On prime time television, Marchand was renowned for her roles as patrician newspaper publisher Margaret Pynchon on Lou Grant—winning four Emmy Awards as Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series for her performance—and matriarch Livia Soprano, mother of Tony Soprano, on the HBO series The Sopranos, which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. She appeared in many anthology series in the early days of television, including The Philco Television Playhouse (on which she starred in Marty opposite Rod Steiger), Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, and Playhouse 90. Additional television credits include The Law and Mr. Jones, Spenser: For Hire, Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Coach, and Night Court. She played Hester Crane, mother of Frasier Crane, on an episode of Cheers.
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Alice was born Mary Alice Smith in Indianola, Mississippi , the daughter of Ozelar ( née Jurnakin) and Sam Smith.  She had an ability to act and began her career on stage in her hometown. 
She grew up in Medfield , Massachusetts,  and graduated from Medfield High School in 1999.  She attended Boston University , where she studied classical voice  and competed in track and field .   She describes her family as a "sports family".  Her younger brother, Obi, played hockey at the University of Massachusetts and went on to play six seasons professionally.