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The Untold Truth Of Molly Parker

Whether fans know her as Alma Garret on "Deadwood," or as Maureen Robinson in "Lost in Space," Molly Parker leaves a lasting impression. Often playing layered characters with strong wills, Parker has become one of the most sought after performers in both film and television. With each role she takes on, the Canadian native seems to disappear into the character. But then, Parker has had plenty of practice, with over 100 screen credits to her name.

Though the majority of her career has been in Canadian indie cinema, Parker has recently made a name for herself in the States. Thanks to her memorable performances in shows such as "House of Cards" and "Deadwood," more and more Americans have begun to appreciate Parker's incredible talent. Yet there are many facts about the talented performer of which many fans may be unaware, and a few that may come as a surprise. Here are some untold truths that every Molly Parker fan should know.

Molly Parker grew up on a 'hippie farm'

Born in British Columbia, Molly Parker began her career doing independent film and television in her native country of Canada. She developed an interest in acting when she turned 15, and a family member directed her to an agent to get her started on auditions. Yet before her acting career began, Parker spent her childhood in the small rural town of Pitt Meadows, where her parents had a farm and owned a seafood store (via Tribute).

Parker calls her childhood home a "hippie farm," which oftentimes in the media has been mistaken for a commune. This misnomer was corrected by Parker in an interview with CBC's "George Tonight," when she told host ​​George Stroumboulopoulos, "I've said it was a hippie farm because it wasn't a dairy farm, you know? [We weren't] cattle farmers, we had goats and chickens ... It was a great place to grow up." While Parker looks back fondly on her humble beginnings, there's no doubt she's come a long way from that little farm in B.C.

She was a ballerina before she was an actor

As she grew into a teenager, it quickly became evident that Molly Parker had a passion for acting. Yet before she started down this path, she had trained for years in dance. Starting at only two years old, Parker studied ballet for over a decade. She trained and performed at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of Canada until she was 18 years old.

Her prospective dance career took a turn when Parker joined her high school's drama department. As she once said in a 2016 interview with Awards Daily TV, her focus was immediately drawn away from dance and moved toward acting. After being awarded a scholarship, Parker decided to take an acting class, enrolling in Gastown Actors' Studio in Vancouver. Parker said on "George Tonight" that she owes her discipline for acting to the training she received in ballet. Whether it's ballet or drama, Parker has proven that she has immense dedication and drive, no matter where she chooses to focus it. Perhaps one day she will put her dance skills to use in a future role.

Parker found her niche in independent film

Every actor's career path is unique, but Molly Parker's is one that is particularly interesting to follow. She got her start on Canadian television, taking on a variety of roles both in TV series and made-for-TV movies. She made appearances in several TV shows, including Wes Craven's "Nightmare Cafe" and a Western teen drama called "Neon Rider." She guest starred in the popular series "Highlander," where she played an 18th century aristocrat named Alice Ramsey. Parker also acted in numerous TV movies throughout the '90s, like "My Son Johnny," "One More Mountain," "Contagious," and "Intensity."

Parker began taking on more big screen jobs in the mid-1990s, starting with the Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey drama, "Last of the Dogmen," where she played a nurse. But it was in Canadian independent cinema that Parker found the majority of her work. Films such as "Under Heaven," "The Five Senses," "Looking for Leonard," and "Sunshine" are just some of the titles under her belt.

In the previously mentioned interview with "George Tonight," Parker admitted that she avoided Hollywood for a long time, uninterested in the glitz and glamor of the Los Angeles scene. However, it soon became "inevitable" that her career would steer her toward the City of Angels, and she eventually made her home there.

Parker played a disturbed medical student in Kissed

While Parker took on several roles in independent cinema, it was her role in the 1996 Canadian film "Kissed" that turned some heads. In the Lynne Stopkewich romantic drama, Parker played a mortuary student named Sandra Larson, who has had an unhealthy fascination with death since she was a child. This infatuation leads down an even darker road as Sandra begins to engage in necrophilia. Stopkewich was inspired to make the film after reading a short story titled "We So Seldom Look on Love," by Barbara Gowdy.

