American actress Maria Bello drew the public's attention for her successful performance as cocktail waitress Natalie Belisario in the Vegas romance The Cooler (2003), in which she received a runner-up prize from The National Society of Film Critics. She also gained more notice in Coyote Ugly (2000), playing tough talking, man-teasing bar owner Lil. The character garnered her a Favorite Supporting Actress in a Comedy/Romance at the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
On the small screen, the Golden Globe nominated actress won an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series award with the Screen Actors Guild for her impressive performance as Dr. Anna Del Amino in the hit series ER (1997-1998). However, she first raised public awareness while playing a member of an intelligence agency, Mrs. Smith, in the spy show Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1996).
Off screen, best friend of ER costar Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order star), Bello reportedly gives big support to the education of children. She co-founded the Dream Yard Drama Project for Kids, a non-profit arts and education program for children in Harlem. She also traveled to Africa where she spoke to children and collected material for a book that examines the values of children from different cultures.
As for her private life, Bello and TV executive boyfriend Dan McDermott welcomed their first child, Jackson Blue McDermott, on March 5, 2001.
Childhood and Family:
A mix of Polish and Italian heritage, Maria Elana Bello was born on April 18, 1967, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. One of three children to a construction worker father and former school nurse and teacher mother, Maria spent her childhood in a lower-class Pennsylvania suburb. She attended a Catholic high school before going on to study pre-law and political science at Villanova University. Though her dream was to be a lawyer, Maria took a drama class during her senior year. Fortunately, she soon discovered her acting talent and decided to pursue acting by first appearing on small off-Broadway plays.
A best friend to Carrie-Anne Moss, Maria now lives in Los Angeles. She is the mother of one son, Jackson Blue McDermott (born March 5, 2001, father Dan McDermott). During her off time, Maria practices a Taiwanese form of street fighting, mo thai lethal kickboxing, and has become addicted to karaoke. Commenting about her fun addiction, she said, "My friends and I have become completely addicted. Even last week, we had a party for a friend. 30 people in a backyard in Hollywood with a karaoke DJ singing till two in the morning."
Initiating her acting in such small-Broadway plays as The Killer Inside Me, Small Town Gals With Big Problems, and Urban Planning, Maria Bello, who once worked as a bartender, dog walker and cleaned houses, debuted on television as a guest star in episodes of The Commish (1991). She then could be seen acting in Maintenance (1992) as well as making guest appearances in Due South (1994), The Commish: In the Shadow of the Gallows (1995), Nowhere Man (1995) and Misery Loves Company (1995).
Her breakthrough came from never aired shows in which producers Kerry Lenhart and John J. Sakmar observed her acting and decided she was an ideal cast for their spy show Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1996). Though the series was cancelled after eight weeks, Bello successfully played the role of Mrs. Smith, a member of an intelligent agency who teams with her husband, Mr. Smith (Scott Bakula), while on missions.
Bello received another big break when she was cast in the 1994 series ER. At the beginning, Maria was only signed on for three episodes but her impressive performance won her a reoccurring role as Dr. Anna Del Amino for the 1997-1998 season. While working in the show, Bello was honored with a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
The popularity she gained from ER helped Bello jump to wide screen projects. Though Bello's first movie, Permanent Midnight (1998), was not popular, she then starred in the blockbuster smash hit Payback (1999), playing prostitute Rosie who helps actor Mel Gibson gain revenge.
In the year 2000, Bello could be seen acting in more than one movie. Her first project was the independent movie Sam the Man, in which she played the role of Anastasia Powell. She also portrayed bar owner Lil in Coyote Ugly. Her performance handed her a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actress in a Comedy/Romance. In her last film of the year, Bello starred with Gwyneth Paltrow in the comedy Duets by portraying Suzi Loomis (a role she declares turned her into a karaoke addict).
Entering 2001, Bello had a leading role in the IMAX movie China: The Panda Adventure, which was an experience for the actress after spending months in Asia. The following year, Maria gained notice for her character's portrayal in Paul Schrader's drama Auto Focus (2002). She even received more attention as cocktail waitress Natalie Belisario in the grainy Vegas romance The Cooler (2003, starring William H. Macy). She was honored with a runner-up prize from The National Society of Film Critics for the extreme realism she brought to her character. Additionally, the role also brought her nominations with the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
After a role in Nobody's Perfect (2004), Bello starred in two films: an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, Secret Window (2004, along with Johnny Depp and John Turturro) and Silver City (2004, together with Thora Birch).
In 2005, Bello starred with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne in Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), played Marcia in The Sisters (2005), portrayed Edie Stall in David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, and was seen as Adèle in The Dark (2005). She also teamed with Aaron Eckhart, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall and Katie Holmes in Thank You for Smoking (2005) and will star in the upcoming Aftershock (2005) and My Friend Flicka (2006).