Deanna Dunagan
Born (1940-05-25) May 25, 1940 (age 82)
Monahans, Texas, United States
Years active1970–present

Deanna Dunagan (born May 25, 1940) is a Chicago-based American actress. While principally active as a stage actress, she has also worked in television and film. She is best known for her Tony Award-winning portrayal of Violet Weston in Tracy Letts' August: Osage County and for her portrayal of Nana in M. Night Shyamalan's 2015 film The Visit. She has also appeared in the recurring roles of Mother Bernadette on the Fox television series The Exorcist and Mrs. Charles on Chicago Med. She portrayed Dr. Willa Sipe in the 2018 film An Acceptable Loss by writer Joe Chappelle; and starred as Sharon in the 2021 film Stillwater alongside Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin.

Early life and education

Dunagan was born and raised in Monahans, Texas, United States, the daughter of Kathlyn (Cosper) and John Conrad Dunagan.[1] The eldest of five children, her father was a Coca-Cola bottler and president of the Texas Historical Association; her mother was a stay-at-home parent with an active presence in the community. In an interview, Dunagan light-heartedly described her extended family, "My heritage is a long line of Southern Baptist and Methodist preachers. And aren't they all just frustrated actors?"[2]

Dunagan earned a degree in music education from the University of Texas, Austin.[3] She briefly dated Charles Whitman, the infamous "Texas Tower Sniper", while a college student.[4] She married her high school sweetheart and gave birth to a son; but the marriage ended a few years later.[4] Following her divorce, Dunagan's parents agreed to fund graduate studies at Trinity University, Texas through the Dallas Theater Center.[2][4] While writing her Master's thesis, Dunagan lived in Mexico. She was engaged to a bullfighter, but they never married, and she went on to pursue her acting career in the United States.[2]


Dunagan began her acting career touring in dinner theater and later performing in regional theaters such as the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, and the Actors Theatre of Louisville before trying her luck in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in the 1979 production of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman at Circle in the Square as an understudy for Ann Sachs. Sachs became ill at one point during the show's run and Dunagan filled in for her with great success. This exposure led to her to being signed with International Creative Management.[5]

In 1981, Dunagan performed in the first national tour of Children of a Lesser God. During the tour, Dunagan visited Chicago for the first time and immediately fell in love with the city. After the end of the tour, Dunagan moved to Chicago and has lived there ever since, performing in more than 30 theaters in the Chicago area. Her work on the Chicago stage has garnered her three Joseph Jefferson Awards and three After Dark Awards.[6]

She has worked in films including The Visit, The Naked Face, Running Scared, Men Don't Leave, and Losing Isaiah. She has also appeared in made for television movies, in the TV mini-series A Will of Their Own and Amerika, and as a guest star on the television shows Prison Break, What About Joan, Missing Persons, and The Strain.[7] She has had recurring roles in Unforgettable and The Exorcist.

In 2007-2008, Dunagan returned to Broadway in the Steppenwolf Theatre's production of Tracy Letts' August: Osage County, having originated the role in Chicago. For her performance, Dunagan won a Tony Award, Theatre World Award, Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award.[5] She went on to portray Violet Weston in productions in London's West End in 2009 and in Sydney, Australia in 2010.

She returned to New York in 2017 to Playwrights Horizons Off-Broadway to perform in the world premiere of The Treasurer by Max Posner.[4]



Year Title Role Notes
1984 The Naked Face Mrs. Hadley
1986 Running Scared Sister Rebecca
1990 Men Don't Leave Fay
1995 Losing Isaiah Dr. Goldstein
2002 Janey Van Winkle Mom Van Winkle Short film
2007 Dimension Annabelle
2011 Mariachi Gringo Monica
2013 The Cherokee Word for Water Irene Mankiller
2015 The Visit Nana Fright Meter Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress
2018 An Acceptable Loss Dr. Willa Sipe
2021 Stillwater Sharon
2022 So Cold the River Anne [8]


