She Played Colleen on "China Beach." See Dana Delany Now at 66.
The actor almost missed out on her breakout role.
Dana Delany has been in the business of making television for decades. She first got her start in entertainment with guest parts on As The World Turns, Moonlighting, and Magnum P.I., but it wasn't until she booked China Beach that she became a household name. The ABC primetime drama aired from 1988 until 1991 and was about a group of medics, soldiers, and volunteers working at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. Delany's character, Colleen McMurphy, was an army nurse grappling with her own personal issues while serving in the war, and the actor won two Emmys for the role. But her acting career didn't end when China Beach went off the air. Read on to see what she's doing now.
She almost missed out on her China Beach role.
Delany told Entertainment Tonight in 2013 that her major breakout role almost never happened. She explained that there were two final choices and that China Beach almost went with the other—mainly, because the part of Colleen was written for a blonde woman. "I certainly looked wholesome, and I think it's safe to come out and say it because she had a huge career—it was between me and Helen Hunt," she said. "The two of us tested for it, and I really don't know why they chose me. I know there was a lot of consternation at the time; a lot of people didn't think I was right for the role. One thing I heard was that I wasn't pretty enough. You know, at that age you take that to heart. And I don't know why they finally chose me. I know that at the end, I was [series co-creator and executive producer John Sacret Young's] choice and that was that."
Another one of her jobs led to controversy.
Delany has continued to work regularly since hanging up her nurse's uniform. Most notably, she starred as Katherine Mayfair on Desperate Housewives, Megan Hunt on Body Of Proof, and Crystal Harris on Hand of God. Her most recent projects include the CBS series The Code in 2019 and the HBO miniseries The American Guest in 2021.
The actor only appeared in one episode of the show Family Law, but it ended up being a memorable one. In 2001, she played a mother whose son shot himself with her handgun. The New York Times reported at the time that CBS pulled her episode from their rerun schedule because Proctor & Gamble, a major advertiser, withdrew their support because the show's fictional law firm defended Delany's character's right to own a gun. The network reportedly pulled other episodes before they re-aired as well, on abortion rights, the death penalty, and other controversial topics, also per P&G's request. Delany told the Times of the decision, "I was very disappointed. I wanted to know what Procter & Gamble's agenda is."
She turned down an iconic character because she didn't want to be typecast.
In an alternate version of television history, Delany—not Sarah Jessica Parker—played Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, its two movie spinoffs, and the sequel series, And Just Like That… But the China Beach star had a good reason for turning the role down when it was offered to her. Delany had previously worked with Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha on the HBO come, in a movie called Live Nude Girls, which is about a group of women who have a sleepover bachelorette party and spend the night talking about love and sex. Because of that, Delany was nervous that she would be typecast if she also played Carrie. She told The Los Angeles Times in 2000 (via CNN), "[Sex and the City creator] Darren Star was a friend of mine, and he had joined up with [writer] Candace Bushnell and came up with this idea and he asked if I'd be in it. It was very much in the early stages, and I had just done Nude Girls and Exit to Eden, and I just said to Darren, 'I cannot do a show with "sex' in the title.'"
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She's opened up about the choices she's made in her personal life.
Delany has never married and doesn't have any children. At one point, though, it seemed as though she was interested in settling down. In 2007, she told More (via People), "Marriage has never been a big deal for me. But I think I'm ready now. Before, I wanted adventures. I feel like, in some ways, I was smarter than anybody. I got to have all the fun in the world, to experience a lot of people, and figure out what I really like. I got to evolve. Now I know what makes me happy."
While Delany hasn't tied the knot, over the years, she's been linked to Eagles singer Don Henley, actors Treat Williams and Henry Czerny, and China Beach producer John Sacret Young.
Meanwhile, she's stayed busy not just as an actor but a philanthropist. She's a board member emeritus of the Scleroderma Research Foundation and she served as vice president of the Creative Coalition, an advocacy group for people who work in the arts and entertainment business.
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