Why You Don't Hear About Mary-Louise Parker Anymore

After making her cinematic debut in the touching 1989 boatbuilding drama "Signs of Life," Mary-Louise Parker became a fixture of the big screen. With her undeniable talent and versatile acting skills, she graced many films, appearing in productions like "Fried Green Tomatoes," "The Client," and "Boys on the Side," just to name a few.

And she was just as successful on television too, regularly stealing the show in the White House saga "The West Wing" as political operative Amy Gardner. Subsequently, she fronted her own binge-worthy, long-running drama as unlikely marijuana dealer Nancy Botwin in Showtime's "Weeds," showcasing her range as an actress.

Yet, despite her overwhelming success and recognition, Parker appears to have been strangely absent from show business in recent years. So what has the South Carolina native been up to since disappearing from the limelight? From triumphant returns to the stage and turning down franchises to swerving tabloid culture, here's how she's kept busy.

Mary-Louise Parker got comfortable in the recording booth

While we may not see her, we can definitely still hear her. "The Portrait of a Lady" star has given fans plenty of opportunities to listen to her dulcet tones since disappearing from the cameras.

Parker has provided voiceovers for several audiobooks, including 2015's "Dear Mr. You," the unique memoir in which she gave notes to various men from her past and present, the acclaimed PTSD-themed "Strong Ending: A Journey from Combat to Comedy," and 2023's "Murder in Bermuda," an Audible four-hour thriller written by James Patterson. Promoting the latter in an interview with MovieWeb, the actor admitted that she finds the whole process challenging.

"Ultimately, for me, it's always better to have someone to work off of," Parker said. "So I think that's why my voice gets tired doing it, because you're not constantly being re-energized by somebody else and what they're doing." And it doesn't help that she's a perfectionist, either: "I think what's interesting about doing these audiobooks sometimes, by the end of it when you have your character figured out, you can't go back and start again.

Mary-Louise Parker isn't interested in returning to the Red franchise

Mary-Louise Parker made an unlikely detour into action movies in 2010 when she played Bruce Willis' love interest, Sarah Ross, in comic book adaptation "Red." And alongside castmates John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren, the pair also signed up for its sequel "Red 2" three years later.

A third chapter of the series was also in talks for development. But following the tragic news that Bruce Willis had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, Parker has now ruled herself out of a possible return. When asked about the prospect of reprising her character in a 2023 interview with Newsweek, Parker categorically replied, "Not without Bruce, no."

Indeed, Parker appears to have a real fondness for Willis and another co-star, in particular. She added, "Working on those films was just a dream ... some of the best times of my life ... we just had such a good time together, me and Bruce and John — two of my favorite actors ever."

Mary-Louise Parker returned to the stage

Mary-Louise Parker first gained national attention in the early 1990s with a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a play for her role as Rita in the Broadway production "Prelude to a Kiss." And in recent years, she appears to have rediscovered her love of the stage.

In 2018, Parker starred in the regional production of "The Sound Inside," this time actually winning a coveted Tony Award for her performance as cancer-stricken English professor Bella Baird in its Broadway transfer. And then, in 2022, she once again impressed the critics with her portrayal of sexual abuse victim Li'l Bit in the revival of Paula Vogel's "How I Learned to Drive."

Speaking to NPR about the craft, Parker explained that she thrives on giving theatergoers a unique experience: "I really believe that if you approach it fresh each night, there's a way to find your way up there that's a little bit different," she explained. "If you're giving last night's show, people undoubtedly, they'll be impressed but they won't be rearranged inside. They might feel moved, but they won't be moved."

Mary-Louise Parker doesn't believe in Botox

Mary-Louise Parker might have often been celebrated for looking much younger than her true age. But, according to the actor, her youthful appearance is all down to good genes rather than any cosmetic procedures.

In fact, in 2023, Parker joined the likes of Carrie-Anne Moss, Liana Liberato, and Isabelle Furhman for an adaptation of "Face: One Square Foot of Skin," the Justine Bateman memoir which rallied against the entertainment industry's reliance on Botox. And when asked whether she holds the same viewpoint as the former "Family Ties" star, the Tony Award winner made her feelings pretty clear.

"How do you express stuff?" Parker questioned The Guardian interviewer. "I'm a theatre actress. As you can see by my forehead and my eyes, I like to be able to express myself. It's like, if I can't move my forehead, there's so many things you can't convey." Could the actor's willingness to show that women get wrinkles as they get older have cost her parts in Hollywood?

Will the Weeds revival ever happen?

