Mary-Louise Parker

From Academic Kids

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Mary-Louise Parker.

Mary-Louise Parker (born August 2, 1964 in Fort Jackson, South Carolina) is an American actress whose work in theater and film has won her international acclaim. She has been the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Tony award, Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Her best-known works include Boys on the Side, The West Wing, and Angels in America.


Her Early Work

Acting was always her passion and she graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts with acting as her major. In the late '80s, she travelled to New York where she got a job measuring feet at Ecco. After a few minor roles, she made her Broadway debut in a 1990 production of Craig Lucas's Prelude to a Kiss, playing the main role of Rita. For her performance she won the Clarence Derwent Award and was nominated for a Tony award. She also briefly dated her co-star Timothy Hutton. However, when the play was made into a film, Meg Ryan took over Parker's role.

That same year she was noticed by critics worldwide when she appeared in the movie adaptation of another Craig Lucas play, the poignant Longtime Companion, one of the first movies to truly deal with AIDS. This role was followed by her appearance in Fried Green Tomatoes in 1991 alongside Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson and Kathy Bates.

The Makings of a Star: The 1990s

Parker maintained a strong theater presence in the early 1990s, but also maintained her reputation on the big screen, starring with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones in The Client (1994); with John Cusack in Bullets Over Broadway (1994); and then playing an AIDS sufferer in Boys on the Side (1995), with Drew Barrymore and Whoopi Goldberg. She followed this up with a movie adaptation of yet another Craig Lucas play, Reckless (1995), alongside Mia Farrow and then in Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady (1996) which also starred Nicole Kidman, Viggo Mortensen, Christian Bale, John Malkovich and Barbara Hershey. In 1997, she appeared alongside Matthew Modine in Tim Hunter's The Maker.

Parker did not become an instant household name, but rather a darling of the critics. Her theater career continued to flourish when she appeared in Mark Brokaw's 1997 critical smash How I Learned To Drive, with David Morse. After several independent film releases, she appeared in Let The Devil Wear Black and then a much-lauded role in 1999's The Five Senses.

Hitting It Big: 2001 - 2003

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Mary-Louise Parker as Amy Gardner in the West Wing

In 2001, Parker appeared alongside Len Cariou and Anne Heche in David Auburn's Proof on Broadway, and among the praise showered on her was the much-coveted Tony award. However, Parker again lost out when the play was made into a film and the role was given to Gwyneth Paltrow. But whatever her theatrical aspirations, she would leave the stage for three years as her profile soared and she found roles wherever she looked: among them, the Silence of the Lambs prequel Red Dragon; a 2002 television movie based on the life of FBI spy-turned-Soviet informer, Robert Hanssen (played by William Hurt); and playing a struggling screenwriter alongside Martin Donovan in Pipe Dream (2002).

Next up was a guest role on the Rob Lowe/Martin Sheen NBC drama, The West Wing, as women's rights activist Amelia 'Amy' Gardner, which soon became a recurring role. Beginning in 2001, her character became Chief of Staff to the First Lady (played by Stockard Channing), became a love interest for neurotic Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman (played by Bradley Whitford), and provided another female voice in a show publicly criticised for its lack of high-level political women (with the exception of Allison Janney's press secretary C.J. Cregg). For this role, Parker was nominated for an Emmy, and a Screen Actors Guild award.

However in 2003, after the show's fourth season, creator and head writer Aaron Sorkin left the show along with his top director Thomas Schlamme. While some fans believed that this destroyed the show, and others enjoyed it, one thing was certain: the show's style had definitely changed. Around this time, Parker became pregnant and her character was written out of the series after five episodes of the fifth season. She was later to return in 2005.

In November 2003, she split with long-time boyfriend Billy Crudup, after a seven year relationship which began when they met in a 1996 theater reprisal of the Marilyn Monroe film Bus Stop.

An Angel in America: 2004 and on...

On December 7 2003, HBO aired what would become the biggest event of the year in television: an epic six-and-a-half hour adaptation of Tony Kushner's acclaimed Broadway play Angels in America, directed by Mike Nichols. The miniseries - about a group of lost souls in New York during the AIDS epidemic of the '80s - was internationally acclaimed and starred Meryl Streep, Al Pacino and Emma Thompson. Parker played Harper Pitt, the valium-addicted wife of a closeted lawyer, and - among its many awards - Parker received the Golden Globe and Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries. The joy was added to when, on January 7 2004 - two months after her split from Billy Crudup - Parker gave birth to a healthy baby boy, William Atticus.

In 2004, she appeared in the black comedy Saved!, and a TV movie called Miracle Run based on the true story of a mother with two autistic sons, as well as spending time on Broadway, appearing in Craig Lucas's Reckless. Parker, who had starred in the film, this time took the lead role that had been Mia Farrow's on screen. Parker's former role of Pooty was played by Rosie Perez. The production, directed by Mark Brokaw, was critically acclaimed during its run.

In 2005, Parker reprised her West Wing role for one episode - Freedonia - during what many fans saw as the creative renaissance of the show, now focussing on the last year of the Bartlet administration. In her episode, Parker became the campaign advisor to Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits).

She also starred with Tom Skerritt in the CBS television film Vinegar Hill as a down-on-her-luck schoolteacher who, with her family, moves in with her in-laws only to discover their bitter, loveless relationship, and will star alongside James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon in John Turturro's Romance & Cigarettes, to be released in August.

That month will also see Parker on television, joining her Angels in America co-star Justin Kirk and Elizabeth Perkins onscreen in the new Showtime series Weeds, a black comedy about a suburban mother who, following the death of her husband, decides to sell marijuana to make money, while also attempting to maintain her profile in the community. The first season will run for 10 episodes.


1990 - Tony award nomination, for Prelude to a Kiss

2000 - Genie award nomination, for The Five Senses

2001 - Tony award winner, for Proof

2002 - Emmy award nominee for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, for The West Wing

2003 - Screen Actors Guild Award nominee for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, for The West Wing

2004 - Screen Actors Guild Award nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries, for Angels in America

2004 - Golden Satellite Award nominee for Best Performance by an Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, for Angels in America

2004 - Golden Globe Award Winner for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, for Angels in America

2004 - Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, for Angels in America


Appeared in a Bonnie Raitt music video entitled You Got It.

A song entitled Butterfly in Reverse by the band Counting Crows was written for her.

Received 'Special Thanks' credits for Wet Hot American Summer and Pieces of April.

At the 2004 Golden Globes, Parker was dared by fellow West Wing cast member Janel Moloney to thank her newborn son for the enhancement of her breasts and profile, if she won the award for Angels in America. Parker did win, and did indeed do it, winning $1000 from Moloney.

See also

External links


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