Dana Delany

Dana Delany

Delany at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on September 20, 2009
Born Dana Welles Delany
(1956-03-13) March 13, 1956
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Wesleyan University
Occupation Actress, producer
Years active 1974–present

Dana Welles Delany (born March 13, 1956) is an American film, stage, and television actress, producer, presenter, and health activist. Delany has been active in show business since the late 1970s. Following small roles early in her career, Delany garnered her first leading role in 1987 in the short-lived NBC sitcom Sweet Surrender and achieved wider fame in 1988–1991 as Colleen McMurphy on the ABC television show China Beach,[1][2] for which she won two Primetime Emmy Awards (1989, 1992). She received further recognition for her performances in the films Light Sleeper (1992), Tombstone (1993), Exit to Eden (1994), The Margaret Sanger Story (1995), Fly Away Home (1996), True Women (1997), and Wide Awake (1998). Since the mid-1990s, Delany has served on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation.

In the 2000s, Delany returned to television with a string of short-lived television series beginning with Pasadena (2001), Presidio Med (2002–2003), and Kidnapped (2006–2007). From 2007 to 2010, Delany played Katherine Mayfair on the ABC series Desperate Housewives.[3]

In the 2010s, from 2011 to 2013, Delany played the lead role of Megan Hunt on the ABC drama series Body of Proof.[4][5][6] In 2014, she began her co-starring role as Crystal Harris in the Amazon drama series Hand of God, which has been ordered to full series by Amazon Studios in October 2014.[7]

Most recently, in 2015, she had a recurring guest role in the short-lived FX sitcom The Comedians as Julie, the wife of Billy Crystal, playing a fictionalized version of himself. On July 23, 2015, the series was cancelled after one season.[8]

Delany is also a voice actress. She played Lois Lane in the DC animated universe as well as in The Batman animated series. In an interview, she said she loves to play "complicated characters".[9]

Early life

Delany was born in New York City, the daughter of Mary and Jack Delany.[10] She is of Irish and English descent[11] and was raised Roman Catholic.[12][13] She has stated that, even as a child, she always wanted to go into acting.[14] "The reason a person first gets into acting is because you want attention from your parents as a child," she told a reporter.[15] In her childhood, she went with her family to many Broadway shows and was fascinated by films.[15]

After growing up in Stamford, Connecticut, she attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, for her senior year and was a member of the school's first co-educational class, which included jazz composer Bill Cunliffe, software executive Peter Currie, artist Julian Hatton, poet Karl Kirchwey, writer Nate Lee, editor Sara Nelson, restaurateur Priscilla Martel and sculptor Gar Waterman. "Andover was the best time of my life," she recalled.[16] She played the lead role of Nellie Forbush in the school's spring musical production of South Pacific opposite Peter Kapetan as Emile.[17] She commented: "It was just a little awkward to be Nellie at first because she hesitates to marry Emile since he had once lived with a Polynesian woman – I don't agree with her reasoning so that made things a bit hard at the beginning."[18] She appeared in a student video directed by classmate Jonathan Meath in a film class taught by Steve Marx. She graduated in 1974 with the academic honor of "cum laude" which was awarded to 80 out of 378 graduating seniors.[19] She majored in theater at Wesleyan University, worked in summer stock productions during vacations, and graduated in 1978.[15][20][21] Later, in an interview, she reported that she sometimes had eating issues during this time of her life.[22] She said: "I binged... I starved ... I was one step from anorexia a piece of toast and an apple would be all I would eat in a day."[22]


1980s: Stage, television, China Beach

Delany at 44th Primetime Emmy Awards, holding the award she won in 1992.

After college, she found acting work in New York City in daytime soap operas. She starred in the Broadway show A Life and won critical acclaim in 1983 in Nicholas Kazan's off-Broadway Blood Moon, where the New York Times cited her "skillful verisimilitude" handling a difficult part requiring two roles "and she does them both with authority."[23] Delany moved to Hollywood and during the next few years found work guest starring in TV shows like Moonlighting and Magnum, P.I..

Dana Delany's first audition for the lead role of nurse Colleen McMurphy was unsuccessful. "They thought I wasn't pretty enough", she said in an interview, but heeding advice from director Paul Schrader, who had directed her in the film Patty Hearst, she "cut her long tresses into a bob" and re-auditioned with this new haircut, successfully, after the producers lost their first choice.[24] She won the lead role on the critically acclaimed China Beach, which appeared weekly from 1988 to 1991 and brought intense media attention to the actress.[25] This role not only garnered two Primetime Emmy Awards,[26] but two additional Primetime Emmy Award nominations and two Golden Globe Award nominations.[27][28] The show ended after four seasons in 1991.[25]

1990s: Movies, television, voice

In 1991, Dana Delany was chosen by People magazine as one of the "50 most beautiful people in the world."[29] In the years following China Beach, Delany worked steadily in television, movies and theater. In addition, she established herself as a significant voice talent.

