Mary Ellen "Mel" Harris (born July 12, 1956) is an American actress who first came to prominence in the late 1980s. She is perhaps best known for her role as Hope Steadman in the multi-Emmy winning television series thirtysomething (1987–1991). She has since appeared in numerous other television and film productions.
Harris was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the daughter to Mary Michael "Mike", a high school science teacher, and Warren Harris, football coach at Bethlehem High School and Princeton University. Harris grew up in North Brunswick, New Jersey and graduated from New Brunswick High School in 1974.
Her five marriages (in chronological order) include: David Silbergeld (1978–79), Brian Kilcommons (1980–82), photographer David Hume Kennerly (1983–88) (with whom she had son Byron in 1984), actor Cotter Smith (1988–96) (with whom she had daughter Madeline in April 1990) and investment banker Michael Toomey. Harris and Toomey were married May 26, 2001, but he filed for divorce on October 3, 2006.
Before finding success as an actress, Harris had appeared as a contestant on the game show Pyramid on two separate occasions: in 1979 on the ABC-TV daytime version known as The $20,000 Pyramid, and in 1985 on the syndicated version known as The $100,000 Pyramid, both versions hosted by Dick Clark. She later appeared as a celebrity on the third week of the The $100,000 Pyramid hosted by John Davidson in 1991, with a clip of her big win in 1985 as shown in a flashback clip.
Harris is perhaps best known for her role as Hope Murdoch Steadman on the popular 1980s television show thirtysomething (1987–1991). She also had a starring role in the 1988 horror film Cameron's Closet. In 1989, Harper's Bazaar named her one of "America's 10 Most Beautiful Women". That same year, she appeared in K-9, along with James Belushi and dog actor "Jerry Lee". In 1993, she played Dr. Renee Descartes in the film Suture. From 1996 to 1998, she starred with Jere Burns on the NBC sitcom Something So Right.
Harris has appeared in a number of other television programs including The West Wing, Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest, Dawson's Creek, Touched by an Angel, Close to Home and House. She played real-life victim Madge Oberholtzer in the TV mini-series Cross of Fire (1989) and starred in the Scott Turow legal thriller The Burden of Proof in 1992. She had a recurring role on Stargate SG-1 as Oma Desala.
Harris played Sylvia Capshaw on the MyNetworkTV limited-run serial Saints & Sinners.