Mary Mara Dies In Apparent Drowning: Nash Bridges, ER, Law & Order: SVU Actor Was 61

Character actor Mary Mara, known for her work on ER, Law & Order: SVU, and 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 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, N.Y. 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.

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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 television roles, and on the stage off-Broadway and in Los Angeles. She specialized in complex portrayals of often-troubled characters; perhaps best known for her recurring role of Loretta Sweet, a sympathetic, down-and-out prostitute and single mother on the NBC series, ER. Her last appearance was in the film, Break Even, released in 2020.

She also portrayed a psychopathic killer in the CBS detective drama Criminal Minds, as well as the vulnerable adult daughter of an 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.

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, and in 1990 co-starred with William Hurt in a Yale Repertory Theatre performance of Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov.

She played the series regular role of Inspector Byrn Carson in CBS police drama Nash Bridges, and played opposite stars such as such as Michael J. Fox (The Hard Way), Billy Crystal (Mr. Saturday Night), Sandra Bullock (Love Potion No. 9), John Travolta (A Civil Action) and Mandy Patinkin (Criminal Minds, True Colors).

Mara is survived by her stepdaughter, Katie Mersola, her sister, Martha Mara, of Syracuse; another sister and a brother-in-law, Susan Mara and Scott Dailey, of Kent, Wash., and a nephew, Christopher Dailey, of Sammamish, Wash.

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