Backstage with Broadway star Audra McDonald

By Kay Kipling Photography by Michael Wilson November 1, 2011

Audra McDonaldQ. Porgy and Bess has sparked controversy because of changes made to the original. What’s your reaction?

A. Certain people say I should recuse myself from the show or they’ll never come to a concert of mine again. The only thing you can do is focus on your work and do what you believe in.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to perform?

A. I just never did anything else; I was never good at anything else. I was performing nightly in a dinner theater in Fresno at the age of nine.

Q. You have a daughter about that age. Does she have the acting bug, or do you try to discourage that?

A. I wouldn’t discourage it; it would be futile and sort of hypocritical, too. She plays a lot of instruments and she likes to sing and dance, but she also talks about working at a wildlife refuge with elephants. So who knows?

Q. You have such a mix of things in your career, from Broadway to television to opera. Is that intentional?

A. Maybe it’s a little intentional. I’m pretty hyperactive, and when I’m not doing a certain thing I miss it. I was on TV for a while [in Private Practice], and so I missed the excitement of being in a musical every night. After I’m away from TV for a while, I’ll miss that.

Q. What’s the most challenging role you’ve ever played?

A. Bess, Bess, Bess. She’s so complicated, such a bag of contradictions. She’s someone who’s wounded, haughty, prideful, weak, addicted—all in one person. I run the gamut of emotions; it’s a rollercoaster ride night after night.

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