Born in the English coastal town of Bournemouth, Jayne Atkinson moved with her family to the United States less than a decade later. They settled in Hollywood, Florida, where her parents performed in community theater. Atkinson made her own acting debut in a short play by A.A. Milne at the age of 10, and after graduating from the Pine Crest School, studied performance at both Northwestern University and the Yale Drama School. She worked in regional theater before making her Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" in 1987 and her first notable screen appearances in the Emmy-winning miniseries "A Year in the Life" (NBC 1986) and its short-lived run as a dramatic series (NBC 1987-88). Atkinson was soon a regular presence on television, most notably as Ed Begley's wife on "Parenthood" (1990), NBC's first attempt at adapting the Ron Howard feature to a weekly series. She also enjoyed a box office hit with "Free Willy," a family drama about the relationship between a young boy and a captive orca. Atkinson played the boy's foster mother in both the 1993 feature and its 1995 sequel "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home." While enjoying steady work in feature and television guest roles, Atkinson also continued to appear on Broadway, most notably in a 1999 production of "The Rainmaker" opposite Woody Harrelson that earned her a Tony Award nomination. She later appeared in a 2002 production of "Our Town" with Paul Newman as the Stage Manager that was filmed for television in 2003, and netted a second Tony nomination, as well as an Outer Critics Circle Award, that same year for "Enchanted April." As before, major film and television roles followed in the wake of her stage success: she was town patriarch William Hurt's wife in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" (2004) and enjoyed supporting roles in Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana" (2005), among other big screen efforts. Her greatest exposure came with recurring roles on four exceptionally popular television shows: she was Karen Hayes, the formidable deputy director of Homeland Security and later National Security Advisor on "24," with which she helped the show a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Atkinson also played Erin Strauss, the equally flinty assistant director of the Behavior Analysis Unit on "Criminal Minds," and made several appearances as the dean of Columbia University on "Gossip Girl" (CW 2007-2012). Between these efforts, she also returned to Broadway for a revival of "Blithe Spirit" in 2009. In 2013, she enjoyed a recurring role as Secretary of State Catherine Durant on the critically acclaimed "House of Cards" (Netflix 2013-).