Actress Debra Mooney proved to be one of the most prolific and dependable character actors in the business, starting out performing on stage, then transitioning into major motion pictures like Neil Simon's "Chapter Two" (1979), and the comedy classic "Tootsie" (1982). Mooney worked steadily in television for over thirty years on numerous popular shows, including "thirtysomething" (ABC 1987-1991), "Seinfeld" (NBC 1989-1998), and "Roseanne" (ABC 1988-1997), among many others. Mooney's television career continued well into the 21st century with roles on "Arrested Development" (Fox 2003-2006, Netflix, 2013- ), and "Scandal" (ABC 2012- ).
Born Debra Vick in Aberdeen, South Dakota on August 28, 1947, Debra Mooney grew up in Ellendale, North Dakota, and was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Mooney began her career onstage in a Chicago play called "The Farm" (1975), which earned her a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Play.
Mooney came to the attention of Tennessee Williams when she performed as Blanche Dubois in a revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire." Mooney was attending the University of Minnesota as a grad student at the time, and Williams was so impressed by Mooney's performance, he raved in the New York Times, "I have recently seen Blanche played with great wit and pathos by a young actress named Debra Mooney...She made me howl with laughter at my own work."
Mooney then got a foothold in television, making her first small screen appearance on "Delvecchio" (CBS 1976-77), a short-lived cop show starring Judd Hirsch. Mooney also did several stage revivals of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" and "Chapter Two," which lead to Mooney starring in the movie version of "Chapter Two" (1979).
Then Mooney made an appearance in "Tootsie" (1982), which became one of the biggest comedies of all-time. A joke Mooney improvised passed the test with Dustin Hoffman, making him laugh, and it made it into the finished film. Mooney's feature work included the acclaimed "Dead Poets Society" (1989), and a voice role in the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997).
Mooney appeared in a number TV movies as her career started making strides in the eighties, then she finally moved up to a featured role on Roseanne in the role of Mrs. Wellman. Her television career kept going strong throughout the decade with roles on "Empty Nest" (NBC 1988-1995), "thirtysomething" (ABC 1987-1991), "Seinfeld" (NBC 1989-1998), "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC 1990-96), and more.
As Mooney's career progressed into the new millennium, she scored a regular role as Judge P. Spindle on David E. Kelley's legal comedy-drama "The Practice" (ABC 1997-2004), and the family drama "Everwood" (The WB 2002-06) where she played the role of Edna Harper. Mooney's career continued going strong with a regular role on "Scandal" (ABC 2012- ), as well as appearances on "Arrested Development" (Fox 2003-06, Netflix, 2013- ), as well as a TV movie inspired by the murder trial of Jodi Arias, "Dirty Little Secret" (Lifetime 2013).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
<i>Dead Poets Society</i>