Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry, as both a singer and an actor. The winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy Award, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015 and received a 2015 National Medal of Arts—America’s highest honor for achievement in the arts—from President Barack Obama. Blessed with a luminous soprano and an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling, she is as much at home on Broadway and opera stages as she is in roles on film and television. In addition to her theatrical work, she maintains a major career as a concert and recording artist, regularly appearing on the great stages of the world. Born into a musical family, McDonald grew up in Fresno, California, and received her classical vocal training at the Juilliard School. A year after graduating, she won her first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater. She received two additional Tony Awards in the featured actress category over the next four years for her performances in the Broadway premieres of Terrence McNally’s Master Class (1996) and Ragtime (1998), for an unprecedented total of three Tony Awards before the age of 30. In 2004 she won her fourth Tony, starring alongside Sean “Diddy” Combs in A Raisin in the Sun, and in 2012 she won her fifth—and her first in the leading actress category—for her role in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. In 2014 she made Broadway history and became the Tony Awards’ most decorated performer when she won her sixth award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill—the role that also served as the vehicle for her Olivier Award-nominated 2017 debut in London’s West End. In addition to setting the record for most competitive wins by an actor, she also became the first person to receive awards in all four acting categories. McDonald’s other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993), Marie Christine (1999), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007), her Public Theater Shakespeare in the Park debut in Twelfth Night (2009), Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (2016), and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2019). McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera, where she starred in a double bill: the monodrama La voix humaine by Francis Poulenc and the world premiere of Send by Michael John LaChiusa. She made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2007 starring alongside Patti LuPone in John Doyle’s production of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The resulting recording won McDonald two Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album. On the concert stage, McDonald has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra—including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony—and under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Leonard Slatkin. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in a season-opening concert that was broadcast live on PBS. Internationally, she has sung at the BBC Proms in London (where she was only the second American in more than 100 years invited to appear as a guest soloist at the Last Night of the Proms) and at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, as well as with the London Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic. It was the Peabody Award-winning CBS program Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years that first introduced McDonald to television audiences as a dramatic actor. She went on to co-star with Kathy Bates and Victor Garber in the lauded 1999 Disney/ABC television remake of Annie, and in 2000 she had a recurring role on NBC’s hit series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. After receiving her first Emmy nomination for her performance in the HBO film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson, McDonald returned to network television in 2003 in the political drama Mister Sterling, produced by Emmy Award-winner Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. (The West Wing) and starring Josh Brolin. In early 2006 she joined the cast of the WB’s The Bedford Diaries, and over the next season she had a recurring role on NBC’s television series Kidnapped. In 2008 she reprised her Tony-winning role in A Raisin in the Sun in a made-for-television movie adaption, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination. From 2007 to 2011, she played Dr. Naomi Bennett on the hit ABC medical drama, Private Practice. In 2013, her critically acclaimed performance as the Mother Abbess in NBC’s live telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, opposite Carrie Underwood as Maria, was watched by an estimated 18.5 million people across America. She received a fourth Emmy nomination for her role in HBO’s film special of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill in 2016. Having first appeared as US attorney Liz Lawrence on CBS’s legal drama The Good Wife in 2009, she joined the cast of CBS All Access’s The Good Fight as a season regular in 2018.
- Alisha Cole
- Adria Michelle