Audra McDonald (born July 3, 1970) is a four-time Tony Award-winning American actress and singer.
Born and raised in Fresno, California, the elder of two daughters, Audra began to study acting at a young age. She studied classical voice as an undergraduate at the Juilliard School of Music, graduating in 1993.
McDonald became a three-time Tony Award winner by the age of 28 for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, and Ragtime placing her alongside Shirley Booth, Gwen Verdon and Zero Mostel by accomplishing this feat within five years.
She was nominated for another Tony for her performance in Marie Christine before she won her fourth in 2004 for her role in A Raisin in the Sun, placing her in the company of other four-time winning actresses Angela Lansbury, Gwen Verdon and Mary Martin.
Only Julie Harris has won more, having earned five in competition and a special one acknowledging lifetime achievement. Well known for her singing abilities, McDonald has won acclaim for dramatic performances as well.
In 2001, she received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for the HBO film Wit starring Emma Thompson and directed by Mike Nichols.
She also has appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, the short-lived Mister Sterling and Kidnapped, and in the 1999 television remake of Annie as Daddy Warbucks' secretary Miss Farrell.
She rang in 2007 with the New York Philharmonic in a concert of music from the movies televised on Live from Lincoln Center by PBS.
On the big screen, McDonald has appeared in Best Thief in the World (2004), It Runs in the Family (2003), Cradle Will Rock (1999), The Object of My Affection (1998), and Seven Servants (1996).
McDonald has recorded four solo albums for Nonesuch Records. Her first, the 1998 Way Back to Paradise, featured songs written by a new generation of musical theatre composers who had achieved varying degrees of prominence in the 1990s, particularly Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel and Jason Robert Brown.
Her subsequent albums, How Glory Goes and Happy Songs, have featured more traditional theater and cabaret songs along with some songs by these new composers. Her fourth album, Build a Bridge, features primarily pop songs by such singer-songwriters as Laura Nyro, Elvis Costello, Nellie McKay, Neil Young, Rufus Wainwright, John Mayer and Randy Newman.
She frequently appears in concert and has performed with a number of the most prestigious orchestras world-wide.
Audra married bassist Peter Donovan in 2000. They have one daughter, Zoe Madeline.
As of July 2007, McDonald has been cast as Naomi Bennett, the former wife of Sam (portrayed by Taye Diggs), in Private Practice, the upcoming Grey's Anatomy spinoff. She is replacing Merrin Dungey, who played the role in the series pilot.