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Audra Mcdonald

Audra Mcdonald

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Also Known As: Audra Ann Mcdonald Died:
Born: July 3, 1970 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Berlin, DE Profession: singer, actress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Audra McDonald emerged as one of the premier musical performers on Broadway before tackling other media. The Berlin-born, Fresno-raised mezzo-soprano began her performing career at age nine in local dinner theaters. At the urging of her educator parents, McDonald enrolled at Juilliard as a voice student, but she secretly harbored the desire to perform on Broadway. She has been candid about finding opera studies difficult ("I had danced around the room singing to Barbra Streisand. That's what I wanted to do," she told The New York Times, August 30, 1998). Taking what she termed a "mental sabbatical," McDonald auditioned for and landed a role in the touring company of the musical "The Secret Garden." In June 1993, she was asked to audition for the proposed revival of "Carousel"; when she opened her mouth to sing, she fainted. Recovering, McDonald went on to impress the producers and, in a bit of non-traditional casting, landed the role of Carrie Pipperidge. While there were a handful of people who had problems with a black woman playing the role opposite a white man, McDonald and her stunning performance impressed audiences and critics. At the end of the season, she won almost every conceivable award...

Audra McDonald emerged as one of the premier musical performers on Broadway before tackling other media. The Berlin-born, Fresno-raised mezzo-soprano began her performing career at age nine in local dinner theaters. At the urging of her educator parents, McDonald enrolled at Juilliard as a voice student, but she secretly harbored the desire to perform on Broadway. She has been candid about finding opera studies difficult ("I had danced around the room singing to Barbra Streisand. That's what I wanted to do," she told The New York Times, August 30, 1998). Taking what she termed a "mental sabbatical," McDonald auditioned for and landed a role in the touring company of the musical "The Secret Garden." In June 1993, she was asked to audition for the proposed revival of "Carousel"; when she opened her mouth to sing, she fainted. Recovering, McDonald went on to impress the producers and, in a bit of non-traditional casting, landed the role of Carrie Pipperidge. While there were a handful of people who had problems with a black woman playing the role opposite a white man, McDonald and her stunning performance impressed audiences and critics. At the end of the season, she won almost every conceivable award as featured actress in a musical, including the Tony Award. Nerves once again played a part in her landing her second major Broadway role. A half-hour before her scheduled audition for the role of a headstrong student who clashes with opera diva Maria Callas, McDonald experienced a panic attack and canceled. When she finally was able to audition, she once again proved impressive. Co-starring opposite the formidable Zoe Caldwell (as Callas), the singer-actress earned her second Tony Award, this time for featured actress in a play. With her career in high drive, McDonald looked into branching to other media. She made her film debut in the small role of an opera singer in "Seven Servants" (1996) and her "Carousel" director, Nicholas Hytner, cast her as a singer at a wedding in "The Object of My Affection" (1997). Her biggest break, though, seemed to occur when she landed the role of Bill Cosby's daughter in the 1996 CBS pilot for his return to sitcoms. McDonald soon found herself in a dilemma, however. She had been participating in the workshops for the new musical "Ragtime" and the stage show was set to begin rehearsals for its world premiere in Toronto. Faced with this difficult choice, McDonald opted to remain with "Ragtime," playing the brief but memorable role of Sarah, the servant who loves the proud Coalhouse Walker Jr. Proving that her instincts were correct, the role brought her a third Tony and almost nightly ovations for her rendition of the lullaby "Your Daddy's Son." (In fact, as the material was developed, the show's creative team decided to incorporate a flashback sequence in the second act so McDonald would have more time on stage.) The Cosby family obviously held no grudges as the actress made her TV dramatic debut as the young Bessie Delany in "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" (CBS, 1999), which was produced by Camille Cosby. Within a week, she was also seen in the final episode of the NBC drama series "Homicide: Life on the Street," playing the daughter of Yaphet Kotto's police lieutenant Al Giardello. McDonald remained in demand as a stage performer, as well, debuting in fall 1999 in her first leading role in a musical in "Marie Christine," an adaptation of "Medea" set in New Orleans that was written specifically for her by composer Michael John LaChiusa. Although she did earn a Tony nomination for that role, she did not win. As the new millennium dawned, McDonald divided her time between the concert stage and the small screen. She earned an Emmy nomination for her beautifully rendered performance as a compassionate nurse caring for a terminally ill cancer patient (Emma Thompson) in the HBO adaptation of "Wit" (2001). After a brief time out for motherhood, McDonald returned to the stage to play the Diana Ross-like lead singer in a one-night only benefit concert staging of "Dreamgirls" in fall 