As is the law with most long-running TV shows, "Weeds" has been subjected to rumors of a reunion for several years now. In 2019, it was revealed that Starz was interested in reviving the dramedy, which starred Mary-Louise Parker as a suburban mom whose unlikely pivot into drug dealing leads to a life of increasing peril.

Nothing ever came to fruition, but four years later, the show's original network was said to be mulling over a possible return, too. Allegedly, Showtime would also invite Parker's Nancy Botwin back into the fold, something which the actor told Newsweek she'd definitely be on board with: "I just love the cast so, so, much. I mean, I watched those kids grow up and even today Hunter [Parrish] and I are super, super close."

But not all former cast members are on the same page. When asked about the possibility of a "Weeds" comeback, Justin Kirk, aka Nancy's brother-in-law Andy, told Variety, "Even as a fan, do you really want to see us all old and coming back? By the time of season eight, I don't think the general idea was, 'We should keep doing this!'"

Mary-Louise Parker isn't interested in airing her dirty laundry

There's a reason why you rarely see Mary-Louise Parker in the tabloids, even though her private life has spawned the kind of drama that most would deem newsworthy. It seems that she simply has no interest in airing her dirty laundry for everyone to see.

In 2004, the Tony Award winner was famously broken up with by then-boyfriend Billy Crudup just two months before she was due to give birth to their son William. But instead of entering public slanging matches with the "Almost Famous" star and the woman he left her for (actor Claire Danes), Parker has kept a dignified silence about the whole matter. Even when alluding to the moment of their break-up in her 2015 memoir "Dear Mr. You," she decided against dropping names or going into great detail.

And when asked about Crudup's sudden nuptials with Naomi Watts by The Guardian in 2023, Parker once again maintained an air of class and civility: "I wish them well. And absolutely, I honestly of course wish them every happiness because that's my son's father. So I'm happy for them. I'm happy they found each other."

Mary-Louise Parker doesn't see herself as a movie star

Mary-Louise Parker has only appeared in one theatrical release film since 2018, "Seneca — On the Creation of Earthquakes," a historical dramedy about the final days of the titular ancient philosopher. And even then, her screen time as Roman empress Agrippina the Younger is limited. But this break away from the big screen appears to have been entirely self-imposed.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Parker admits that she doesn't ever see herself as a movie star. "I went to drama school, so I wanted to be a new play actor. I wanted to be a regional theater actor," she said. "When I picture myself as an actor, that's what I see myself doing ... I don't think about sitting in a trailer or going to a press junket. I've never been to the Oscars."

However, Parker, whose most notable film credits include "Red Dragon," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," and "Boys on the Side," was keen to point out that she still has an admiration for those actors who do: "I'm not diminishing that. Because the world needs those people, the world needs those big movie stars with their smiles and their charms. People want to disappear into movies in that way, in a way that those particular people can deliver that I can't. The world needs that, and I like it."

Mary-Louise Parker has had to fit her screen work around her family

In 2004, Mary-Louise Parker became a mother for the first time with the birth of William Parker, a son she shared with Billy Crudup. And then, three years later, she added to her family unit by adopting a baby girl, Caroline Parker.

Parker was able to take her two kids to work when they were younger. "I would put my son in the Babybjörn when I was doing "Reckless" and do my makeup," she told Vanity Fair in 2019. "He had his first Halloween at the Friedman [Theatre]. He had an Easter egg hunt on the stage when I was doing 'Dead Man's Cell Phone.'" But as they got older and forged lives of their own, the actor acknowledged that she needed to fit her schedule around them.

Indeed, Parker explained that she was only able to take on her roles as Stephanie Boucher in the 2018 espionage thriller "Red Sparrow" and Janey Patterson in the 2017 crime drama "Mr. Mercedes" because of their undemanding time frames: "I did these things that I was able to eke out in four-day increments. [My kids] were at the age where they needed me to be there. Especially my daughter, because I'm her only parent. I'm really glad that I did that."

Mary-Louise Parker acknowledges she's not for everyone

"I wanted to be John Malkovich, I didn't want to be America's sweetheart," Mary-Louise Parker revealed in a 2017 interview with Bustle, further proving that the actor is more interested in chasing parts that are challenging rather than populist.

Indeed, although she's enjoyed the odd foray into blockbuster territory ("Red," "R.I.P.D") and bingeable TV ("The West Wing," "Weeds"), Parker's filmography isn't exactly littered with mainstream fare. And that's exactly how she likes it, adding, "Of course you want people to like you, but I had to let go of that a long time ago. I'm not for everyone. I'm not somebody that people are going to across the board get behind and love. I'm not overburdened by image ..."

