If you think Ellen’s mother looks familiar, we’re not surprised. Prior to becoming Denise Parsons, the Emmy Award-winning actress Debra Monk appeared in numerous hit TV series: NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Desperate Housewives, Frasier, Grey’s Anatomy. The list goes on. She’s done movies too. Remember the demon who torments Kevin’s (Keanu Reeves) wife in Devil’s Advocate? Yes, that’s Ellen’s mom. Josh Payne tells us more.
Denise Parsons is a classic people-pleaser from an earlier generation who never stood up to her domineering husband. Denise and her husband, Gary, raised Ellen and her sister, Carrie, in a lower-middle class New Jersey neighborhood. While Denise doted on Ellen and took pride in her achievements, she could never truly grasp the depth of her daughter’s intellect and talent. At the beginning of the series, Denise helps Ellen with her wedding preparations and then later through the aftermath of her fiancé’s murder. As the seasons progress, it’s clear that Ellen is much stronger than her mother.
Casting Debra Monk was an easy decision for the producers. Another Broadway and TV veteran, Debra came with ample experience and insight she could immediately invest in the complicated relationship between Denise and Ellen.