Audra McDonald says she was riding the train to work on May 2 when she received a voice text message.
"A friend of mine has a little boy that plays with my young daughter. He was saying, 'Auntie Audra, congratulations on your nomination,'" she recalls to TODAY.com, imitating a little kid's voice.
"That's how I found out," she says, laughing. "It was a great way to find out actually, from a little 5-year-old."
The Broadway legend tied a record when the 2023 Tony nominations were announced Tuesday. She is now in a three-way tie with Chita Rivera and Julie Harris for most performing nominations at 10.
McDonald's most recent nomination was for her lead role in "Ohio State Murders," a play written by Adrienne Kennedy that details multiple traumatic events that transpired due to structural racism.
"Ohio State Murders" was on Broadway from Dec. 8, 2022, to Jan. 15, 2023, according to the Tony awards website.
"My life has exceeded my wildest dreams."
The actor says she is still processing her record-tying nomination.
"Those things are always hard to take in," she describes. "I've been so very lucky and my life has exceeded my wildest dreams, so it's hard to process and to take in. I'm super grateful and super honored."
The Julliard graduate has won six Tony awards, more performance wins than any other person, on nine nominations for her work in "Marie Christine,” “Carousel,” “Master Class,” “Ragtime,” “A Raisin In The Sun,” “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,“ “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” and “110 in the Shade.”
The singer says there is still shock on nomination No. 10.
“Of course, it’s always a shock because anything can happen,” she says. “It’s been an incredible season. All the women in my category and the women that were eligible are giving incredible performances this year, so you never know which way it’s gonna go.”
She was nominated alongside Jessica Hecht, Jessica Chastain and Jodie Comer.
McDonald says news of her record-tying nomination did not change her plans for the day. She found out on the way to a rehearsal and TODAY.com spoke to her when she finished up. She has no current plans to celebrate.
"I mean, I've been in rehearsals all day," she says. "I'm getting ready to get on the (train) and head home and give my 6-year-old dinner and put her to bed, get up tomorrow morning and get off to work again."
"Ohio State Murders" earning a Tony nod is particularly significant to McDonald because it's a play written by a Black woman about a Black woman's experiences with racism. The play ran in a theater recently renamed after iconic actor James Earl Jones.
"I'm glad that that part of it was recognized," McDonald says. "To bring this Black woman's work to Broadway, to make her Broadway debut at 91 years old in a theater that has just been named for one of our great Black artists, James Earl Jones, censoring Black women or a Black woman's story, exposing how destructive racism is ... and then how, especially with this character, it was death by the thousand cuts of systemic racism.
"I have to say, it was very fulfilling," she continues. "It was one of the most difficult roles I've ever played."
She says learning of her nomination on a work day reminded her that she's doing what she loves.
"I love that it happened on a day like today where I was taking the train in to start a workshop and rehearsal for a possible (new) project," she says. "I always say the rehearsal is the best part. It was nice to just get right back in the saddle and do what I love. That was the best part of today. It was like, 'Oh, wow, that's awesome. I'm so honored and happy for Adrienne, that they remembered us, and that's wonderful.' And here I am right back in rehearsal. That part made it feel right."
“The Good Fight” actor says she “can’t share too much” about the project she’s working on but “it’s something that thrills” her.
The mother of two's husband, Will Swenson, is also a Broadway actor and currently stars in "A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical," which opened last December," according to Playbill. Swenson was eligible to receive a Tony nod for his role, and notched one in 2009 for his role in musical "Hair," but wasn't nominated this season for his role as Neil Diamond.
McDonald says they approach their difference in nominations "with love and support."
"My husband and I have both been in this business long enough to know that sometimes you get the nod and sometimes you don't, and we have been with each other through both," she says.
“My husband’s doing incredible work every night in his show," she continued. "I couldn’t be more proud. Not being nominated should not invalidate the joy that they are bringing to that stage every night and the artistry that they’re bringing ... and the joy and exhilaration on the audience’s faces every night."
"It's about supporting each other, but at the same time realizing what's most important and that's what it's about," she says.