In 2002, Mary received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role on ER.
While attending college, Mary studied acting in Manchester, England as part of an exchange program.
Mary appeared on Broadway in the following:
Playing Alma Winemiller in Summer and Smoke
Playing Heidi Holland in The Heidi Chronicles
Playing Mary Ann White in Execution of Justice
Mary wrote the forward for the book Coping with Lyme Disease: A Practical Guide to Dealing with Diagnosis and Treatment.
The glasses Laura Roslin wear are Mary McDonnell's actual glasses. She had them on when she got the role, and they decided they liked them for Laura Roslin.
She played Rose Darko (Donnie's mother) in the cult classic film Donnie Darko.
She was listed as one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1990" in John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 42.
In 1981, Mary received an Obie award for her performance in Emily Mann's Still Life.
In 1997, she starred in Two Small Voices with Gail O'Grady for Lifetime Television.
Her height is 5'6".
She once was a cheerleader and synchronized swimmer.
She began acting as a college student at the State University of New York at Fredonia.
In 1982 she made her TV-movie debut with a small role in Money on the Side.
She began teaching drama at Vassar College summer theater. After this she continued teaching at New York Stage and Film Company.
She made her New York theater debut in Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child (1978-79).
She made her big screen debut in the movie Garbo Talks (1984).
She was raised in Ithaca, New York.
She met her husband, fellow actor Randle Mell, in 1986. The two appeared together in the film Grand Canyon.
Mary and her husband, Randle Mell, have two children, Olivia and Michael.
Mary has three sisters and one brother.
She had her screen debut in the 1980's soap As the World Turns. She played Claudia Colfax in this series.
Mary McDonnell: (about the film Donnie Darko) When I got the script, I'd read ten pages, then walk around the house – the top floor of my house; I don't have a big house – and when I finished it, I started crying. And I thought, "Damn, I have to do another film for no money!" And I told Randall [her husband] I had to do it, and he said, "Are you sure?" I had to leave while we were on vacation. I had to leave my family at the lake. But I had to do the film.
Mary McDonnell: I find it interesting how people emerge at different points in their life given a project everyone will see.
Mary McDonnell: A lot of actors in New York who do remarkable works on the stage do soap work to maintain their lives.
Mary McDonnell: I never spent that much time with sci-fi, though I was quite taken with the Dune books. I think such fictional places are a world that is very real to me -- perhaps that's why I don't read a lot of it. I'm thrilled to be more attached to it, because I'm quite taken with it when I watch it.