Delany won leading roles in a string of feature films such as the TV movie A Promise to Keep, Light Sleeper, Housesitter and Fly Away Home as well as appearing in the TV mini-series Wild Palms. She also took on controversial roles, such as Mistress Lisa in Exit to Eden, where one film critic commented "The script was awful -- Dana looked great."[30] Delany commented in a 2008 interview about the audience reaction: "I had already got pilloried for playing the Exit to Eden dominatrix after China Beach because audiences had a certain image of me as Colleen and didn’t want to see it change."[31] The provocatively titled Live Nude Girls included frank discussion by women of their sexual fantasies at a bachelorette party using a low-budget improvisational comedy format with strong chemistry between the actors.[32] Reviews were mixed: Los Angeles Times critic Richard Natale liked the film but wrote older male film executives believed it to be "uncommercial"; another critic agreed it was "genuine girl talk" but "didn't have a lot of substance" and viewers "don't get to know the characters in the film".[33][34] She also starred as Margaret Sanger in the TV movie Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story (1995), about a controversial nurse who crusaded for women's reproductive rights in the early 1900s.[35][36]

In 1995, Delany appeared in the Broadway show Translations and in May 1997, Delany returned to her alma mater Phillips Academy to work with theater students as an artist-in-residence.[17] She appeared in TV movies such as True Women (1997) and Resurrection (1999).[37]

In 1998, Delany reportedly turned down the role of Carrie Bradshaw in the hit TV show Sex and the City.[38] She commented in a subsequent interview: "The show’s creator Darren Star asked me to play Carrie ... Darren got the idea of televising Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City from seeing me and Kim (Kim Cattrall) in Live Nude Girls."[39] Delany declined the role partly after remembering the negative audience reaction she received with a similar film, Exit to Eden, a few years back.[39] Sex and the City became a successful series, and the role of Carrie made Sarah Jessica Parker world-famous.

Delany played a gun-toting mother in an episode of the TV series Family Law (1999) for which she earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination, but the series was not rerun due to sponsorship withdrawal.[40]

Voice acting

Dana Delany has performed substantial voice work periodically. She portrayed Andrea Beaumont in the 1993 animated feature film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm based on the popular TV show Batman: The Animated Series.[41] Delany's voice performance in the film impressed filmmakers and led to her being cast as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series.[42] She was also mentioned by name in one variation of the theme song of Animaniacs, another Warner Bros. production.[43] She reprised her role as Lois Lane for the character's guest appearances in Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and The Batman.[44] She returned to the DC Universe in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold as Vilsi, an alternate universe variation of Lois Lane. She reprised her role in the 2013 animated movie, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.

2000s: Television, movies, stage, Desperate Housewives

Delany continued to find work in a variety of projects, doing pilots, TV series, made-for-TV movies, and feature films. She appeared in the NBC drama Good Guys/Bad Guys (2000), which Newsweek termed a "Sopranos knock-off".[45] She appeared in the short-lived Pasadena (2001), a critically acclaimed Fox production which was "underpromoted and endlessly pre-empted" and described as a "twisted rich-family saga" with a "great cast".[46][47][48] Delany commented in an interview: "You can see Pasadena as a black comedy or see it as really tragic. A lot of soaps on television now don't have that layer of tragedy to them."[49] She was an actor and co-executive producer of the film Final Jeopardy (2001).[50] New York Daily News TV critic David Bianculli gave a positive review to both her performance as an actor -- "Delany, as always, does pensive and independent better than most actresses"—and as a producer.[51] She played a doctor in the TV series Presidio Med (2002), described as a "conventional but pleasant drama populated by characters dedicated to medicine who also have messy personal lives."[52][53][54] She appeared in TV movies such as A Time to Remember (2003), and Baby for Sale (2004).[55] She appeared in feature films by indie film producers, such as The Outfitters (1999), Mother Ghost (2002), and Spin (2003).[56][57]

