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A versatile performer who possessed the talent to convincingly portray numerous character types, actress Molly Parker racked up an impressive list of credits in her native Canada and the United States before achieving stardom with her nuanced turn as a former laudanum addict-turned-gold mining entrepreneur on the acclaimed series "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06). After getting her start in a number of television movies, many of which were filmed in Vancouver, Parker developed a reputation for uncompromising portrayals in edgy independents like "Kissed" (1996) and "The Center of the World" (2001), both of which were highly-charged portrayals of unorthodox sexuality. Following performances as more reserved women in the speculative "Max" (2002) and the acclaimed cable movie "Iron Jawed Angels" (HBO, 2004), she blended the two sides together for her richly-textured portrayal of Alma Garret on "Deadwood." Once that highly acclaimed series was surprisingly canceled, Parker was overshadowed by the likes of Ben Affleck in "Hollywoodland" (2006) and the outrageous Nicolas Cage in the remake of "The Wicker Man" (2006). Though she faded to the background following her triumph on "Deadwood," Parker remained a skilled...
A versatile performer who possessed the talent to convincingly portray numerous character types, actress Molly Parker racked up an impressive list of credits in her native Canada and the United States before achieving stardom with her nuanced turn as a former laudanum addict-turned-gold mining entrepreneur on the acclaimed series "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06). After getting her start in a number of television movies, many of which were filmed in Vancouver, Parker developed a reputation for uncompromising portrayals in edgy independents like "Kissed" (1996) and "The Center of the World" (2001), both of which were highly-charged portrayals of unorthodox sexuality. Following performances as more reserved women in the speculative "Max" (2002) and the acclaimed cable movie "Iron Jawed Angels" (HBO, 2004), she blended the two sides together for her richly-textured portrayal of Alma Garret on "Deadwood." Once that highly acclaimed series was surprisingly canceled, Parker was overshadowed by the likes of Ben Affleck in "Hollywoodland" (2006) and the outrageous Nicolas Cage in the remake of "The Wicker Man" (2006). Though she faded to the background following her triumph on "Deadwood," Parker remained a skilled actress capable of turning in one surprising performance after another.
Born on July 17, 1972 in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Parker was raised on a farm in Pitt Meadows - which she later called a "hippie commune" - by her parents, who owned a retail seafood store called Sea Treasures. At three years old, she began taking ballet three times a week until the age of 17. Parker studied formally at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, while also eventually discovering a passion for acting. Following the typical route of performing in school productions, she also landed an agent through her actor uncle. After graduating high school, Parker became serious about her craft, spending three years studying under Mel Austin Tuck at the Gastown Actors Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. Diligent and hardworking, Parker eschewed any semblance of a normal teenager's life and concentrated solely on finding work as an actor, with her efforts soon paying off. Although film was the medium that ultimately gained her notice, Parker made her professional debut on the small screen with appearances in television movies like "Silent Motive" (Lifetime, 1991) and "My Son Johnny" (CBS, 1991).
More work for Parker soon followed with roles in more television movies like the gender-bending comedy "Just One of the Girls" (Fox, 1993) and the thriller "The Substitute" (USA Network, 1993). She also began landing guest spots on comedies and dramas, including the short-lived sitcom "Jack's Place" (ABC, 1992-93) and the Jeff Fahey police procedural "The Marshal" (ABC, 1995). She moved on to two fact-based telefilms, "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story" (NBC, 1995), which focused on a decorated Army nurse (Glenn Close) who was involuntarily discharged after revealing that she was a lesbian, and "Deceived by Trust: A Moment of Truth Movie" (NBC, 1995), a drama about a high school social worker (Stefanie Kramer) who discovers that several female students have been sexually harassed by the principal. After appearing in "Freefall: Flight 174" (ABC, 1995), which chronicled the harrowing true story of an airplane that mysteriously loses all its fuel mid-flight, Parker made her feature starring debut playing a necrophiliac funeral home employee in Lynne Stopkewicz's startling drama "Kissed" (1996). She impressed audiences with her unflinching and radiant portrayal of the odd young woman, earning several awards and kudos from critics, while opening the doors to bigger and better roles. Already a familiar face for her prolific work in both her native Canada and on U.S. television, Parker subsequently made her American film debut in "Bliss" (1997), an art-house favorite starring Terence Stamp and Craig Sheffer. Also that year, she returned to television to star in the thriller "Dean Koontz's 'Intensity'" (ABC, 1997), playing a young woman haunted by the murderer whose crime she witnessed as a child in this two-part ABC miniseries. Following her film success, Parker secured a regular starring role on the acclaimed Canadian TV series "Twitch City" (1998), playing Hope, a woman who moves in with her newly-imprisoned boyfriend's television-obsessed former roommate (Don McKellar). She next played a complex conspirator who, along with her lover (Aden Young), plans to dupe an ailing wealthy woman (Joely Richardson) in "Under Heaven" (1998), Meg Richman's modern-day adaptation of Henry James' Wings of the Dove. Parker followed with an appearance in "Ladies Room" (1999), an offbeat comedy set in various ladies rooms at the theater, ballet and opera where stories and gossip about love, sex and men lead to dire consequences for a millionaire (John Malkovich), whose wife and mistress (Veronica Ferres) unexpectedly meet.
