Fresh off of her second Tony Award victory last year for “The Sound Inside,” Mary-Louise Parker has earned a follow-up nomination in the same category for her work in the revival of Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive.” Parker returned to the haunting piece 25 years after she originated the role Off-Broadway, reuniting with costars David Morse – who also reaped a bid – and Johanna Day, plus director Mark Brokaw.
This nomination not only celebrates her exemplary performance, but also moves Parker into an extremely exclusive list of performers who have earned at least five nominations in the Best Play Actress category. Her first bid dates back to 1990, when she contended for “Prelude to a Kiss.” Over a decade later, Parker earned her second nomination for “Proof” and went on to win the prize. In the following two decades, she earned another nom for “Reckless” in 2005 and last year for “The Sound Inside,” which netted her the second trophy of her career. This year, “How I Learned to Drive” marks her fifth.
SEE the complete list of 2022 Tony Awards nominees
With five nominations to her credit, Parker is tied with Stockard Channing, Cherry Jones, and Laura Linney. Channing’s first bid here came in 1985 for “Joe Egg,” for which she won her first Tony. Six years later, she earned a second nomination for Best Actress for “Six Degrees of Separation” and another the following year for “Four Baboons Adoring the Sun.” In 1999, she returned with “The Lion in Winter” and over decade later reaped her most recent nomination for “Other Desert Cities.” Channing has more overall nominations than Parker: she has bids in Featured Actress for “The House of Blue Leaves” and Best Actress in a Musical for “Pal Joey,” too.
Just like Parker, Jones has earned five nominations across her career and they are all in the Best Actress category. Her tally begins in 1991 with “Our Country’s Good,” which she followed up with a nomination and victory in 1995 for “The Heiress.” Since 2000, Jones has three more nominations, for “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” “Doubt,” for which she won her second award, and most recently “The Glass Menagerie.”
Linney similarly has five bids in this very category, although she has never won. She earned those citations for “The Crucible” in 2002, “Sight Unseen” in 2005, “Time Stands Still” in 2010, “The Little Foxes” in 2017, and “My Name is Lucy Barton” in 2020, a race she lost to Parker.
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Only four other women have hauled in more nominations in this category. Jane Alexander has racked up six bids in Best Actress and eight overall. She has only won once competitively in 1969 for “The Great White Hope,” and she has an honorary Tony from 1995 for her role as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Colleen Dewhurst bests Alexander by one in the category with seven Best Actress nominations. She won for “A Moon for the Misbegotten” in 1974 to go with her Featured Actress prize in 1961 for “All the Way Home.”
Rosemary Harris has eight nominations for Best Actress and nine overall. She won just once, for the “The Lion in Winter” in 1966. Her most recent nomination was in 2010 for Featured Actress for “The Royal Family,” and she received the Lifetime Achievement Award just back in 2019.
Julie Harris earned a whopping 10 nominations at the Tonys including nine for Best Actress. She won for her first in 1952 for “I Am a Camera” and again in 1956 for “The Lark.” She has three other victories for “Forty Carats” in 1969, “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln” in 1973, and “The Belle of Amherst” in 1977. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
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If Parker wins she’d tie Jessica Tandy and Zoe Caldwell at three Best Actress trophies; Harris is the only one with more with five. But Parker would make Tony Awards history as the first to win this race twice in a row. In recent years, Judith Light won Best Featured Actress consecutively in 2012 for “Other Desert Cities” and 2013 for “The Assembled Parties,” and Laurie Metcalf did it across categories, with a win in Actress for “A Doll’s House, Part 2” in 2017 and in Featured for “Three Tall Women” in 2018.
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