Estelle Margaret Parsons was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in November 1927 and, after studying Law at Boston University, she decided to become a singer with a dance band before pursuing an acting career.
“I was up on stage from the age of seven, my Swedish mother Elinor would take me to the local community theatre, which everyone was in. The organizer running the theatre spotted my talent on stage. Acting certainly excited me and, with my enthusiasm, my career onstage had soon begun!
“At boarding school I really enjoyed English. I was academically involved with words, language and poetry but, ironically, I couldn’t tolerate studying Shakespeare! Looking back I feel philosophy is what I should really have studied. Instead, my ability to think rationally took me to legal theory and constitutional law. In my heart, however, I knew the stage would be my final destination.
“My involvement in the music world was short-lived but fun. Singing in a band was an enjoyable introduction to the world of entertainment. Looking back on my career I feel I am blessed to have appeared on television, film, and stage since the early 1950s.”
Estelle was originally hired by ‘The Today Show,’ first as a production assistant, then staff writer, which eventually led her to become the first female television network, political news reporter.
Turning her talents to acting, her first stage performance came in 1956, supporting Ethel Merman in ‘Happy Hunting.’ Since then, Estelle has gone on to either star in or direct over 25 productions.
Her first film role in ‘Ladybug Ladybug’ in 1963 was followed by 15 more over the next 30 years. Her appearance in ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ brought an Academy Award for best-supporting actress.
“It was a great honour and the Academy Award Statuette once took pride and place on a high shelf at home. However all my visitors and friends wanted their picture taken with this great prize, so now it sits on the floor for easy accessibility!”
Estelle appeared in television’s ‘All in the Family’ but is best remembered as the mother of ‘Roseanne’ on the eponymous hit sitcom, logging over 50 episodes during the show’s nine-year run.
Estelle moved into directing with the NYC productions of ‘Voices’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ in the late 70s and adapted, co-directed and performed the seven monologues. In the mid-80s, producer Joseph Papp selected her to direct a company of young actors in Shakespearean roles in an effort to introduce NYC schoolchildren to the theatre.
Deathtrap has brought Estelle back to the UK. “I enjoy working and spending time in London. To me the streets seem so small compared to New York, it gives the illusion that there are so many more people everywhere.
“I often play British characters, although I hate to do accents, it drives me insane! Helga Ten Dorp in Deathtrap is an eccentric Dutchwoman, so a new box ticked there!
“It can be a solitary business working away from home but with a flat in central London I can keep certain comforts close at hand. I love my plants and flowers and have a beautiful balcony brimming with greenery. I like to take long walks and visit the country and my regular Yoga keeps my mind and body in shape. I try to touch base with my family at least every four weeks. My husband Peter is a lawyer and able to work over in the UK when I am here for a long stretch.”
Estelle has an ever-increasing family of her own. “I have twin girls Martha and Abbie and a son Abraham, all musically gifted, and now three grandsons. Bringing up a family and having a working career can be hard to juggle. I carry a certain amount of anxiety around with me, because of the guilt about work. I can be neurotic at times.
“However, I love acting, I never look at the clock and it keeps me from getting bored. I have been very lucky, all my life I have done what I want to do and still continue to do so.”