Mary Kay Place Biography

Mary Kay Place photo

Born: September 23, 1947


Date of Birth: September 23, 1947

Mary Kay Place has established herself as a talented actress with a deep and diverse body of work, but what many people don't realize is that her credits also include singer, writer and director.

Mary Kay was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was a varsity cheerleader in high school and attended the University of Tulsa.

Her first onscreen part came in 1973 with a guest role in an episode of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series All in the Family. She followed that up with a guest role on an episode of the supremely successful series M*A*S*H and a guest role on an episode of Mary Tyler Moore. The former was in 1974, and she also wrote three episodes of the series. For that effort, she earned an Emmy nomination in the writing category. The latter, which she wrote for as well, was in 1975.

She won her first feature film role in 1976's Bound for Glory, which profiled folk singer Woody Guthrie. The film won two Oscars and starred David Carradine and Melinda Dillon.

In 1976, Mary Kay snagged the part of Loretta Haggers in the comedy series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. She filled the role for all 325 episodes of the show, and for her work, won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1977. She would also record an album under the name Loretta Haggers, which earned her a Grammy nomination.

Mary Kay continued to work in musically-inspired projects with a minor part in Martin Scorsese's 1977 Golden Globe-nominated New York, New York with Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro. She also won a small role in the 1979 Oscar-nominated romantic comedy Starting Over with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh and Candice Bergen, and the supporting part of Pvt. Mary Lou Glass in the 1980 Oscar-nominated comedy Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn.

In 1983, Mary Kay took the part of lawyer Meg Jones in the now iconic 1983 Oscar-nominated The Big Chill, about seven former college friends who gather at a rural South Carolina estate for the funeral of one of their old pals. The film was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and co-starred Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, JoBeth Williams and Meg Tilly.

She took small roles in the 1985 drama Smooth Talk with Laura Dern and the 1988 comedy A New Life with Alan Alda before landing a lead role in 1988's Portrait of a White Marriage. The comedy co-starred Martin Mull.

Mary Kay stayed busy in the early '90s, working on the 1990 thriller Bright Angel with Dermot Mulroney, the 1991 Emmy-nominated TV movie Crazy from the Heart with Christine Lahti, and reteaming with Dermot on the 1991 comedy Samantha.

Starring alongside Claire Danes, Mary Kay took to TV for the Golden Globe-winning series My So-Called Life in 1994. She played Camille Cherski in six episodes, ending in 1995. Also in 1995, she took a guest role in an episode of Chicago Hope.

In 1996, she reunited with Laura Dern for Alexander Payne's dramedy Citizen Ruth and also starred in Manny & Lo with Scarlett Johansson. For her role in the latter film, she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards.

The late '90s was a fruitful period for Mary Kay as she appeared in the 1997 Golden Globe-nominated drama The Rainmaker, which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and adapted from a John Grisham novel; the 1998 John Waters-directed indie drama Pecker; the 1999 Spike Jonze-directed, Oscar-nominated dramedy Being John Malkovich with John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener; and the Oscar-winning Girl, Interrupted with Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder in 1999.

Mary Kay transferred her momentum into the '00s, taking parts in the 2001 indie drama The Safety of Objects, which reunited her with Glenn Close; the 2001 comedy Human Nature; the Emmy-nominated series Further Tales of the City; and the Reese Witherspoon romcom Sweet Home Alabama (2002).

The actress bounced between television and film over the next decade, appearing in several series, from The West Wing and Numb3rs, to Grey's Anatomy, Saving Grace and Pushing Daisies. In 2006, Mary Kay began work on Big Love, which followed the life of a polygamist (played by Bill Paxton) and his relationships with his three wives (portrayed by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ginnifer Goodwin and Chloë Sevigny). Mary Kay played Adaleen Grant, the mother of Chloë's character, in 42 episodes of the Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated series, ending in 2011. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mary Kay called Adaleen "an emotional, detached, repressed person because of her circumstances." For her work on the series, she earned an Emmy nod in 2010 in the Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series category.

Mary Kay also lent her voice to the Emmy-winning series King of the Hill, which she worked on until 2009.

As for films, she took supporting roles in the Diane Keaton comedy Mama's Boy in 2007, the 2008 fantasy film City of Ember, the Meryl Streep comedy It's Complicated in 2009, and Shrek Forever After in 2010.

In 2013, Mary Kay appeared in episodes of Californication and The New Normal, and won supporting roles in the 2014 dramedy Last Weekend with Patricia Clarkson and the 2015 film I'll See You in My Dreams, where she played the friend of Blythe Danner's main character.

More recently, Mary Kay played guest roles in the shows The Mentalist and Looking, and minor parts in the Emmy-nominated Getting On and Netflix's successful comedy series Grace and Frankie. She also appeared alongside Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro in The Intern (2015) and in the ensemble The Hollars (2016) directed by John Krasinski, who also starred in it, along with Margo Martindale and Anna Kendrick.

Her most recent role was a starring one in the drama Diane (2019), playing the title role.

Mary Kay, who divides her time between her L.A. home and New York City apartment, has also tried her hand at directing. She stepped behind the camera for an episode of Friends in 1995.

Although she isn't married and has no children, she told the L.A. Times that because of her nieces, she feels like she has "a lot of mothering experience."

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