Once called the "long-suffering girl next door," Mary-Louise Parker is one of the stage and screen's more trod-upon -- to say nothing of talented -- actresses. Too often confused with such actresses as Mary Stuart Masterson, Penelope Ann Miller, and Sarah Jessica Parker by virtue of her triple-barreled name, Parker is in a class of her own, capable of communicating an underlying strength and grit that saves her characters from being too easily classified as outright victims.
Born in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on August 2, 1964, Parker is the youngest of several children. After graduating from the North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied acting, she headed north, going to New York to pursue a stage career. Her work on the stage was fairly distinguished, and in 1990, Parker won a Theatre World Award and a Tony nomination for her performance in Prelude to a Kiss. That same year, she made her film debut, playing the only prominent female character in the AIDS drama Longtime Companion. The following year, her recognition increased thanks to prominent roles in Grand Canyon and Fried Green Tomatoes. Parker's portrayal of a long-suffering Southern woman in the latter film earned her particular notice and effectively made it possible for her to do steady film work throughout the remainder of the decade.