Audra Ann McDonald was born on July 3, 1970 in West Berlin, Germany and is a six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran.
McDonald was born in Germany as her American father was stationed there with the United States Army; however, she was raised in Fresno, California, attending the Theodore Roosevelt High School and graduating from the Roosevelt School of the Arts program. She went on to study classical voice at New York City's famed Juilliard School and graduated in 1993.
McDonald is primarily known for her work on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 1992, assuming the role of Ayah in the Broadway premiere of The Secret Garden and reprising the role on the show's national tour. Her breakthrough performance was as Carrie Pipperidge in the 1994 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, for which she won her first Tony Award, alongside a Drama Desk and Theatre World Award. Since then, she has gone on to win an additional five Tony Awards for her performances as Sharon in Master Class (1996), Sarah in Ragtime (1998), Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun (2004), Bess in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (2012), and Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill (2014). She has won more Tony Awards than any other actor in Broadway history and is also the only person to have won Tonys in all four acting categories, justifying her moniker as "Mama Broadway."
Her other Broadway roles include the titular character of the 1999 premiere of Marie Christine, Lady Percy in the 2003 revival of Henry IV, Lizzie Curry in the 2007 revival of 110 in the Shade, and Lottie Gee in the 2016 premiere of Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. She has appeared off Broadway in The Vagina Monologues at the Westside Theatre and as Olivia in the Public's 2009 Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night. She made her West End debut reprising her performance as Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill from June to September 2017, earning her first Olivier Award nomination for her efforts. In 2017, she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.
McDonald has also enjoyed a prolific career as a recording artist, having released a total of six studio albums to date and headlined countless solo concerts and tours both nationally and internationally. Her recording of Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny won the Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording in 2008.
On screen, McDonald is perhaps best known for her TV role as Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC's Private Practice, appearing in 77 episodes from 2007 to 2013, and as Liz Reddick-Lawrence on CBS's The Good Fight in 2018, having first debuted in the role on The Good Wife in 2013. She won an Emmy Award in 2015 for her performance in Live from Lincoln Center and earned Emmy nominations for Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill (2016), Live from Lincoln Center: Carousel (2013), A Raisin in the Sun (2008), and Wit (2001). Her other notable screen credits include the role of Madame Garderobe in Disney's 2017 live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, Sally in the 2017 film adaptation of Hello Again, and appearances in Ricki and the Flash, Rampart, Grey's Anatomy, Kidnapped, The Bedford Diaries, Mister Sterling, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Cradle Will Rock, among others. She also starred as Mother Superior in NBC's The Sound of Music Live! in 2013.
McDonald returned to Broadway to star as Frankie alongside Michael Shannon in a revival of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at the Broadhurst Theatre from May 4 through July 28, 2019.