Frances Conroy

Frances Conroy

Born in Monroe, GA, Conroy grew up in and around the New York City area and was encouraged by her parents to pursue her interest in theater from an early age. After attending high school in Long Island, she trained at NYC's prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse and graduated from the Juilliard School's drama division, attending workshops taught by revered guest lecturers, such as actor John Houseman. Conroy went on to appear in numerous New York Shakespeare Festival productions, including "Measure for Measure" (1976), and starred as Desdemona in "Othello" (1979), alongside Richard Dreyfuss and Raul Julia. Conroy made one of her earliest feature film appearances in director Woody Allen's tale of a middle-aged man's quest for love, "Manhattan" (1979), appearing briefly as a Shakespearian actress. In addition to her already impressive list of stage credits, Conroy began making appearances in television fare, such as the political biopic "Kennedy" (NBC, 1983), which covered the assassinated president's all-too-brief term in office. The following year saw Conroy landing another small role in the Robert De Niro/Meryl Streep romantic drama "Falling in Love" (1984). Work in episodic television also began to come her way, as with her leading role in a segment of the second revival of the classic science fiction anthology series "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1985-87) in 1986. Before long, both the frequency of Conroy's film work and the size of her roles increased, and she found herself working with an impressive array of actors and directors. Supporting roles included a turn in director Mike Newell's "Amazing Grace and Chuck" (1987) alongside Gregory Peck and Jamie Leigh Curtis; in "Rocket Gibraltar" (1988) as one of star Burt Lancaster's daughters; and in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988) as a wealthy woman targeted by hilariously immoral con men Michael Caine and Steve Martin. That same year, she reunited with Woody Allen with a small part in his forgotten drama "Another Woman" (1988), starring Gena Rowlands, Mia Farrow and Gene Hackman. Combining the stage with the small screen, Conroy played Mrs. Gibbs in a televised production of Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" (PBS, 1989). The acclaimed theatrical adaptation, with famed monologist Spaulding Gray in the role of the Stage Manager, was originally performed at Broadway's Lyceum Theater and aired as a part of the ongoing series "Great Performances" (PBS, 1972-). Conroy won her first Drama Desk Award that same year for her performance as Marion French, an ambitious conservative politician in David Hare's "The Secret Rapture" (1989). There was another brief appearance in Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989), in addition to a small part in the period mob drama "Billy Bathgate" (1991), starring Dustin Hoffman as crime boss Dutch Schultz.In 1992, Conroy began what would prove to be an exceptionally rewarding and collaborative relationship with the legendary playwright Arthur Miller, when she appeared in his off-Broadway play "The Last Yankee," earning an OBIE Award for her performance. Other credits on her growing film résumé included turns in such efforts as "Scent of A Woman" (1992), starring Al Pacino; an adaptation of the Mark Twain classic "The Adventures of Huck Finn" (1993), with a young Elijah Wood in the title role; and the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic blockbuster "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993). She later appeared in Miller's drama "Broken Glass" at Broadway's Booth Theater in 1994, followed by the feature film adaptation of the playwright's metaphorical parable on the communist witch hunts of the 1950s, "The Crucible" (1996), for which he also wrote the screenplay. Conroy once again reteamed with Miller for the theatrical mounting of his drama "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" in 1998, a role for which she garnered a Tony nomination when she reprised it two years later on Broadway. Interspersed with her busy rotating schedule of stage and screen work, Conroy continued to rack up TV credits, such as a second appearance on the long-running legal system procedural "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) in 1999. The following year, she was cast as Ruth Fisher in the quirky, dysfunctional family drama "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2000-05). It was in the role of the well-intentioned, albeit, neurotic and emotionally disconnected mother of the Fisher clan that Conroy earned several Emmy nominations and won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series Drama in 2004. Even as "Six Feet Under" entered its final season, Conroy continued to appear in major feature films - among them, Martin Scorsese's biopic covering the early days of Howard Hughes, "The Aviator" (2004), in addition to a turn in the embarrassing comic book adaptation "Catwoman" (2004), featuring a latex-clad Halle Berry. She also had a role in the romantic comedy based on the novel by Steve Martin "Shopgirl" (2005), starring Martin and Claire Danes, and appeared as an ex-girlfriend of Bill Murray's in the Jim Jarmusch quasi-mystery "Broken Flowers" (2005). Other work included turns in the less-than-successful remake of the occult classic "The Wicker Man" (2006), starring Nicholas Cage, and the poorly-received adaptation of the children's fantasy novel "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising" (2007). Conroy also tried her hand at voice work in the animated fable "The Tale of Despereaux" (2008), and returned to TV that same year with the recurring role of Virginia Hildebrand on the hit melodrama "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012). She played Jennifer Aniston's mother in the romantic drama "Love Happens" (2009), prior to joining the cast of the critically snubbed "Happy Town" (ABC, 2009-10), an ill-prepared mix of David Lynch and Stephen King storytelling, which was cancelled shortly after its premiere. As the decade came to a close, Conroy kept busy with guest spots on programs like "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-2014) (on which she had a recurring role as Barney Stinson's mother Loretta), "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005-), and picked up recurring voice work on "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated" (Cartoon Network, 2010-13) as the voice of Angie Dinkley, mother of bespectacled teen-sleuth Velma. She also impressed in a supporting role as Robert De Niro's pious wife in the ensemble thriller "Stone" (2010), co-starring Edward Norton.In 2011, she joined the cast of Ryan Murphy's anthology series "American Horror Story" (FX 2011-), playing various characters for each season. While keeping busy with her steadily increasing TV work, she returned to the big screen with a supporting role in the family comedy-drama "Chasing Ghosts" (2014).