Mary McDonnell is an American actress best known for her role as President Laura Roslin in the reimagined sci-fi television series Battlestar Galactica.
McDonnell was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and raised in Ithaca, New York. After graduating from the State University of New York at Fredonia, she attended drama school and joined the East Coast's prestigious Long Wharf Theatre Company, with whom she worked for over 20 years.
She won an Obie in 1980 for her work in the play Still Life.
On Broadway, she has performed in productions of Execution of Justice, The Heidi Chronicles, and Summer and Smoke.
After more than 21 years of theatre and television work, McDonnell made her film breakthrough in 1990 as "Stands With A Fist", a European-American raised by Sioux Indians, in Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves.
She received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.
McDonnell's role in Passion Fish (1992) brought her another Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Her other notable films include Grand Canyon (1991), Sneakers (1992), Independence Day (1996), and Donnie Darko (2001).
On television, McDonnell had her first regular role in 1980 on the soap opera As the World Turns. She starred in 1984 on the short-lived medical sitcom E/R, alongside Elliott Gould and George Clooney.
Coincidentally, she guest-starred in 2001 on the medical series of the same name, ER, which also featured Clooney. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her five-episode role on the show as Eleanor Carter, the mother of Dr. John Carter.
McDonnell also starred with Patrick Swayze in the 1988 movie, Tiger Warsaw.
In 2003, the cult 1970s show Battlestar Galactica was brought back to life, albeit in a re-imagined form as a three-hour mini-series. McDonnell starred as Laura Roslin, a Secretary of Education who is sworn in as President of the Colonies.
The mini-series effectively served as a pilot for the subsequent series, which was commissioned in a collaborative effort between the Sci Fi Channel and Sky TV.
McDonnell is married to actor Randle Mell, with whom she has two children, Olivia and Michael.