An Emmy Award-winning actress, Dana Delany first made her mark on primetime audiences during the 1980s as the star of the Vietnam War-set medical drama "China Beach" (ABC, 1988-1991). After her role as a mild-mannered Midwestern nurse with the highly desirable hairstyle, Delany became a frequent star in made-for-TV-movies like "Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story" (1995) and "True Women" (CBS, 1997), where she embodied "every day" women who found great courage in the face of adversity. Feature films rarely offered as many challenging portraits of heroic women, and while Delany did make supporting film appearances, she spent the majority of her career as a mainstay on hour-long medical, family, and legal dramas, earning considerable attention for her run on the dramedy "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012). Meanwhile, Delany held down a lucrative side career as an animation voiceover artist, primarily playing Lois Lane in the DC animated universe as well as on "The Batman" (The WB/The CW, 2004-08). But it was live action where Delany truly thrived and after her run on "Desperate Housewives" ended, she moved on to another hit show, "Body of Proof" (ABC, 2011-13), where she played a former neurosurgeon turned medical examiner. Delany's performance confirmed that she was an actress of considerable range able to tackle a wide array of complicated roles.
Born March 13, 1956, Delany was raised in upper-middle-class Stamford, CT. As a child, she was inspired to act by the Broadway shows her family attended as well as her intense love of movies. She first took the stage while attending the tony Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, and at Wesleyan University she studied theater and began building a resume in summer stock productions. Delany graduated with a Bachelors degree in 1978, and found work in New York in TV commercials and on daytime serials like "Love of Life" (CBS, 1951-1980) and "As the World Turns" (CBS, 1956-2010). Her first notoriety, however, came for her stage work. She was cast as the young version of Roy Dotrice's wife in the Broadway production of Hugh Leonard's play, "A Life," and received some positive ink for her dual role in Nicholas Kazan's "Blood Moon." When she moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, Delany got right to work with guest spots on shows like "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88) and "Moonlighting" (ABC, 1985-89). A few TV movies later, she hit theaters in the Rob Lowe-headlined thriller "Masquerade" (1988), and played a member of the extremist political group the SLA in "Patty Hearst" (1988), directed by Paul Schrader.
Delany became a primetime regular and a recognizable TV star later that year when she was cast as lead actor on the risky ABC series, "China Beach," a medical drama set during the Vietnam War. The relative unknown took center stage in the ensemble series, playing wholesome, Midwestern Army nurse Colleen McMurphy. She took home two Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe nominations for her powerful performance as a young woman transformed by the realities of war. So popular was the actress that the Colleen McMurphy 'bob' hairstyle became something of fashion craze during the show's brief but illustrious run. The series was continuously praised by critics, but low ratings led to its cancellation in 1991. Regardless, Delany had already proven her screen appeal as a relatable everywoman who found unknown strength when faced with adversity. She segued right into a string of supporting feature film roles, playing a suburban professional in the hit romantic comedy "Housesitter" (1992) starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, and re-teaming with Schrader as Willem Dafoe's suicidal ex-lover in "Light Sleeper" (1992).
After delivering fine support opposite Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp in the solidly entertaining Western, "Tombstone" (1993), Delany tackled her first screen lead as a leather-clad dominatrix in Garry Marshall's dreadful crime-sex farce "Exit to Eden" (1994). She recovered her reputation when she refocused on her strength for inspirational everyday-women-turned-heroines; first taking the leading role in the Lifetime biopic, "Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story" (1995), about the famed women's health pioneer, and following that up as a schoolteacher stricken with scleroderma in "For Hope" (ABC, 1996). That project also launched the actress' career-long philanthropic efforts on behalf of scleroderma-related charities. The following year, she launched another career-long endeavor: voicing animated versions of Lois Lane. From her debut as the Daily Planet reporter and Superman-swooner in "Superman: The Animated Series" (The WB, 1996-2000), Delany briefly returned to the big screen to support Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin in the acclaimed and visually stunning family film, "Fly Away Home" (1996).
More voiceover work followed with the animated series "Batman: The Animated Series" (Fox, 1992-95), and Delany cemented her image as a movie-of-the-week heroine by starring as a Texas suffragette in the Western miniseries, "True Women" (CBS, 1997), and as one-half of a Dutch farm couple who harbor Jews during WWII in the 1998 Showtime original, "Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Couples." Mixing things up with a family comedy and an edge-of-your-seat thriller, Delany had supporting big screen roles in "Wide Awake" (1998) and "Curve" (1998) before stepping into Ellen Burstyn's Oscar-nominated role as a car crash survivor who develops healing powers in a TV remake of "Resurrection" (ABC, 1999). She returned to the stage in the Pulitzer-winning off-Broadway play "Dinner with Friends" in 2000, while a guest turn on an episode of CBS' "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002) netted Delany another Emmy nomination. In the fall of 2001, she returned to regular series work with a leading role as a society heiress on Fox's soapy serial, "Pasadena" (Fox, 2001), which paired her again with her "Rescuers" onscreen husband, Martin Donovan.
When that series was unceremoniously cancelled early in its run, Delany was quickly snapped up by CBS to play an oncologist in "Presidio Med" (CBS, 2002-03), an hour-long medical drama about a group of renegade doctors who eschew modern bureaucracy for a more hands-on, patient-centered approach to medicine. Despite a solid cast, "Presidio Med" was cancelled after only a few episodes, but Delany continued to be highly sought after for TV movies, even as her feature film offers dwindled significantly. She offered a passionate performance as a Quaker teacher who helps a hardened criminal (Omar Epps) earn his college degree after a brush with Shakespeare's sonnets invigorates his mind in "Conviction" (Showtime, 2002), and in "A Time to Remember" (Hallmark, 2003), she starred as the estranged daughter of a woman (Doris Roberts) suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She reprised her Lois Lane voiceover role on the animated series "Justice League Unlimited" (Cartoon Network, 2004-06), and in 2004, Delany starred in the heart-tugging true story "Baby for Sale" (Lifetime, 2004), as a woman who agrees to go undercover to expose a baby-selling ring.
Guest appearances on "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), "Kojak" (USA Network, 2005) and "Related" (The WB, 2005-06), led to Delany's casting on the NBC crime drama "Kidnapped" (2006-07), where she and Timothy Hutton played the wealthy parents of a kidnapped teen who join forces with a former FBI agent to find their son. She soldiered on after that failed outing to finally find some stability on an acclaimed and long-running series, following up her role as a U.S. senator on "The L Word" (Showtime, 2004-09) by becoming an additional cast member on the top-rated campy serial, "Desperate Housewives." As Katherine Mayfair, a former resident of Wisteria Lane who moves back to the suburban neighborhood with a mysterious secret about her absence and her family, Delany proved an invigorating sparring partner with über-perfect neighbor Bree Van de Camp (Marcia Cross). Delany went on to share the show's 2008 and 2009 Screen Actors Guild nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. In 2010, she starred opposite "Desperate" co-star Nathan Fillion in two episodes of "Castle" (ABC, 2009-16), where she played an FBI agent, but left "Housewives" that same year to star in her own show, "Body of Proof" (ABC, 2011-13), where she played a brilliant neurosurgeon who loses the dexterity in her hands after an accident and becomes a medical examiner instead. The series was warmly received, though a retooling of the cast before season three may have led to a poor showing in the ratings in early 2013.