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Sharon Delores Clarke was born on August 12, 1966. She has enjoyed a prolific career on the British stage and screen and is a three-time Olivier Award winner. She was was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2017 New Year Honours for her services to drama.
Clarke launched her career on stage, landing her first professional role in 1988 as Dolores Hope in O Babylon! The Musical. From there, she launched her career on the West End, with some of her earliest roles, between 1996 and 2004, being General Cartwright in Guys and Dolls, Joanne Jefferson in Rent, Miss Sherman in Fame, Rafiki in The Lion King, and Matron Mama Morton in Chicago. During that period, she also originated the role of Killer Queen in the 2002 premiere of the Queen jukebox musical We Will Rock You, earning her first Olivier nomination for best performance in a supporting role in a musical.
In the later 2000s and early 2010s, Clarke furthered her British stage career in roles including Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, Asaka in Once on This Island (a role she first played in 1994), Davina the Diva Harp in Jack and the Beanstalk, and Carmina the Camel in Aladdin, among others. These roles led to a 2011 turn as Oda Mae Brown in the musical adaptation of the film Ghost, for which she was nominated for a 2012 Olivier Award, again for best performance in a supporting role in a musical. Two years later, Clarke appeared in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner and won her first Olivier for best supporting actress.
In 2016, she received critical acclaim for starring in the title role of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and followed it up with a 2017 performance as Sonya in The Life. Her next venture was as Caroline in Caroline, or Change. She first assumed the role in 2017 at the Chichester Festival Theatre Clarke and transferred with the production to the Playhouse Theatre in the West End in 2018. Her performance there won her a second Olivier, this time for best actress in a musical. Before transferring again with the Caroline, or Change production, this time across the pond to make her Broadway debut, she played Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman and picked up a third Olivier Award.
Clarke has also had a successful career on screen. Her most well-known roles are as Lola Griffin in the BBC medical drama Holby City, on which she is seen in 112 episodes, and as Grace O'Brien in four episodes of Doctor Who and a spinoff holiday special. Some of her other TV credits include Waking the Dead, Soldier Soldier, Broken Glass, Between the Lines, Children's Ward, The Singing Detective, EastEnders, and Informer, among many others. She has also appeared in films, with recent credits including The Works, The Darkest Universe, Tau, and Rocketman.
Photo credit: Darren Bell