One of six children, Laura Innes was born in Pontiac, Michigan, and raised in nearby Birmingham. She remembers her father, a college English instructor, taking the family to the famous Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada, when she was small. It was there that she got her first taste of professional theater and decided to follow her father's advice to "do what you love."
After graduating from high school, Innes attended Northwestern University, where in 1979 she earned a BA in theater. Work in Chicago theater followed, including a role at the renowned Goodman Theatre playing Stella opposite John Malkovich in A Streetcar Named Desire. She continued working in Chicago for four years and originated the lead role of Glenna in David Mamet's Edmund before traveling with the production to New York City. Innes's other theater credits include Two Shakespearean Actors opposite Eric Stoltz at Lincoln Center, Our Town with Campbell Scott at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Three Sisters at the La Jolla Playhouse with Nancy Travis, Phoebe Cates, and Jon Lovitz.
Innes has guest-starred on television series such as Brooklyn Bridge, My So-Called Life, and Party of Five, and appeared in the 1993 Emmy Award-winning cable movie And the Band Played On. She is well-known for her comic turn as Bunny Mather, the promiscuous but sweet ex-wife of Lowell (Thomas Hayden Church) on NBC's Wings. She also starred with comedian Louie Anderson in the short-lived 1996 comedy series The Louie Show.
Her breakthrough television portrayal came in 1995, when Innes stepped into the recurring role of Dr. Kerry Weaver during the second season of NBC's hit medical series ER. She became a series regular during the third season and has received two Emmy Award nominations as well as three nominations for Best Supporting Actress from Viewers for Quality Television for her portrayal of the fiercely independent doctor.
Innes has stepped behind the camera nine times to direct episodes of ER, including the critically acclaimed "Be Still My Heart," in which Kellie Martin's character, Lucy Knight, was fatally stabbed. She has also directed five episodes of NBC's The West Wing and one episode of FOX's medical series House.
Her big screen credits include the 1998 action-adventure film Deep Impact, co-starring Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman, and Vanessa Redgrave and directed by former ER producer/writer/director Mimi Leder; as well as the 1999 film Can't Stop Dancing, with former ER co-star Noah Wyle.