Fisher was born in Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, the daughter of Olga (née Moen), a homemaker, and William I. "Bill" Fisher, Sr., an oil refinery construction superintendent. Before she reached the age of fifteen, she had moved nine times because of her father's job. Upon completing high school in Orange, Texas, she worked as a secretary, until she moved to Virginia to perform at the Barter Theatre.
Fisher first made a name for herself playing Detective Deborah Saxon on the soap opera The Edge of Night from 1976 to 1981; she later was in the cast of Guiding Light as Suzette Saxon. She then spent the next 10 years working on stage in New York and in regional theatres all over the East Coast. Fisher was cast as Lucille Ball in the television film Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter, which aired to strong ratings and good reviews in 1991.
Fisher has played numerous roles on American television, including parts in the series Strange Luck, Becker, and Titus. She also played a key role in the recent television drama The Lyon's Den and Glory Days. She was the producers' first choice to play Jill Taylor on the ABC sitcom Home Improvement, but was replaced by Patricia Richardson due to a lack of chemistry with Tim Allen. She also had a guest spot on The Young Riders in 1991. Fisher has guest starred as a bartender, Suzanna, at "The Lobo" in the first season of Roseanne. However, her most famous role has been that of society matron Ruth DeWitt Bukater, the mother of Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Kate Winslet), in the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic.
In 1999, Fisher portrayed Audrey Hepburn's mother, Ella Hepburn, in the biographical film of the actress's life. She has appeared in two other Academy Awarded films, House of Sand and Fog and Unforgiven. Her numerous theatre credits make up the bulk of her resume: Most recently, she appeared in the last play written by Arthur Miller, Finishing the Picture at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and The Cherry Orchard, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 2006.
Fisher worked on four films in 2006, including Peter Berg's The Kingdom, and Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah, in addition to a pilot for NBC/USA entitled To Love and Die. In 2008, she appeared in a guest-starring role on the Sci-Fi Channel television series Eureka, portraying the character of Eva Thorne. In 2011, she appeared in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
She served on the national board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild.
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