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|Born||Tessie Jean Washam
August 15, 1950
Mammoth Spring, Arkansas
|Spouse(s)||Ken Harper (1971-1976)|
Tess Harper (born August 15, 1950) is an American actress. She was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her first film role, opposite Robert Duvall in 1983's Tender Mercies, and for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 1986 film Crimes of the Heart. Her other film appearances include Flashpoint (1984), Ishtar (1987), Far North (1988) and No Country for Old Men (2007).
Harper was born Tessie Jean Washam on August 15, 1950 in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, the daughter of Ed and Rosemary (Langston) Washam. She grew up around lots of quilts and quilt makers. On her own time, she liked to sit on the porch-swing and read. She graduated from high school in 1968. She attended Arkansas State University–Beebe (ASU–Beebe), where she performed in several plays, as well as Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in Springfield, where she graduated with a degree in education.
Tess Harper began acting in theater production and appearances in theme parks, including Dogpatch, USA and Silver Dollar City, dinner theatres and children's theatre. She had given up hopes of an acting career and was working for a financial institution in Texas. The institution wanted to produce a TV spot and asked Tessie to be in the spot which she accepted. In a twist of fate, a casting person with Tender Mercies had to spend the night in Dallas and saw Tess's spot on TV. She called Duvall and arranged an audition. Director Bruce Beresford was impressed with Harper and cast her in the lead female role of Rosa Lee, the young widow and mother who marries country singer Mac Sledge. Beresford said the previous actress who auditioned for the role brought to it a sophistication and worldliness inappropriate for the part, whereas Harper brought a kind of rural quality without coming across as simple or foolish. Beresford said of Harper, "She walked into the room and even before she spoke, I thought, 'That's the girl to play the lead.'" Harper did not realize this, and recalled shortly after the film's release, "After I did the final screen test, I went to see Breaker Morant and started sobbing uncontrollably halfway through it. A friend had to take me home, and I kept crying, 'You don't understand! They're not gonna let me do this part!'"
Tender Mercies was Harper's feature film debut. Harper said she was so excited about the role that she bit her script just to make sure it was real, and she was so nervous that during her first take she feared the filmmakers would "come to their senses and say, 'We're sorry, we made a terrible mistake.'" Actor Robert Duvall, who played the lead role of Mac Sledge, did his best to help Harper in her first film role. During one scene in which Mac Sledge and Rosa Lee were fighting, Duvall yelled at a make-up artist in front of Harper specifically to make her angry for the scene; Duvall apologized to the make-up artist after the scene was shot. After filming, Duvall said Harper did a very good job, and he felt her rural past in Arkansas helped her in the part. She earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for the role. Duvall won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
Harper appeared in the TV mini-series Chiefs (1983) and Celebrity (1984), as well as many television movies including Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land (1983) and Reckless Disregard (1985). In 1983, she appeared in the full-length feature Silkwood.
In 1986, Harper was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work as Chick Boyle in Crimes of the Heart, which was directed by her Tender Mercies director Bruce Beresford. She later played parts in Ishtar (1987), Far North (1988), The Man in the Moon (1991), The Jackal (1997) and Loggerheads (2005). She also took part in Michael Jackson's Black Or White (1991) musical minifilm.
Harper had a regular role in a CBS television series, Christy, from 1994-95. Her roles have frequently been that of a Southern lady, although she had worked to lose her Arkansas accent. She also had a recurring role on another CBS television series, Early Edition, from 1996 to 2000. She portrayed the mother of lead character Gary Hobsen. Harper shared a Screen Actors Guild Award (in the Best Ensemble Cast category) with her fellow cast members in the Oscar-winning film No Country for Old Men, in which she played the wife of Tommy Lee Jones.
She had the recurring role of Mrs. Pinkman on Breaking Bad, appearing in the first three seasons.