"Kissed" made it to the Toronto Film Festival, where it was picked up by distributors in both North America and Europe. Critics from all over the world praised the indie film for its unique take on provocative subject matter, and Parker's performance was considered her "breakthrough role." It was at this time that American directors started to vie for Parker's attention, opening up a whole new world of opportunities for the actor.

She made her US film debut in Waking the Dead

After catching the eyes of several filmmakers for her performance in "Kissed," Parker finally made her US film debut in 2000, with the drama "Waking the Dead." Directed by Keith Gordon and starring Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly, this was the first film Parker would be involved in that had some real star power.

"Waking the Dead" tells the story of political hopeful Fielding Pierce (Crudup) and his romance with Sarah Williams (Connelly), as told through a series of flashbacks. When Fielding learns of his old flame's death, he struggles with his present aspirations as he is haunted by visions of the past. Parker played Juliet Beck, Fielding's current girlfriend, and the niece of Fielding's mentor, Isaac Green (Hal Holbrook).

Although "Waking the Dead" failed to impress critics (it currently holds a score of just 51% on Rotten Tomatoes), it would be the beginning of Parker's foray into mainstream cinema and television. She would continue to star in several Canadian films through the early 2000s, as well as co-starring alongside Keira Knightly in the 2002 British drama, "Pure."

Parker has racked up several award nominations

With her penchant for taking on unique, complex characters, it's no wonder that Molly Parker has thrived in both movies and television. Whether in a starring or supporting role, Parker throws herself into every part she plays — and critics have certainly taken notice over the years. The proof of this is evident in her many, many award nominations.

In 1997, Parker won the Genie Award (now the Canadian Screen Awards) for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in "Kissed." She also received a nomination and a win from festivals in Spain and Italy (respectively) for the controversial film. Parker would continue to be nominated for several more Genie Awards, including a win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the 2001 Canadian comedy, "Last Wedding."

Parker's talent has been recognized all over the world, and she has received nominations from award institutions around the globe. The Toronto International Film Festival, the Screen Actors Guild, the Saturn Awards, and the Primetime Emmys are just a handful of examples. She was most recently honored in 2019 by the Online Film and Television Association, with a Best Ensemble nomination for reprising her role as Alma Ellsworth in "Deadwood: The Movie."

Parker almost turned down Deadwood

The role that introduced most US TV audiences to Molly Parker was that of the trailblazing widow, Alma Garret-Ellsworth, in the HBO Western "Deadwood." At the start of a renaissance for the television industry, "Deadwood" won over audiences by combining historic fact with compelling fiction — and the inclusion of a powerhouse cast sure didn't hurt. Stars such as Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Paulson, and Brian Cox helped to bring this gritty drama of the old West to life. With the show generally noted as one of the best TV series to be canceled too soon, fans were thrilled when the cast and crew returned for one last hurrah to film "Deadwood: The Movie" in 2019.

The part of Alma fits Parker's affinity for multi-faceted characters so well that it's difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. However, according to the actor herself, it almost didn't happen. In an interview with Comicbook.com, while talking about the "Deadwood" film, Parker revealed that she almost turned down the job. "When I first started, if you were [a] serious actor, you did film and you didn't do TV," Parker said. When her agent approached her about the part, Parker was initially skeptical. However, she ultimately gave in. "I still love doing film," she admitted. "But I do really enjoy making this kind of television that has this sort of long form of storytelling and a characterization."

Parker mourned the loss of her Trigger co-star

Even as Molly Parker was acclimating to a television career, independent film still remained her first love. In 2010, Parker played a rock musician in the Canadian dramedy, "Trigger." The film tells the story of two former bandmates who reunite to reminisce over their glory days — both the good and the bad. Parker co-starred in the film alongside fellow Canadian actor Tracy Wright.