Returning to theater, she played an artsy and incompetent woman who questions the "imposed conventions of society" after discovering her husband's affair in the Pulitzer-prize winning Dinner With Friends (2000, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston); her performance earned positive reviews generally.[58][59] She played Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (2003, San Diego); one critic described the "verbal sparring" between Delany and actor Billy Campbell as a "joy".[60]

From 2004 to 2006, Delany played many guest roles on TV shows, such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Boston Legal, Kojak, Related, The L Word, and Battlestar Galactica.[61] She also starred in the short-lived TV series Kidnapped (2006).[62][63] One critic wrote "Delany is alternately furious and despondent as Ellie, and she and Hutton (Timothy Hutton) can do more without words than other actors can do with pages of dialogue. They’re absolutely convincing as rich, complicated Manhattanites and as parents who come face to face with the scary reality that they can’t always protect their kids."[64]

Delany appeared as herself in the TV documentary Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delany which explored their lives and treatment after returning to the United States.[65] Delany has become "something of a heroine to the nurses who served in Vietnam", according to Los Angeles Times writer Susan King, who noted that the actress worked on a nationwide nurse recruitment program in 1990 called the McMurphy project.[66]

In 2007, Delany appeared in the films A Beautiful Life, Camp Hope, and Multiple Sarcasms.[67][68][69]

Delany initially declined the offer to play one of the four Desperate Housewives principal characters, Bree Van De Kamp, saying it was too similar to her role on Pasadena.[70] The show became a popular prime-time soap opera with substantial ratings. But in 2007 she was again offered a role by producer Marc Cherry, this time as a supporting housewife, and she joined the cast of the well-established series for the 2007–08 season.[71][72][73] Reaction to the addition of Delany was positive; one critic wrote "...casting Dana Delany as Katherine Mayfair in Season 4 is one of the smartest things Cherry has ever done ... Not many actors can deftly deliver both comedy and drama, but Delany makes it look easy."[74] She commented about playing housewife Katherine Mayfair: "The hardest thing for me was figuring out the tone of the piece because it's such a specific tone - so it was more of an acting challenge than anything else."[75] She commented in 2008: “I hope that she (Katherine Mayfair) doesn’t lose her snarkiness, because that’s always fun to play.”[76] On May 13, 2008, it was announced that Delany would reprise her role on Desperate Housewives for season five, having been promoted to the sixth lead.[77][78][79]

2010s: Television series and movies

In March 2010, Delany appeared as FBI agent Jordan Shaw in a two-part story on the TV series Castle, which stars Nathan Fillion, who played her character's second husband on Desperate Housewives.[80]

Delany left Desperate Housewives to star in the new ABC series Body of Proof originally slated to begin airing in late 2010.[81] Delany also voiced a character Margaret Rosenblatt in the film Firebreather in 2010.[82]

In 2011, in Body of Proof, Delany played a brilliant neurosurgeon turned medical examiner after a car accident causes her to lose dexterity in her hands.[83] Delany in real life had an experience similar to her character of Dr. Megan Hunt. Two weeks before filming the pilot episode, Delany's car was hit by a bus in Santa Monica; two fingers of her hand were broken and her car was totaled.[9] Delany describes her character in Body of Proof as being "complicated, smart, and definitely complex."[9]

In April 2011, Delany came 9th in People magazine's annual 100 Most Beautiful list.[84]

In May 2011, Delany was the host of the fourth annual Television Academy Honors.[85]

Delany appeared in the crime drama Freelancers with director Jessy Terrero. The film also stars Robert De Niro, Forest Whitaker, and 50 Cent. It was released to DVD on August 21, 2012, and had a limited release in theatres in September.[86]

Personal and public life

Delany at the 9th Irish Film & Television Awards in 2012.

Since the mid-1990s, Delany has served on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation, and with her friend Sharon Monsky, she helped campaign for support in finding a cure for scleroderma.[87] Working with director Bob Saget, she starred in the TV movie For Hope (1996), based on Saget's sister Gay, who had died as a result of the disease.[88] She appeared as a contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy in 2001, 2006 and 2009 to raise money for scleroderma research.[89] Scleroderma "robs these women of not only their own lives in many cases, but robs their families which include countless children," she explained in 2002.[90]

Delany is a board member of the arts advocacy organization Creative Coalition.[91][92] She appeared in June 2009 in an onstage meeting in New York alongside White House social secretary Desiree Rogers to discuss ways to promote American cinematic creativity.[93][94] In August 2009 Delany was named co-president of the Creative Coalition, joining Tim Daly in the leadership of the organization.[95] Delany explained her support for the arts in an interview: "I just think it's so important for children and the future of the country and people's general happiness. I'm one of those people who, whenever I feel cut off spiritually or emotionally, I go to a museum or a play or a movie, and I'm just transported."[96] She participated as a celebrity guest in fundraising events which support the rights of same-sex couples to marry.[97]