|1983||Kentucky Woman||Lorna Whateley||TV movie|
|1983||Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land||Janet Briggs||TV movie|
|1983||Tender Mercies||Rosa Lee||Nominee, Best Supporting Actress (Golden Globes)|
|1983||Chiefs||Carrie Lee||TV mini-series|
|1983||Amityville 3-D||Nancy Baxter|
|1984||Celebrity||Susan French||TV mini-series|
|1985||Reckless Disregard||Meredith Craig||TV movie|
|1985||George Burns Comedy Week||Episode: "The Smiths"|
|1985||Promises to Keep||Gwen Palmer||TV movie|
|1986||Twilight Zone, TheThe Twilight Zone||Sarah||Episode: "Quarantine"|
|1986||Crimes of the Heart||Chick Boyle||Nominee, Best Supporting Actress (Academy Awards)|
|1987||Murder, She Wrote||Irene Rutledge||Episode: "Simon Says, Color Me Dead"|
|1987||L.A. Law||Patricia Pittman||Episode: "Sparky Brackman: R.I.P. ????-1987"|
|1987||Daddy||Ann Burnette||TV movie|
|1988||Little Girl Lost||Clara Brady||TV movie|
|1988||Criminal Law||Det. Stillwell|
|1989||Unconquered||Mrs. Mary Flowers||TV movie|
|1989||Her Alibi||Sally Blackwood|
|1989||Incident at Dark River||Betty McFall||TV movie|
|1990||Daddy's Dyin': Who's Got the Will?||Sara Lee Turnover|
|1991||Pretty Hattie's Baby|
|1991||My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys||Cheryl|
|1991||Man in the Moon, TheThe Man in the Moon||Abigail Trant|
|1991||Black or White||Mother||Video short|
|1992||In the Line of Duty: Siege at Marion||Vickie Singer||TV movie|
|1992||Turning, TheThe Turning||Martha Harnish|
|1992||My New Gun||Kimmy Hayes|
|1992||Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story||Verna Heath||TV movie|
|1993||Hidden Room, TheThe Hidden Room||Dede||Episode: "After the Crash"|
|1994–1995||Christy||Fairlight Spencer||19 episodes|
|1995||Death in Small Doses||Asst. D.A. Jerri Sims||TV movie|
|1996||Road to Galveston, TheThe Road to Galveston||Julia Archer||TV movie|
|1996||Stranger to Love, AA Stranger to Love||Linda Grant||TV movie|
|1996||Dirty Laundry||Beth Greene|
|1997||Killing Secret, TheThe Killing Secret||Tina DeCapprio||TV movie|
|1997||Grace Under Fire||Joan||Episode: "Matthew's Old Lady"|
|1997||Child's Wish, AA Child's Wish||Joanna Chandler||TV movie|
|1997||Walker, Texas Ranger||Katie Malloy||Episode: "Sons of Thunder"|
|1997||Jackal, TheThe Jackal||The First Lady|
|1997||Cracker: Mind Over Murder||Lea Ann Garner||Episode: "An American Dream"|
|1998–2000||Early Edition||Lois Hobson||7 episodes|
|2000||Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder||Narrator / Older Laura Ingalls Wilder||TV movie|
|2000||In Crowd, TheThe In Crowd||Dr. Amanda Giles|
|2000||Touched by an Angel||Betsy Baxter||Episode: "The Empty Chair"|
|2001||Rising Place, TheThe Rising Place||Rebecca Hodge|
|2001||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Julia Barrett||Episode: "Bully for You"|
|2002||Beyond the Prairie 2: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder||Older Laura Ingalls Wilder (voice)||TV movie|
|2002||No Prom for Cindy||Cindy's Mom||Short film|
|2003||Division, TheThe Division||Polly Danko||Episode: "Oh Mother, Who Art Thou?"|
|2003||Studio City||Linda Little||Short film|
|2004||One Tree Hill||May Scott||Episode: "Crash Course in Polite Conversations"|
|2004||Lonely Place||Short film|
|2004||Jack & Bobby||Karen Carmichael||Episode: "Pilot"
Episode: "An Innocent Man"
|2004||Angel in the Family||Mrs. Nelly Tomkins||TV movie|
|2005||Judging Amy||Barbara Nissman||Episode: "Sorry I Missed You"|
|2006||Jesus, Mary and Joey||Liz O'Callahan|
|2006||Broken Bridges||Dixie Rose Delton|
|2007||Judy's Got a Gun||Susan Lemen||TV movie|
|2007||Without a Trace||Mrs. Spade||Episode: "At Rest"|
|2007||No Country for Old Men||Loretta Bell|
|2007||Kiss the Bride||Barbara|
|2007||Saving Sarah Cain||Miriam Esh|
|2007||Brothers & Sisters||Beth Ridge||Episode: "History Repeating"|
|2008||Ghost Whisperer||Ellen Wilkins||Episode: "Stranglehold"|
|2008–2010||Breaking Bad||Mrs. Pinkman||Episode: "Cancer Man"
Episode: "Caballo sin Nombre"
|2009||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Mrs. Hallander||Episode: "Stranger"|
|2009||Cold Case||Sharon Lertola||Episode: "November 22"|
|2009||Crash||Wendy Olinville||10 episodes|
|2010||Grey's Anatomy||Mrs. Nelson||Episode: "Perfect Little Accident"|
|2010||In Plain Sight||A.U.S.A. Rolly||Episode: "Coma Chameleon"|
|2011||A Christmas Wish||Trudy Willis|
|2012||Revenge||Carole Miller||2 episodes|
|2014||True Detective||Mrs. Kelly||Episode: "Seeing Things"|
|2014||Hello, My Name Is Frank||Aunt Flossie|
|2015||Criminal Minds||Dinah Troy||Episode: "Rock Creek Park"|
|2015||The Perfect Guy||Mrs. McCarthy|