2001. While maintaining a strong and varied stage career ranging from Brecht and Weill's "The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny" through the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess" to the nearly one-woman homage to Billie Holiday "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill," McDonald also expanded her film and television career. McDonald appearing in supporting roles in films ranging from the comedy-drama "It Runs in the Family" (2003) to police corruption drama "Rampart" (2011) to Jonathan Demme's "Ricki and the Flash" (2015). Along with an acclaimed performance in a TV movie adaptation of "A Raisin in the Sun" (ABC 2008), McDonald co-starred in the Shonda Rhimes medical drama "Private Practice" (ABC 2007-2013) for six seasons. McDonald also appeared as the Mother Abbess in "The Sound of Music Live" (NBC 2013), starred in the films "Hello Again" (2016) and appeared as the Wardrobe in Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" (2017).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
3.
4.
 It Runs in the Family (2003) Sarah Langley
5.
 Last Debate, The (2002) Barbara Manning
6.
 Wit (2001) Nurse Susan Monahan
7.
 Cradle Will Rock (1999) 'Joe Worker' Singer (Blitzstein)
8.
 Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (1999) Bessie Delany--In Her 20s
9.
 Object of My Affection, The (1998) Wedding Singer
10.
 Seven Servants (1996) Opera Singer
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1996:
Cast as a student of Maria Callas in the original Broadway production of "Master Class"
2000:
Performed in concert with Patti LuPone at the Hollywood Bowl (July)
1999:
Played secretary Grace Farrell in the TV remake of "Annie" (ABC)
2008:
Reprised role for the ABC television adaptation of "Raisin in the Sun"; earned an Emmy nomination for Supporting Actress
2003:
Cast in the short-lived NBC drama "Mister Sterling"
1997:
Had a small role as a singer performing at a wedding in "The Object of My Affection"; directed by Nicholas Hytner
1996:
Originated the role of Sarah in the Toronto production of "Ragtime"; also appeared on Broadway in 1998
2006:
Sang two solo one-act operas at the Houston Grand Opera
2000:
Cast as a psychologist in two episodes of the NBC drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
2007:
Cast in the Broadway revival, "110 in the Shade"; received sixth Tony nomination
2001:
Co-starred with Emma Thompson in Mike Nichols' adaptation of the award-winning play "Wit" (HBO); received an Emmy nomination
1999:
Dramatic TV debut, playing the young Bessie Delany in the CBS TV-movie "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years"
2001:
Featured in a one-night only benefit concert staging of "Dreamgirls"
1998:
Recorded first solo album, <i>Way Back to Paradise</i>
2004:
Cast opposite Sean Combs in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's "Raisin in the Sun"
1991:
Joined the touring production of the musical "The Secret Garden"
1996:
Made film debut as an opera singer in "Seven Servants"
2011:
Returned to Broadway to star in a new production of the George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward opera "Porgy and Bess" at the American Repertory Theater
2012:
Cast in the crime drama "Rampart" opposite Woody Harrelson
2015:
Appeared in "Ricki and the Flash"
1999:
Appeared in the final episode of the NBC drama series "Homicide: Life on the Street"
1999:
First starring role in the musical "Marie Christine"; received Tony nomination as Actress in a Musical
1994:
Made Broadway debut in revival of "Carousel" as Carrie Pipperidge; first association with Nicholas Hytner
2007:
Joined the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff series, "Private Practice" (ABC) as Dr. Naomi Bennett; replaced Merrin Dungey, who played the role in the series pilot
1989:
Made NYC stage debut in "Man of La Mancha"
:
Known for such albums as "How Glory Goes" and "Way Back To Paradise"
:
Popular songs include "Your Daddy's Son".
2012:
Appeared in several episodes of "Sesame Street"
2017:
Cast as Madame Garderobe in Bill Condon's live-action Disney remake "Beauty and the Beast"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Theodore Roosevelt High School: Fresno, California -
The Juilliard School: New York, New York - 1993

Notes

"She's a very giving artist with almost no ego. If anything, she's been very resistant to outside forces telling her how great she is." --"Ragtime" co-star Brian Stokes Mitchell, quoted in The New York Times, October 27, 1998.

"Audra McDonald, not yet 30, has it all - voice, looks, charisma, three Tony awards, and the rare quality of awakening powerful emotions in every audience that hears her. McDonald has arrived on Broadway with the kind of quality no singing actress has rivaled since Streisand went onstage as Miss Marmelstein in 'I Can Get It for You Wholesale' and walked off as a star." -- From The Boston Globe, June 3, 1999.

"When you have a baby, your voice changes a bit. It's a brand-new instrument. I'm seeing different colors coming in; it has different boundaries. I'm feeling freer with it than I felt before, which is exciting." --McDonald quoted in The Boston Globe, February 2, 2002.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Peter Donovan. Bassist. Together since c. 1992; married in September 2000.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Anna Kathryn McDonald. Director of affirmative action program at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.
daughter:
Zoe Madeline Donovan. Born on February 14, 2001; named for actress Zoe Caldwell.

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