Mary Mara, Actor in ‘ER’ and ‘Nash Bridges’, Dies in Apparent Drowning at 61

Mary Mara
Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection

Character actor Mary Mara, known for her appearances on ER, Nash Bridges, and Law & Order: SVU, has died. She was 61.

According to New York State Police, Mara drowned Sunday, June 26, in the St. Lawrence River in Cape Vincent, New York. A preliminary investigation suggests she drowned while swimming in the river, and police said there was no indication of foul play. An autopsy will be conducted to determine an official cause of death as the investigation continues.

Born on September 21, 1960, in Syracuse, New York, Mara made her on-screen television debut in the 1989 made-for-TV movie The Preppie Murder. She went on to appear in numerous TV series, including the likes of Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and ER. In 1996, she got her big break in the CBS police drama Nash Bridges, where she played Inspector Brynn Carson across the first two seasons.

Following her run on Nash Bridges, Mara would go on to appear in bit parts on several hit TV series, including Ally McBeal, The West Wing, Star Trek: Enterprise, Law & Order: SVU, Nip/Tuck, Dexter, and Lost. In more recent years, she featured as Mrs. Sullivan in four episodes of Showtime crime drama Ray Donovan and Selma in ABC soap opera General Hospital.

Mara also appeared in a number of films, starring opposite Michael J. Fox in The Hard Way, alongside Sandra Bullock in Love Potion No. 9, and opposite John Travolta in A Civil Action. Her last film appearance came in the 2020 movie Break Even.

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Her small screen roles included 'Mork & Mindy,' 'Perry Mason,' 'Sanford and Son,' and 'Laverne & Shirley.'

She was also known for her stage work, having appeared alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Gregory Hines in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night and opposite 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.