Mary Mara, a character actor known for her work on Nash Bridges, ER, Law & Order: SVU, Nip/Tuck and dozens of other TV shows and films, drowned Sunday in the St. Lawrence River in Cape Vincent, NY, according to New York State Police. She was 61.
A State Police press release says Mara was found in the river Sunday morning by troopers and Cape Vincent Fire and Ambulance following a report of a possible drowning. A preliminary investigation indicates she drowned while swimming in the river. Police said there was no indication of foul play and that an autopsy will be conducted to determine an official cause of death. The investigation is continuing.
A family spokesperson said Mara was staying at the summer home of her sister, Martha Mara, of Syracuse. The property fronts the river outside the Village of Cape Vincent, in the Thousand Islands region, where the St. Lawrence separates Canada and the U.S.
Mara, who in 1989 debuted in the made-for-television movie The Preppie Murder, worked mainly as a character actor in scores of film and TV roles, and on the stage off-Broadway and in Los Angeles but was a series regular role as Inspector Byrn Carson for the first two seasons of CBS’ Don Johnson-Cheech Marin police drama Nash Bridges.
She specialized in complex portrayals of often-troubled characters. She might be best known for her recurring role as Loretta Sweet, a sympathetic, down-and-out prostitute and single mother, on the NBC series ER.
She also portrayed a psychopathic killer in the CBS detective drama Criminal Minds as well as the vulnerable adult daughter of Billy Crystal’s emotionally distant, washed-up comedian in the 1992 film, Mr. Saturday Night. Her comedic work also included Love Potion No. 9, her feature-film debut, as a young and overly dressed and coiffed hooker.
Mara played opposite stars such as such as Michael J. Fox (The Hard Way), (Mr. Saturday Night), Sandra Bullock (Love Potion No. 9), John Travolta (A Civil Action) and Mandy Patinkin (Criminal Minds, True Colors). Her last appearance was in the 2020 film Break Even.
On stage, she appeared in 1989 with Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Gregory Hines in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night co-starred with William Hurt in a 1990 Yale Repertory Theatre performance of Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov.
Mara is survived by her stepdaughter, Katie Mersola; her sister, Martha Mara; another sister and a brother-in-law, Susan Mara and Scott Dailey; and a nephew, Christopher Dailey.