This talented group of ladies tackled some of the most ridiculously challenging dramatic roles on Broadway! Pouring their hearts out 8 shows a week, they gave us risky, emotionally charged performances that captured the complexity of the human spirit.
Today's Spotlight: Best Performance by an
Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Meet Jessica Lange
Long Day's Journey Into Night (Mary Tyrone)
Hometown: Cloquet, Minnesota
Training: University of Minnesota (Art & Photography), student of Etienne Decroux in Paris
Big Break: One of the greatest film/TV/stage actresses in history, Jessica was first discovered by Wilhelmina Modeling Agency and made her film debut in the 1976 remake of King Kong. She went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie (1982) and Best Actress for Blue Sky (1994). She also has been nominated for Academy Awards for her work in Frances (1982), Country (1984), Sweet Dreams (1985), and Music Box (1989) and plays beloved characters in All That Jazz (1979) and Big Fish (2003). On TV, she starred as Big Edie in HBO's Grey Gardens (2009) and has numerous awards for her work during several seasons of American Horror Story (2011-2015). On Broadway, she appeared as Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1992) and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie (2005). This is shockingly her first Tony Award nomination.
Fun Fact: Jessica is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund. She is also a professional photographer and has several photo-books and has brought exhibits to many countries around the world.
Meet Laurie Metcalf
Misery (Annie Wilkes)
Hometown: Edwardsville, Illinois
Training: Illinois State University
Big Break: Perhaps best known as Jackie, Roseanne Barr's sister on the 90's sitcom Roseanne (winning 3 Emmy Awards for her work on the show), and more recently for The McCarthys, Getting On, and The Big Bang Theory, Laurie is an accomplished stage veteran. She is a founding member of the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre Company and gained major attention in 1983 when she played Darlene in Balm in Gilead, a character who has a 21 minute monologue. She has appeared on Broadway in My Thing Of Love (1995), November (2008; Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play), Brighton Beach Memoirs (2009), and "The Other Place" (2013; Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play). On film, she is the animated voice of Mrs. Davis in Toy Story and Debbie Loomis/Debbie Salt in Scream 2.
Fun Fact: Skeptical of the practicality of pursuing an acting career, Laurie started out as an office secretary for a long time and even studied German and Anthropology in college. Also, if you pass her on her way to the theatre, you might get a sneak peak of the show. She runs her lines aloud as she walks!
Meet Lupita Nyong'o
Eclipsed (The Girl)
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Training: Hampshire College (BA in Film & Theatre Studies), Yale School of Drama (MFA in Acting)
Big Break: Starting her early career as a Production Assistant for several Hollywood film projects including The Constant Gardner, a conversation on set with Ralph Fiennes inspired her to kick up her efforts into high gear. She went on to attend Yale School of Drama, and shortly after graduation, recorded a video submission for Steve McQueen that literally changed her life. Her star turn as Patsey in McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, not only catapulted her career, but also won her an Oscar in 2013 for Best Supporting Actress. Eclipsed is her Broadway debut.
Fun Fact: Truly multicultural, she was born in Mexico because her parents were in political exile from Kenya and she also speaks Spanish, Swahili, Italian. Her Kenyan tribe, Luo, is even same tribe as President Obama's dad! We also have The Color Purple to thank for Lupita. She credits viewing Whoopi Goldberg's Celie as the first time she felt like it was possible to become an actor.
Meet Sophie Okonedo
The Crucible (Elizabeth Proctor)
Hometown: London, England
Big Break: Some of her early success came from work in films like Young Soul Rebels (1991), Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995; yes, this is real), and Dirty Pretty Things (2002). She played the breakout, Academy Award-nominated role of Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda in 2004. She also is a Golden Globe nominee for her work on Tsunami: The Aftermath. On stage, she starred as Cressida in the 1999 National Theatre's Troilus and Cressida and is a Tony Award winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her work as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun in 2014.
Fun Fact: Brought up in poverty by her single mother, her mom always made sure there were books in the house. Sophie always has been very imaginative and creative and did a monologue about a woman giving birth to an egg for her agent showcase at the end of college. She also is a favorite of the Queen of England who appointed her as Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.
Meet Michelle Williams
Hometown: Kalispell, Montana; moved to San Diego, California at the age of 9
Big Break: As a child, she made guest appearances on Step by Step and Full House and her film debut in Lassie in 1994. Her starring role of Jen Lindley in Dawson's Creek (1998-2003) made her a household name. After Dawson's Creek, her career transitioned into mostly the film world, gaining international acclaim for her Academy Award-nominated work in Brokeback Mountain (2005), Blue Valentine (2010), and My Week with Marilyn (2011). She made her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret in 2014.
Fun Fact: for some extreme dedication? Michelle and her co-star Jeff Daniels refuse to miss a performance. She's gone on with the flu, bronchitis, vertigo, and a slipped disc.
What an incredibly interesting and unique group of ladies!
Who is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!
Check back on Tony Sunday to
Meet the 2016 Tony Awards Nominees:
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Tom Morin is a NYC-based acting coach, co-founder of Polish Your Passion, and a professional actor/singer. He holds a B.A. in Theatre & Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.F.A. in Acting from Ohio University and has been teaching for the past 9 years, advising and coaching students through the college audition process and beyond. He loves coffee, Shakespeare, and YouTube.