Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell was born on April 28, 1952 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She was raised in Ithaca, New York, and eventually studied at the Statue University of New York’s branch in Fredonia. She then attended drama school, and joined the Long Wharf Theatre Company, which is known for its performances in several venues in the East Coast.
McDonnell initially made a name for herself on stage, appearing in several Broadway productions—including "The Heidi Chronicles", "Summer and Smoke" and "Execution of Justice"—and eventually winning an Obie Award in 1980 for her role in the play "Still Life". She also made several appearances on television, first in the daytime soap "As the World Turns" in 1980, and later in several television movies and series. She gained recognition, however, in 1990, when she joined the cast of the film "Dances with Wolves". Her role in "Stands With A Fist", a white female who was adopted by native Americans, earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1990. In 1992, she received another Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actress for her role as a cynical former soap opera star in "Passion Fish".
McDonnell’s first regular television role came in 1995, when she joined the cast of the short-lived comedy series "High Society". The series had good ratings, but was cancelled after its initial run of 13 episodes. She then took a recurring role in the medical drama "ER". Her role as Eleanor Carter, the mother of John Carter (Noah Wyle), earned her an Emmy nomination in 2002. In 2003, she joined the cast of the miniseries "Battlestar Galactica", which was a remake of the original 1970s series. She played the role of Laura Roslin, the president of the belegueared Twelve Colonies. She reprised the role in the television series that resulted, and stayed throughout its run, from 2004 to 2008.
In 2009, she joined the cast of The Closer as Captain Sharon Raydor and has since been cast in films such as Margin Call, Scream 4 and Jimmy Nolan. Currently, she stars in the new TNT series, Major Crimes