Parker's film career really took off with solid performances in several independent features, playing a spunky single mother-to-be in Michael Winterbottom's London-set drama "Wonderland" (1999), a socialite paired with a congressional hopeful (Billy Crudup) who cannot put aside visions of his late former girlfriend (Jennifer Connolly) in "Waking the Dead" (2000), and the mother of a missing child in the episodic drama "The Five Senses" (2000). Parker's role in director Istvan Szabo's Genie award-winning drama "Sunshine" (2000), garnered the actress considerable attention for her performance as a Hungarian Jew converted to Catholicism. As a woman crippled by polio in "The War Bride" (2000), she added a bitter counterpoint to an otherwise sappy period drama about women dealing with husbands marching off to fight World War II. In "Suspicious River" (2000), Parker played a motel receptionist in a small Canadian town who offers rooms, as well as herself, and saves the money for a rainy day, which comes when an attractive man (Callum Keith Rennie) arrives and gives her a chance to change her aimless life.
Parker shined in "Rare Birds" (2001), an offbeat comedy about a failing restaurant that is saved when rabid birdwatchers flock to Newfoundland after an endangered bird is seen in the area. After a small part in the dark comedy "Last Wedding" (2001), she had a rare starring role in "The Center of the World" (2001), an erotic drama with Parker portraying a stripper who accepts $10,000 to join a dotcom entrepreneur (Peter Sarsgaard) for a weekend in Las Vegas, but only if he agrees to follow her strict rules of engagement. Parker returned to television, appearing as a Rabbi in episodes of "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-05), before going back to film with the drama "Pure" (2002), playing a drug-addled mother brought back to health and good standing with the help of her 10-year-old son (Harry Eden). After playing a troubled woman in the romantic comedy, "Men With Brooms" (2002), she co-starred in "Max" (2002), as the elegant wife of a Jewish art teacher (John Cusack), whose discouragement of a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor) may have prevented the struggling painter from channeling his vitriolic energy into art. In "Marion Bridge" (2003), she was a self-destructive woman who returns home to Nova Scotia in order to confront her past and heal herself.
After playing a senator's wife with no penchant for politics in "Iron Jawed Angels" (HBO, 2004), a dramatization of the final push for women's suffrage in the early 20th century, Parker propelled her career forward by joining the cast of the revisionist Western series, "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06). Over the course of the show's three seasons, Parker delivered a finely nuanced performance as Alma Garret, a high-society wife addicted to laudanum, who manages to kick the habit in order run her dead husband's bonanza claim and raise an orphaned young girl while also carrying on with the town's sheriff (Timothy Olyphant). Her role as on "Deadwood" was cut short when HBO announced prior to the start of the third season that the show was effectively canceled due to cost and the diverted attention of creator David Milch toward other HBO projects. Though a deal was tentatively struck between Milch and the cable network to wrap up the series with two two-hour movies, it remained unclear whether or not Parker and the rest of the cast would return to their roles.
Parker moved on to a small part buried in the ensemble cast of the well-received indie drama, "Nine Lives" (2005) before landing a meatier part as Sister Rose in Neil LaBute's unintentionally hilarious remake of the 1973 horror classic, "The Wicker Man" (2006). She next played the ex-wife of private investigator Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) in "Hollywoodland" (2006), a neo-noir biopic about the mysterious death of famed "Superman" actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck). Following a starring role in the Canadian drama, "Who Loves the Sun" (2006), Parker returned to regular series television with "Swingtown" (CBS, 2008), a short-lived drama set in the 1970s which explored the effects wife-swapping and key parties had on American families. After a small role in the bleak apocalyptic sci-fi drama "The Road" (2009) and in an episode of the popular "Human Target" (Fox, 2010- ), she returned to Canadian television to star in the crime procedural, "Shattered" (Showcase, 2010- ), playing the wife of a detective (Callum Keith Rennie) with dissociative identity disorder.
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Parker on her role in the necrophilia-themed "Kissed": "What I liked is that, although her sexuality is an extreme, it is still all about a woman's own sexuality. There is no one she is 'performing' for. It's all her own secret world. There is something incredibly erotic and fascinating about a woman in charge of her own sexuality, and it's something we so rarely see in films. I knew Lynne [Stopkewich, director of 'Kissed'] would treat it tastefully and in a way that I would be secure and comfortable with." --quoted in Toronto Sun, April 14, 1997.
"Molly's wonderful. I'm sorry we haven't had more scenes together. There's this spontaneous quality of truth about her which has brought something quite special to the film." --"Sunshine" star Ralph Fiennes, upon wrapping his final scene with Parker, quoted in Maclean's, November 2, 1998.
Molly Parker on what interests her about acting: "It's not 'Hey look at me,' it's about psychological depth. When I'm acting, people shouldn't be seeing me, the should be seeing themselves." --quoted in Now, September 9, 1999.
"I'm a fishmonger's daughter through and through and consequently a terrible snob about fish--I rarely eat it if I go out because I find it's never as good as if I'd done it myself. You don't know how very, very well and how very, very quickly I can fillet a salmon!" --Parker quoted in the London Times, April 22, 2000.
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