In addition, she has supported Planned Parenthood. She attended the organization's 90th birthday celebration in New York City in 2006. Delany said: "It's hard to imagine where we'd be in this country had Margaret Sanger not founded that first clinic here in New York, 90 years ago." She attended events sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.[98][99][100]

Delany commented about her personal life in an interview in 2006: "I turned 40 and I'm ready to get married... I don't know who he is yet but I'm ready... He has to be smart, funny and kind."[101] She added a year later: "Marriage has never been a big deal for me... But I think I’m ready now... I got to have all the fun in the world, to experience a lot of people and figure out what I really like."[102] Delany (in 1988) said she doesn't find being a celebrity to be that appealing: "I'm not a 'personality'. I am never recognized, which I take as a compliment. I have a love-hate thing with publicity."[15]

Delany, in 2003, tried having an injection of botox in her forehead, but the needle hit a nerve and created a bruise which affected the muscle in her right eye, causing it to droop slightly. In 2010, she vowed she would never have plastic surgery.[22] She told Prevention in 2010 that she prefers eating healthily, including vegetables, tofu, fish, gluten-free pasta, and bread.[103]

In April 2011, Delany came 9th in People magazine's annual 100 Most Beautiful list.[84]


Delany at 43rd Primetime Emmy Awards in 1991.
Delany in 2010.
Year Title Role Notes
1981 The Fan Saleswoman in record store
1984 Almost You Susan McCall
1986 Where the River Runs Black Sister Ana
1988 Masquerade Anne Briscoe
1988 Patty Hearst Gelina
1988 Moon over Parador Jenny
1992 Light Sleeper Marianne
1992 Housesitter Becky Metcalf
1993 Tombstone Josephine Marcus
1993 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Andrea Beaumont Voice
1994 Exit to Eden Lisa Emerson
1995 Live Nude Girls Jill
1996 Fly Away Home Susan Barnes
1998 The Curve Dr. Ashley
1998 Wide Awake Mrs. Beal
1999 Outfitters Cat Bonfaim
2000 The Right Temptation Anthea Farrow-Smith
2002 Mother Ghost Karen Bennett
2003 Spin Margaret Swift-Bejarano
2005 Getting to Know You Marla Short
2006 Superman: Brainiac Attacks Lois Lane Voice, Video
2007 Route 30 Amish Martha
2008 A Beautiful Life Anne
2008 Flying Lessons Jeanne
2010 Multiple Sarcasms Annie
2010 Camp Hope Patricia
2010 Drunkboat Eileen
2012 Freelancers Lydia Vecchio
2013 Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Lois Lane[104] Voice, video
Year Title Role Notes
1978 Ryan's Hope Ryan's bar patron
1978–79 Love of Life Amy Russell Series regular
1981 As the World Turns Hayley Wilson Hollister Series regular, role from January 2, 1981 to December 1, 1981[105]
1984 Threesome Laura Shaper TV movie
1984 The Streets Jeannie TV movie
1985 Moonlighting Jillian Armstrong Episode: "Knowing Her"
1986 A Winner Never Quits Nora TV movie
1986 Liberty Moya Trevor TV movie
1986–87 Magnum, P.I. Cynthia Farrell Episodes: "L.A." and "Out of Sync"
1987 Sweet Surrender Georgia Holden Series regular, 6 episodes
1988 thirtysomething Eve Episode: "South by Southeast"
1988–91 China Beach Colleen McMurphy Series regular, 62 episodes
1990 A Promise to Keep Jane Goodrich TV movie
1992 Cheers Susan Metheny Episode: "Love Me, Love My Car"
1993 Wild Palms Grace Wyckoff TV mini-series, 5 episodes
1993 Donato and Daughter Lieutenant Dena Donato TV movie
1994 The Enemy Within Betsy Corcoran TV movie
1994 Texan Anne Williams TV short
1995 Fallen Angels Helen Fiske Episode: "Good Housekeeping"
1995 Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story Margaret Sanger TV movie
1996 For Hope Hope Altman TV movie
1996 Wing Commander Academy Gwen Archer Bowman Voice, 13 episodes
1996–2000 Superman: The Animated Series Lois Lane Voice, 44 episodes
1997 Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man Dr. Susan Fox Voice, episode: "Role with It"
1997 True Women Sarah Ashby McClure TV movie
1997 Spy Game Honey Trapp Episode: "Dead and Gone, Honey"
1998 The Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest Lois Lane Voice, TV movie
1998 The Patron Saint of Liars Rose Cleardon Abbott TV movie
1998 Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Couples Johtje Vos TV movie
1999 Resurrection Clare Miller TV movie
1999 Sirens Sally Rawlings TV movie
1999 Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story Elaine Gunn TV movie
2001 Family Law Mary Sullivan Episode: "Safe At Home"
2001 Final Jeopardy Alexandra Cooper TV movie, also co-executive producer
2001–02 Pasadena Catherine McAllister Series regular, 13 episodes
2002 Conviction Martha TV movie
2002–03 Presidio Med Dr. Rae Brennan Series regular, 13 episodes
2003 A Time to Remember Britt Calhoun TV movie
2003–05 Justice League Lois Lane, Maggie Sawyer, Loana Voice, 7 episodes
2004 Baby for Sale Nathalie Johnson TV movie
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Carolyn Spencer Episode: "Obscene"
2004 Boston Legal Samantha Fleming Episode: "Truth Be Told"
2005 Kojak Kate McNeil Episodes: "All Bets Are Off, Parts I and II"
2005–06 Related Francesca Sorelli Episodes: "Francesca" and "The Move"
2006 The L Word Senator Barbara Grisham Episode: "Light My Fire"
2006 Battlestar Galactica Sesha Abinell Episode: "Sacrifice"
2006 The Woman with the Hungry Eyes Theda Bara Voice
2006 Kidnapped Ellie Cain Series regular, 13 episodes
2007 The Batman Lois Lane Voice, episodes: "The Batman/Superman Story, Part I and II"
2007–12 Desperate Housewives Katherine Mayfair Series regular (Seasons 4–6), Special guest star (Season 8)
55 episodes
2010 Batman: The Brave and the Bold Vilsi Vaylar Voice, episode: "The Super-Batman of Planet X!"
2010 Castle Special Agent Jordan Shaw Episodes: "Tick, Tick, Tick..." and "Boom!"
2010 Firebreather Margaret Rosenblatt Voice, TV movie[82]
2011–13 Body of Proof Dr. Megan Hunt Series regular, 42 episodes
2014–present Hand of God Crystal Harris Series regular
2015 The Comedians Julie Recurring role[106]
2015 No Second Chance Loraine Transmore French Miniseries[107]
Other work
Year Title Role Notes
1974 South Pacific Nellie Forbush Musical at Phillips Academy
1980 A Life Broadway play
1983 Wisk detergent Lady in an elevator TV commercial (opposite Tom McBride)
1983 Blood Moon Innocent pre-med student Off-broadway production by Nicholas Kazan
1995 Translations Maire Broadway play (short-lived)
1998 Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu Documentary
2000 Dinner With Friends Beth Stage; Pulitzer-prize script
2003 Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice Stage, San Diego
2006 Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delany Host Documentary
2007 Life on the Refrigerator Door Narrator Audio book by Alice Kuipers
2009 PoliWood Herself Documentary
2009 Annul Victory Herself Documentary
2013 The Parisian Woman Chloe Play

Awards and nominations

Delany at 41st Primetime Emmy Awards, holding the award she won in 1989.
Year Award Category Film or series Result
1989 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series China Beach Won
1989 Viewers for Quality Television Award Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series China Beach Won
1990 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series China Beach Nominated
1990 Golden Globe Award Best Actress in a Television Series — Drama China Beach Nominated
1990 Viewers for Quality Television Award Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series China Beach Won
1991 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series China Beach Nominated
1991 Golden Globe Award Best Actress in a Television Series — Drama China Beach Nominated
1991 Viewers for Quality Television Award Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series China Beach Won
1992 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series China Beach Won
1998 Lone Star Film & Television Best TV Actress True Women Won
2001 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Family Law Nominated
2007 TV Land Award Lady You Love to Watch Fight for Her Life in a Movie of the Week Movie of the Week Nominated
2008 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Desperate Housewives Nominated
2009 PRISM Award Best Performance in a Comedy Series Desperate Housewives Won
2009 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Desperate Housewives Nominated
2014 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award[108] Outstanding Lead Performance The Parisian Woman Nominated

General source for awards:[109]

Additional sources—Family Law:[110] Prism:[111] Screen Actors Guild:[112] Lone Star Film & Television:[109] TV Land:[109]


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