Estelle Parsons

Active - 1944 - 2018  |   Born - Nov 20, 1927 in Lynn, Massachusetts, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Specializing in playing fanatical or neurotic women, character actress Estelle Parsons has found success on stage, screen, and television, particularly in the latter venue where she is best remembered for playing Roseanne Arnold's screechy, lunatic mother on Roseanne (1988-1997). In show business, Parsons started out as a production assistant and then a staff writer on NBC's Today show, where she was eventually promoted to feature producer.

Parsons launched her acting career on-stage in the late '50s. She went on to appear on and off-Broadway and in stock theater, specializing in satirical reviews. The actress made her film debut with a small role in Ladybug, Ladybug (1963). Four years later, she won an Oscar for her portrayal as Blanche in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She earned a second Oscar nomination for playing a religious fanatic in Rachel, Rachel the following year. Parsons has appeared in many made-for-television movies, notably The UFO Incident (1977), in which she played a woman convinced that she and her husband (played by James Earl Jones) had been abducted by aliens. But for her long stint as a semi-regular on Roseanne, Parsons prefers the stage; her film and television appearances remain sporadic.

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  • Made her Broadway debut as a cast member in Happy Hunting (1956); her numerous Broadway credits include stints as both an actor and a director.
  • Served as the artistic director for the Actors Studio from 1998 to 2003.
  • Has taught acting at schools including Yale and Columbia.
  • Is the grandmother of NFL offensive lineman Eben Britton.