Mary-Louise Parker (born August 2, 1964) is an American Tony-, Emmy-
and Golden Globe-winning actress. Some of her better known works include Fried
Green Tomatoes, Boys on the Side, Proof, The West Wing, Angels in America, and
her current lead role on Showtime's television series Weeds portraying Nancy
Mary-Louise was born in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Her mother was Swedish and her father was a judge and served in the U.S. Army. Mary-Louise majored in drama at the North Carolina School of the Arts. She then got her start in a bit part on the soap opera Ryan's Hope. In the late 1980s, Mary-Louise moved 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' Prelude to a Kiss, playing the lead role of Rita. She won the Clarence Derwent Award for her performance and was nominated for a Tony Award. Mary-Louise also briefly dated her co-star Timothy Hutton during this time.
That same year, Mary-Louise was noticed by critics when she appeared in the movie adaptation of another Lucas play, Longtime Companion, one of the first movies to confront AIDS in the public arena. This role was followed by her appearance in 1991's Grand Canyon, which also starred Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard and Kevin Kline. Parker's next film was Fried Green Tomatoes, alongside Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kathy Bates and Cicely Tyson.
Mary-Louise maintained a strong theater presence in the early 1990s, but also built 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 with Drew Barrymore and Whoopi Goldberg in Boys on the Side (1995), as a woman with AIDS. Her next role was in a movie adaptation of yet another Craig Lucas play, Reckless (1995), alongside Mia Farrow, followed by Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady (1996), which also starred Nicole Kidman, Viggo Mortensen, Christian Bale, John Malkovich and Barbara Hershey. In addition, she appeared alongside Matthew Modine in Tim Hunter's The Maker (1997).
Parker's theater career continued when she appeared in Paula Vogel'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 The Five Senses (1999).
In 2001, Mary-Louise appeared alongside Larry Bryggman in David Auburn's Proof on Broadway, for which she won a Tony Award. However, Mary-Louise again lost out when the play was made into a film and the role was given to Gwyneth Paltrow. During this period, she left the theater for three years to look for other roles: among them, Red Dragon and Pipe Dream (2002).
Next was a guest role on the NBC drama, The West Wing, as women's rights activist Amelia "Amy" Gardner, which soon became a recurring role as a love interest for Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman. For this role, Mary-Louise was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. During the fifth season, however, Mary-Louise became pregnant and her character was written out of the series after appearing in four episodes. She later reappeared in the seventh and final season of the show, hired to a post in the Santos White House as Director of Legislative Affairs.
On December 7, 2003, HBO aired 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 1980s — was hailed with international critical acclaim. Mary-Louise played Harper Pitt, the Mormon Valium-addicted wife of a closeted lawyer. For her performance, Mary-Louise received Golden Globe and Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries.
In 2004, Mary-Louise appeared in the comedy Saved!, and a TV movie called Miracle Run, based on the true story of a mother of two sons with autism, as well as appearing in Craig Lucas' Reckless on Broadway. Mary-Louise took the lead role that had been Mia Farrow's on screen. The production, directed by Mark Brokaw, earned Mary-Louise another nomination for a Tony Award for Best Actress in 2005.
Mary-Louise returned to The West Wing in several guest appearances in 2005 and 2006, the show's final season, portraying the Director of Legislative Affairs under the President-elect Matt Santos.
In 2005, Mary-Louise took on the lead role in the television series Weeds, a Showtime comedy-drama. Parker's character, Nancy Botwin, is a suburban mother who, following the death of her husband, decides to sell marijuana to make money, while also attempting to maintain her community reputation. She stars alongside Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, her Saved! co-star Martin Donovan, and her Angels in America co-star Justin Kirk. The show is currently in its fourth season, with two more confirmed by Showtime, to air in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
In November 2005, Mary-Louise was honored with an exhibition of her career at Boston University, where memorabilia from her career were donated to the University's library. Mary-Louise received the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy, given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for her lead role in Weeds. In that category, she defeated the four leads of Desperate Housewives. She dedicated the award to the late John Spencer, best known for his work as Leo McGarry on The West Wing. After receiving the award, Mary-Louise stated: "I'm really in favor of legalizing marijuana. I don't think it's that controversial."
In March 2007, Mary-Louise played the lead role in the TV film The Robber Bride. Her next role, Zerelda Mimms, in the Andrew Dominik film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, opened in cinemas in September 2007. Mary-Louise appeared alongside Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell and Garret Dillahunt. In August 2007, Mary-Louise continued her role in the third season of Weeds. In July 2007, Mary-Louise was nominated for two Emmy Awards, one for Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie for playing Zenia Arden in The Robber Bride and the other for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Weeds.
In August 2007, she posed nude for an ad for the third season of Weeds. In the ad, she appears as Eve in the Garden of Eden, with a snake draped around her body and a cannabis leaf behind her ear. In 2008, she was naked on screen several times during the show's fourth season.
On November 9, 2007, Mary-Louise was honored as the Entertainer of the Year by Out Magazine at the Out 100 Awards, which were celebrated in New York City.
Mary-Louise appeared in 2008's The Spiderwick Chronicles and in off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons in the New York premiere of Dead Man's Cell Phone, a new play by Sarah Ruhl, alongside Drama Desk Award Winner Kathleen Chalfant.
She is currently filming the Donna Vermeer film Les Passages alongside Julie Delpy. Following this, she will return to work on the fifth season of Weeds. In the beginning of 2009, Mary-Louise will take the lead role in the upcoming revival of the play Hedda Gabler.
On January 7, 2004, Mary-Louise gave birth to her first child, William Atticus Parker. The boy's father is actor Billy Crudup, with whom Mary-Louise made love on-screen when they co-starred in a 1996 revival of the William Inge play Bus Stop. After nearly eight years together, the couple split when the actress was seven months pregnant. There was a negative response to this because shortly after, Crudup openly admitted that he was dating actress Claire Danes, whom he met on the set of Stage Beauty. Crudup denies the rumor that the breakup was caused by Danes.
Mary-Louise has also dated Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows (with whom she remains close friends) and Timothy Hutton.
In December 2006, Mary-Louise began dating actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whom she met on the set of Weeds. In March 2007, Mary-Louise stated that the relationship was "going great." The two briefly split in June 2007, but later reconciled. On February 12, 2008, Mary-Louise and Morgan announced their engagement only to break up again in April 2008.
In September 2007, Mary-Louise adopted a baby girl, Caroline "Ash" Aberash Parker, from Ethiopia.
This Mary-Louise Parker Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub