Mary McDonnell is grateful to continue playing a police captain, since she knows she could have been cast as frontier women for a long time.
The actress’ Oscar-nominated breakthrough part, as Stands With a Fist in Kevin Costner‘s award-winning 1990 movie “Dances With Wolves,” planted a certain image of her in many minds. However, she’s displayed variety in projects from “Independence Day” to Syfy’s reboot of “Battlestar Galactica,” and she’ll carry her current role as Captain Sharon Raydor on TNT’s Monday drama “The Closer” into the network’s “Major Crimes” spinoff starting Monday, Aug. 13.
“It was a fascinating period,” the friendly McDonnell tells Zap2it of her “Dances” stardom and its immediate aftermath. “I remember that Kevin used to do this remarkable thing, because we were so incredibly isolated. One of the things he did to sort of thank and engage the community was that every single night, he would show dailies in the school gymnasium and invite everyone. It was like Movie Night every night.
“One night, I was coming out, and a couple of Kevin’s people — agents, managers, lawyers, whatever they were — had been visiting from L.A. And i specifically remember one of them coming up to me and saying, ‘I really hope your people are ready for this.’ I said, ‘Oh, yes! I’m sure they are.’ And I had no idea what he was talking about. Later, I thought, ‘Maybe I should call my agent and tell him this is going to be good.'”
Indeed it was, and McDonnell’s focus on one aspect of her work likely made it so: “I was just looking at whether or not I believed [the character] on screen. It was so important to me that she remain humble and authentic. I was developing some really good friendships with people in the Native American community, so it became even more important that my role as the white woman out on the prairie had no falseness to it.
“That’s really all I was looking at,” maintains McDonnell, who would make such diverse films as “Grand Canyon,” “Passion Fish” and “Sneakers” her post-“Dances” acting choices. “I wasn’t even thinking about my career. And I have found that if I fly low and keep my eyes on what the job is, what the task of the character is, something lovely often happens to me professionally.”