Year Title Role Notes
1982 American Playhouse Emily Dickenson Episode: "Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby Is a Friend of Mine"
1984 American Playhouse Various 3 episodes
1987 Amerika Betty Milford Episode: "Part VII"
1994 Two Fathers: Justice for the Innocent Janice Bradley Television movie
2000 What About Joan? Sandy Episode: "Quid Pro Quo"
2005 Prison Break Judy Pope 2 episodes
2008 Law & Order Estelle Adams Episode: "Zero"
2009 The Big D Donna Dupree Television movie
2009 Psych Myrtle Episode: "Let's Get Hairy"
2009 Cold Case Iris Keening Episode: "WASP"
2010 Ugly Betty Lee Episode: "Back in Her Place"
2011 Detroit 1-8-7 Helen Lakeland Episode: "Beaten/Cover Letter"
2011 Unforgettable Alice 5 episodes
2011 Have a Little Faith Sarah Television film
2012 Private Practice Dr. Vivian Carlsmith Episode: "Apron Strings"
2014 House of Cards Susan Marbury Episode: "Chapter 18"
2016 The Strain Ancharia Episode: "First Born"
2016 The Exorcist Mother Bernadette 4 episodes
2019 Proven Innocent Deborah Vandenhey Episode: "Shaken"
2019 Chicago Med Mrs. Charles 3 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Man and Superman Understudy Circle in the Square Theatre (Broadway)
1980 Sunset/Sunrise Diane Actors Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY)
1981 Children of a Lesser God Performer National Tour
1988 Stepping Out Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
1991 Still Waters Performer Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, IL)
1991 Coriolanus Performer Next Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
1992 Private Passage Performer Odyssey Theatre (Chicago, IL)
1992 The Song of Jacob Zulu Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
1992 Inspecting Carol Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
1996 A Touch of the Poet Deborah Harford Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL)
1996 The Washington-Sarajevo Talks Rhonda Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago, IL)
1996 Slaughterhouse-Five Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
2001 Cahoots Gwendoline Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago, IL)
2001 The Glamour House Trudi Stein Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago, IL)
2001 Butley Edna Shaft Writers Theatre (Chicago, IL)
2002 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Performer Apple Tree Theatre (Chicago, IL)
2002 A Lie of the Mind Performer American Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
2003 Wedding Band Herman's Mother Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
2003 James Joyce's The Dead Aunt Julia Morkan Court Theatre (Chicago, IL)
2003 Bounce Ensemble Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL)
2004 A Delicate Balance Performer Remy Bumppo (Chicago, IL)
2006 I Never Sang for My Father Margaret Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
2006 The Best Man Performer Remy Bumppo (Chicago, IL)
2006 Ten Little Indians Emily Brent Drury Lane Oakbrook (Chicago, IL)
2007-2010 August: Osage County Violet Weston Chicago, London, Sydney & Broadway
2012 A Little Night Music Madame Armfeldt Writers Theatre (Chicago)
2013 Other Desert Cities Polly Wyeth Goodman Theatre (Chicago)
2013 The North China Lover M Lookingglass Theatre Company
2015 Marvin's Room Aunt Ruth Shattered Globe Theater, Chicago
2017 The Treasurer Ida Armstrong Playwrights Horizons[4]


  1. ^ "Kathlyn Dunagan Obituary - Odessa, TX | Odessa American". Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Deanna Dunagan, Fresh Face Interview: Buzz". August 1, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  3. ^ Lopez, Rich (December 26, 2008). "Dunagan gets rave reviews in London - Top Stories". Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Harry Haun (September 29, 2017). "Deanna Dunagan on Playing Yet Another Unlovable Mother". The New York Observer.
  5. ^ a b "Deanna Dunagan, Star File: Buzz". August 1, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  6. ^ "Playbill Biography: DEANNA DUNAGAN". Archived from the original on March 18, 2008. Retrieved May 19, 2008.
  7. ^ "Deanna Dunagan". Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  8. ^ "So Cold the River". Rotten Tomatoes.