Nancy Marchand Biography

Actress (1928–2000)
Actress Nancy Marchand won Obie Awards for her stage work and Emmy Awards for her role on Lou Grant. She is also known for playing Livia on The Sopranos.


Born in Buffalo on June 19, 1928, Nancy Marchand enrolled in acting school to overcome her childhood shyness. As an adult, she performed on and off Broadway, winning two Obie Awards, for The Balcony (1960) and The Cocktail Hour (1988). On the small screen, she earned Emmy Awards for her role on the 1970s drama Lou Grant, and acclaim as mob matriarch Livia on The Sopranos (1999-2000).


Actress. Born June 19, 1928, in Buffalo, New York, Marchand was a reticent child, who was sent to acting school at age 10 to overcome her shyness. While studying drama at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she made her acting debut in a summer stock production of The Late George Apley (1946). Upon her graduation, in 1949, Marchand joined the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she met and married fellow actor Paul Sparer.

In 1950, Marchand moved to New York, where she starred in the TV movies Little Women (1950) and Marty (1953), before making her Broadway bow in Miss Isobel (1957). She won her first feature film role shortly thereafter in the Paddy Chayefsky drama The Bachelor Party (1957). Marchand continued to enjoy steady stage and television work throughout the 1960s, offering a stellar performance as an impassioned brothel owner in an off-Broadway production of The Balcony (1960), for which she earned an Obie Award.

Memorable parts in some of TV's most popular daytime dramas followed, including Another World and Love of Life, which featured Marchand in the recurring role of Vinnie Phillips from 1970-74. In the mid-1970s, Marchand starred in the short-lived drama Beacon Hill (1975), before she won the role of autocratic newspaper publisher, Margaret Pynchon, on the series Lou Grant (1977-1982). A spin-off of the beloved The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant enjoyed six successful seasons on the air, during which Marchand received four Emmy Awards as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

A distinguished character actress, Marchand's projects during the 1980s ranged from period dramas like The Bostonians (1984), starring Christopher Reeve, to slapstick comedies like The Naked Gun (1988), with Leslie Nielsen. In addition to a prosperous film and television career, Marchand continued to work on Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theatre. Throughout the 1980s, she offered compelling performances in the productions Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Awake and Sing, Elektra, and The Cocktail Hour. For the latter production, Marchand earned a 1988 Obie Award.

Marchand went on to appear in the films Regarding Henry (1991) and Sabrina (1995), before landing the scene-stealing role of Livia Soprano on the acclaimed HBO series The Sopranos (1999-2000). Receiving two Emmy nominations and a 1999 Golden Globe Award for her compelling performance as the domineering matriarch of a New Jersey mob family, Marchand remained a cast member until her death from lung cancer on June 18, 2000 (one day before her 72nd birthday).

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!