Parker also appears to fancy herself as a bit of a disruptor, adding, "I remember Bruce Springsteen saying, 'I wanted to go into people's homes, I wanted to set them on fire,' and that's how I felt about the theater," she recalled.  "I wanted to set theaters on fire ... I wanted to be seismic when you go into the theater; I didn't want people to fall in love with me necessarily."

Mary-Louise Parker was part of a controversial project

Even if you've watched "Colin in Black and White," Netflix's dramatization of Colin Kaepernick's rise to NFL stardom, you might not be aware that Mary-Louise Parker was involved. The brunette sported a blonde bob wig to play the controversial footballer's adopted mother, which made her almost unrecognizable.

Alongside husband, Rick Kaepernick, Teresa Kaepernick adopted Colin when he was only six weeks old, also giving their biological children, Devon and Kyle Kaepernick, another sibling. It's an experience that Parker could no doubt relate to as she herself also went through the adoption process in 2007 for her daughter Caroline.

In an interview with The Grio, Parker revealed how honored she was to be part of Kaepernick's story. "My admiration for him is just boundless. I think he's heroic and I think history will remember him as a hero, despite whatever dissent there was at the time when he did take a knee," she added. "It's bigger than courage what he did ... it was astonishing."

One of Mary-Louise Parker's films was axed before production

In 2021, Mary-Louise Parker was cast alongside Academy Award winner Natalie Portman in "Days of Abandonment," an HBO adaptation of Elena Ferrante's same-named 2005 novel. The "Christmas in Conway" star was all set to play a character dubbed "Mysterious Woman" whose constant presence causes Portman's leading lady Tess to begin questioning the state of her mind.

Sadly, just over a year later, HBO announced that they would not be going ahead with the film, which was set to be directed by Maggie Betts. And apparently, the withdrawal of its most high-profile cast member was the catalyst.

An official statement from HBO obtained by Variety read, "Due to unforeseen personal reasons, Natalie Portman has stepped down from HBO Films' 'Days of Abandonment' prior to the start of filming." The statement continued, "We are very sorry we won't be able to bring this beautiful story to the screen with our talented writer-director and cast."

Mary-Louise Parker appeared in a pandemic drama

From Hulu's "Love in the Time of Corona" and Netflix's "Social Distance" to films such as "Locked Down" and "Songbird," the coronavirus spawned several dramatizations on both the small and big screen. Maybe not surprisingly, many of these projects had a hard time connecting with audiences. That probably explains why a lot of people have never heard of Mary-Louise Parker's contribution to the subgenre.

Recorded via laptops and iPhones in the early stages of the worldwide crisis, "The Same Storm" saw Parker play one of 24 different characters attempting to navigate their way through such unprecedented times. And if that wasn't heavy enough, Peter Hedges' film also tackled weighty topics such as the 2020 presidential election and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sandra Oh, John Gallagher Jr., Joshua Leonard, and Judith Light were just a handful of the familiar faces who joined Parker in the 2022 VOD release. But despite an impressive cast and decent reviews, "The Same Storm" couldn't live up to expectations.

Mary-Louise Parker has been busy selling skincare

You won't find Mary-Louise Parker trying to flog products on Instagram or shopping channels. But there is the odd brand that the "Romance and Cigarettes" actor is more than happy to put her famous name to. In fact, she went above and beyond when skincare company OGEE came calling.

Indeed, Parker asked her son, William Parker, and adopted daughter, Caroline Parker, to join in on filming a commercial at home for the firm, which specializes in organic cosmetics. As something of a magician, her son helped bring the ad to life, while the Caroline's strong fashion sense made her the perfect candidate for wardrobe assistant.

In an interview with The Bare Magazine, Parker explained that she saw the collaboration, which was organized during the height of the pandemic, as a chance to get her creative juices flowing again. "It doesn't hurt that I love their products," the star added, proving that she also had the sales pattern down to a tee.

A Mary-Louise Parker sitcom failed to get off the ground

Although Mary-Louise Parker had appeared in everything from "When We Rise" and "Mr. Mercedes" to "The Blacklist" and "Billions" during the mid to late 2010s, she'd only ever been a supporting player. In 2018, however, it was reported that Parker was about to become a leading lady on television for the first time since "Weeds."

Parker had been cast as a government compliance monitor opposite Courtney B. Vance's private equity manager in "Compliance," a 30-minute comedy penned by future "American Crime Story" writer Sarah Burgess. The show was planned to air on the FX network, but several years later, there hasn't been even a whisper about it going into production, let alone being screened.

This wasn't the first time that Parker had suffered such disappointment. In 2014, she secured the central role of Emma in "Feed Me," a sitcom about a restaurant-owning mother forced to come to the rescue of her divorced daughter. Sadly, the show never made it past the pilot stage.