scream 4 Kate Roberts
2011 Margin Call Mary Rogers
2009–2012 Closer, TheThe Closer Captain Sharon Raydor TV series (26 episodes)
2012–present Major Crimes Captain Sharon Raydor TV series

Awards and nominations[edit]

NominatedAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actress
NominatedChicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress
NominatedGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture

NominatedAcademy Award for Best Actress
NominatedGolden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama

  • 2002—ER

NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

WonSaturn Award for Best Actress on Television

NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series


  1. ^ "Zap2it Interview". MSNBC. Retrieved November 13, 2008. 
  2. ^ Battlestar Galactica World Science Festival, June 10–14, 2009, New York City
  3. ^ Creepy, Uncle (July 2, 2010). "And the Body Count Continues – More Scream 4 Casting: Mary McDonnell and Alison Brie". Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ Ausiello, Michael (March 22, 2009). "'The Closer' exclusive: It's McDonnell vs. Sedgwick!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Primetime Emmy Awards nominations for 2011 – Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series". Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  6. ^ Fienberg, Daniel (May 18, 2011). "TNT orders 'Closer' spinoff 'Major Crimes' starring Mary McDonnell". HitFix. Retrieved May 31, 2011. 

External links[edit]