"Trigger" takes place in just one night, and was filmed (according to Parker) over five weekends. The making of the film was bittersweet, as Wright was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of production, and was also receiving treatment at that time. She died in June 2010. Wright's powerful performance earned her a posthumous ACTRA Award, which she shared with Parker (reported by Torontoist).

Parker spoke candidly about her experience making the film alongside Wright during such a turbulent time. "Emotionally there was this sense, for me, that this was the time that I was going to get to spend with her, that it was precious and that I was lucky to have it," Parker told The Toronto Star in 2011. "It's this wonderful reminder that this is what we have right now . . . but I wish she'd had more."

Parker's photo was used as Mabel Thompson in Boardwalk Empire

Between the years 2010 and 2014, HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" was the show to watch. Winner of two Golden Globes and a whopping 20 Emmys, this Prohibition-era crime drama was based on the real life of Atlantic City crime boss Enoch "Nucky" Johnson. Steve Buscemi starred as Nucky Thompson, a corrupt politician who finds a lucrative business opportunity in the form of bootlegging. A man who has his fingers in various pies, Nucky is a master of manipulation in both the political world and organized crime.

"Boardwalk Empire" would often use the popular storytelling tool of flashbacks to tell Nucky's tragic backstory. Perhaps one of the saddest stories told over the show's five-season run is that of Nucky's first wife, Mabel Thompson. In the episode "A Return to Normalcy," Nucky revealed to his current flame, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), that Mabel committed suicide after the death of their child. While Mabel later appeared in flashbacks during Season 5 of "Boardwalk Empire," for a period of time we only saw her image in a photographic portrait.

Only an eagle-eyed fan would recognize that the woman in the photo was actually Molly Parker, who casts a haunting image as Mabel. It's unknown why Parker did not go on to portray the character in flashback scenes, but it could be because she was about to take on a role in another acclaimed series — Netflix's "House of Cards."

She has embraced her TV career

The worldwide pandemic has changed how people watch TV and movies — for better or for worse. There's no question that at-home streaming has become a giant in the entertainment industry, even if no one saw it coming. Companies like Amazon Prime and Netflix have given rise to original series and films that may not have found a home otherwise.

Molly Parker also seems to have found a second home within her career, thanks to Netflix shows like "House of Cards" and the rebooted sci-fi hit, "Lost in Space." In the former, Parker played Congresswoman Jackie Sharp, a military veteran who wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty in order to grab power. As Maureen Robinson in "Lost in Space," Parker portrays a highly intelligent aerospace engineer who must survive on a mysterious planet with her family. She has also appeared in other Netflix titles, such as "Small Crimes" (with "Game of Thrones" star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the documentary mini-series "Wormwood," and Stephen King's "1922."

Although Parker previously admitted to being skeptical of a career in television, it looks like she may have found yet another niche apart from independent film. The high approval rating for "Lost in Space" (via Rotten Tomatoes) –- and a 2019 Saturn Award nomination for her role as Maureen Robinson — seems to have proven that she can practice her art in any medium.

Parker stars in a live-action version of a Disney favorite

With a career that has spanned over 30 years, Molly Parker has done everything from TV series to TV movies to indie films to, finally, streaming programs. In each of her roles, Parker has portrayed strong, complex characters, preferring to take on roles that offer a challenge. Yet perhaps her biggest challenge of all comes with one of the most beloved children's stories of all time.

Disney Studios announced in 2021 that a live-action version of the 1953 animated classic "Peter Pan," retitled "Peter Pan and Wendy," had begun production for release on Disney+. Parker plays Mrs. Darling, mother to Wendy, John, and Michael Darling in the David Lowery-directed film. Also starring are Jude Law as Captain Hook, Alan Tudyk as Mr. Darling, and Alexander Molony as Peter Pan. With both promising newcomers and seasoned performers making up the cast of "Peter Pan and Wendy" — the 19th live-action reimagined classic from Disney — Parker is in good company.