Wednesday, August 08, 2007

District 9-M Personality of the Month: Tamara Tunie

Tamara Tunie
August 8th, 2007
Tamara Tunie (1959- ) is an American television actress who is best known for playing Jessica on “As the World Turns”, a part she played from 1986 to 1995 and again from 1999 to 2007. Since 2000 she has also played Dr Melinda Warner on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”.

According to this blog she is the ninth most beautiful black woman in the world. I saw her in 1995 in Central Park in New York when she played Helen of Troy in Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida”. She was 36 at the time, but she was still beautiful!

She is a good, solid, hard-working actress, but she is not a star; most people have never heard of her.

She was born in a steel town near Pittsburgh where people were both black and white but it did not seem to matter much. She was the fourth of five children. Her parents ran a funeral home on the ground floor of their house. In the basement were the dead bodies!

At Carnegie Mellon University she discovered her true love: the stage. After she got her degree in fine arts, she headed for New York.

She fell in love with New York at once and has been a New Yorker ever since: “My mother will say I was born in Pittsburgh, but I was a New Yorker from day one.” She says it is the greatest city in the world. Even now when she walks down the street she still gets a rush.

Billie Allen took Tunie under her wing and helped her become an actress. It was a dream come true: she was being paid to do what she loves! She appeared in plays on and off Broadway. In her first Broadway show she sang backup for Lena Horne.

She mostly does television now, yet the stage is still her first love. She still acts on stage from time to time. She was opposite Denzel Washington in “Julius Caesar”. She helped produce “Spring Awakening”, which won a Tony.

She has played not just Helen of Troy but also Maggie the Cat in the first all-black “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.

She was not completely happy with playing Jessica: she seemed flat because “she is just so wise.” White writers tend to make black characters too flat and too perfect: they do not know blacks well enough and are afraid to let their views about race show.

She has been in films too. She was the voice that tells the story in “Eve’s Bayou” (1997) - and the voice in Downy Plus Whitening ads. She was Al Pacino’s press secretary in “City Hall” (1996) and later his possessed, breast-baring neighbour in “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997). She appeared opposite Samuel L Jackson in “Caveman’s Valentine” (2001).

She lives with her second husband in a brownstone in Hamilton Heights, a rich part of Harlem.
She is now, as I write this (in August 2007), directing a film, “See You in September.”

See also:
Tamara Tunie at - lists her films and television shows (but not her plays).
Tamara Tunie at - less up to date than, but it has her plays too, not just television and film
The most beautiful black women
New York


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