Educated in Switzerland and England, Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan studied for her trade at Dublin's Abbey Theatre. With her portrayal of Gerty McDowell in the 1967 film version of Ulysses, Flanagan established herself as one of the foremost interpreters of James Joyce. She made her 1968 Broadway bow in Brian Friel's Lovers then appeared in such Joycean theatrical projects as Ulysses in Nighttown and James Joyce's Women (1977). The last-named project earned her "Critic's Circle" awards in Los Angeles and San Francisco; it was subsequently committed to film in 1988, with Flanagan repeating her portrayal of Harriet Shaw Weaver. A familiar presence in American television, Flanagan has appeared in several made-for-TV movies, among them The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), Mary White (1977), The Ewok Adventure (1984) and A Winner Never Quits (1986). She won an Emmy for her work as Clothilde in the 1976 network miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man. Fionnula Flanagan's weekly-series stints have included Aunt Molly Culhane in How the West Was Won (1977), which earned her a second Emmy nomination; Lt. Guyla Cook in Hard Copy (1987) and Kathleen Meacham, wife of police chief John Mahoney (another transplant from the British Isles) in Help (1990).
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Trained at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, but was dismissed after a year and a half because, she told People Magazine in 1978, "they didn't know what to do with me."
- Worked at a variety of jobs, including as a waitress, a factory hand, a chauffeur, a language teacher, a group consultant, a football coach and as a substitute director at a halfway house.
- In 1968, made her Broadway debut in Brian Friel's Lovers.
- Portrayed six roles in both the stage and film versions of James Joyce's Women, which she also wrote and produced.
- Received the Irish Film & Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.