Mary Nell Steenburgen is an American actress, singer, and songwriter. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for playing the role of Lynda Dummar in Jonathan Demme’s 1980 film Melvin and Howard.
Steenburgen was born in Newport, Arkansas, to Nellie Mae (née Wall; 1923–2010), a school-board secretary, and Maurice Hoffman Steenburgen (1914–1989), a freight-train conductor who worked at the Missouri Pacific Railroad. She has a sister, Nancy (Steenburgen) Kelly, a teacher. Her ancestry includes Dutch, English, Scottish, and Welsh.
In 1971, she enrolled at Hendrix College to study drama. She subsequently traveled to Dallas at the suggestion of her drama teacher where she successfully auditioned for New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse.
In television, Steenburgen appeared as Kate Montgomery in Ink (1996) and co-starred as Mary Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels (1996). She has a recurring role as herself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Steenburgen co-starred as Helen Girardi, the mother of Amber Tamblyn’s title character in Joan of Arcadia. In 2011, she had a recurring role as Josephine in the HBO sitcom Bored to Death. Steenburgen starred as Anastasia Lee in the 2011 FX pilot, Outlaw Country, but it was passed by the network. She appeared in the dark sitcom Wilfred from 2011 through 2013 as Catherine Newman, the title character’s eccentric and mentally ill mother. Steenburgen had a recurring role on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock from 2012 to 2013 where she played Diana Jessup.
In 2014, she began a recurring role as former Dixie Mafia boss Katherine Hale in the fifth and sixth seasons of Justified. From 2015 to 2018, she starred as Gail Klosterman on the comedy series The Last Man on Earth.
On October 7, 1995, Steenburgen married actor Ted Danson, whom she had met on the set of the film Pontiac Moon.