Two years ago Audra McDonald broke the record for most Tony wins ever by a performer when she took home her sixth trophy for “Lady Day at Emersons Bar and Grill.” Now can she follow up that success with an Emmy Award for the HBO adaptation of “Lady Day”?
McDonald also set a Tony record in 2014 as the first performer to win an award in all four of the acting categories: Lead Actress in a Play (“Lady Day”), Lead Actress in a Musical (“Porgy and Bess”), Featured Actress in a Play (“A Raisin in the Sun” and “Master Class”) and Featured Actress in a Musical (“Carousel” and “Ragtime”). While she’s never won an Emmy for acting, she did claim victory last year for producing Best Special Class Program champ “Live from Lincoln Center.”
“Lady Day” is a one-woman show that depicts jazz singer Billie Holiday‘s spontaneous appearance on a concert stage in a seedy bar in a run-down part of Philadelphia. The incident is a true story which happened shortly before Holiday’s death. HBO’s production was filmed during the play’s run at Cafe Brasil in New Orleans last year.
It has been a relatively rare accomplishment for performers to win or be nominated for Emmys for taped Broadway roles. The last time it happen was in 1993 when Robert Morse won for his performance in the one-man show “Tru” about Truman Capote. The actor, best known nowadays for “Mad Men,” also won a Tony for this play.
Other similar incidents have been rare. Ed Flanders of “St. Elsewhere” fame took home an Emmy for a PBS adaptation of Eugene O’Neill‘s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” in 1976 in the same role for which he’d won a Tony two years prior. Nell Carter also prevailed for a TV airing of her Tony-winning musical role in “Ain’t Misbehavin.'” Though not live performances, Jessica Tandy (“Foxfire”) and Jeffrey Wright (“Angels in America”) also claimed Emmys for their Tony-winning roles in TV movie versions of their plays.
In some unusual Emmy cases, Tony winners have actually lost out on the chance at an Emmy when performers from the touring companies replaced them in the TV tapings. In 1985 George Hearn won an Emmy for the role of “Sweeney Todd” which had won a Tony for original star Len Cariou; Hearn beat his television costar Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett in a role that had won her a Tony. When the original production of “The Elephant Man” was produced for TV, Penny Fuller of the touring cast stepped in for Tony winner Carole Shelley and ended up taking an Emmy for the role.
McDonald faces tough competition from current Gold Derby frontrunner Sarah Paulson (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”) for Best Movie/Mini Actress. This would be McDonald’s third Emmy bid for acting following her nominations for the TV movies “Wit” (2001) and “A Raisin in the Sun” (2008).
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