Fionnuala Flanagan (born 10 December 1941) is an Irish actress who has worked extensively in theatre, film and television.
She was born Fionnghuala Manon Flanagan in Dublin, where she was raised, the daughter of Rosanna (née McGuirk) and Terence Niall Flanagan. She grew up speaking both Irish and English fluently. Although her parents were not native Irish speakers, they wanted Flanagan and her four siblings to learn their indigenous language. Flanagan was educated in Switzerland and England, and she trained at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and travelled throughout Europe before settling in Los Angeles in 1968.
Flanagan came to prominence in Ireland in 1965 as a result of her role as Máire in the Telefís Éireann production of the Irish language play, An Triail, for which she received the Jacob’s Award in Dublin for her “outstanding performance”. With her portrayal of Gerty McDowell in the 1967 film version of Ulysses, Flanagan established herself as one of the foremost interpreters of James Joyce.
She made her Broadway debut in 1968 in Brian Friel’s Lovers, then appeared in The Incomparable Max (1971) and such Joycean theatrical projects as Ulysses in Nighttown (as Molly Bloom) and James Joyce’s Women (1977). It was subsequently filmed in 1983, with Flanagan both producing and playing all six main female roles (Joyce’s wife, Nora Barnacle, as well as fictional characters Molly Bloom, Gerty McDowell, etc.). A familiar presence in American television, has appeared in several made-for-TV movies, among them The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975) starring Elizabeth Montgomery, Mary White (1977), The Ewok Adventure (1984) and A Winner Never Quits (1986). She won an Emmy for her performance as Clothilde in the 1976 network miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man.
Flanagan’s weekly-series stints have included Aunt Molly Culhane in How the West Was Won (1977), which earned her a second Emmy Award nomination. She did multiple appearances on Murder, She Wrote, one of them as Freida, a secretary aiding Jessica Fletcher in finding a murderer on the episode Steal me a Story (1987). She played Lt. Guyla Cook in Hard Copy (1987), and as Kathleen Meacham, wife of a police chief played by John Mahoney in H.E.L.P. (1990). Flanagan made guest appearances in three of the Star Trek spin-offs. She guest starred in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Dax, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Inheritance as Data’s “mother”, and she also appeared as the Vulcan Ambassador V’Lar in Star Trek: Enterprise. She guest starred in several episodes of Lost as Eloise Hawking, a recurring character.
She has appeared in numerous films, most notably The Others opposite Nicole Kidman, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood as the eldest Teensy, and Waking Ned. She appeared in television series and stage productions, including the Emmy-nominated miniseries, Revelations, starring Bill Pullman and Natascha McElhone, and in Transamerica, starring Felicity Huffman. From 2006–08, she played Rose Caffee, the matriarch of an Irish-American Rhode Island family on the Showtime drama, Brotherhood.
Personal life and politics:
Flanagan appeared with Helen Mirren in Some Mother’s Son, written and directed by Terry George, as the militantly supportive mother of a Provisional Irish Republican Army hunger striker in 1981. Subsequently, she spoke at a memorial hosted by Sinn Féin at the Citywest Building in Dublin for Irish republicans and their kin who were killed during the latest installment of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Flanagan and her husband (since 1972), Dr. Garrett O’Connor, an Irish nationalist from Dublin, are known to host parties at their Hollywood Hills home for people in the Irish community. In July 2009, she joined Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams for a series of lectures across the USA supporting Irish unity. In October 2011, she announced her support for Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness in his unsuccessful bid in that country’s 2011 presidential election.