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Tonya Pinkins
Tonya Pinkins Throws Down The Gauntlet.jpg
EducationCarnegie Mellon University
Columbia College Chicago (BA)
California Western School of Law
  • Actress
  • filmmaker
Years active1980–present

Tonya Pinkins is an American actress and filmmaker. Her award-winning debut feature film RED PILL was an official selection at the 2021 Pan African Film Festival, won the Best Black Lives Matter Feature and Best First Feature at The Mykonos International Film Festival, Best First Feature at the Luléa Film Festival, and is nominated for awards in numerous festivals around the globe. Her web-series The RED PILLING of AMERICA can be heard on her podcast "You Can't Say That!" at

She is known for her portrayal of Livia Frye on the soap opera All My Children and for her roles on Broadway. She has been nominated for three Tony Awards (winning one), and has won Obie, Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, AUDLECO, Garland, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, Clarence Derwent, and NAACP Theater Awards. She has been nominated for the Olivier, Helen Hayes, Noel, Joseph Jefferson, NAACP Image, Soap Opera Digest, and Ovation Awards. She won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Jelly's Last Jam.

Early life and education

Pinkins was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her father was a police officer and insurance salesman, and her mother is a former postal worker. She has two brothers, Eric and Thomas Swoope, and a sister Tamera Swoope.

Pinkins was interested in the arts from a young age. At Whitney Young Magnet High School, she participated in the theater program and also studied acting at the Goodman Theatre Young People's Program. She attended Carnegie Mellon University's BFA Musical Theatre program, but was cast in Merrily We Roll Along and decided to pursue her career, instead.[1]

Pinkins later returned to college, earning an undergraduate degree in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago in 1996, followed by a year at California Western School of Law in San Diego.


Pinkins won a Tony Award for her performance as Sweet Anita in Jelly's Last Jam. She was nominated for her roles in Play On! and in Caroline, or Change, where she played the title role. Her additional Broadway credits include Merrily We Roll Along, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Wild Party, House of Flowers, Radio Golf, A Time To Kill,[2] and Holler If Ya Hear Me.

Pinkins has performed in several off-Broadway productions, including the comic role of Mopsa, the Shepherdess, in The Winter's Tale produced by the Riverside Shakespeare Company at The Shakespeare Center in 1983.[3]

In 2011, Pinkins starred in the world premiere of Kirsten Greenidge's Milk Like Sugar at La Jolla Playhouse, and received a 2012 Craig Noel nomination for Best featured Actress in a Play. She reprised her role in the Playwrights Horizons in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater,[4] and garnered a 2012 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.

In 2012, Pinkins starred in Katori Hall's play Hurt Village, the gritty drama about life and change in a Memphis housing project made its world-premiere at Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company as part of the theatre's inaugural season.[5]

In 2014, she appeared in New Federal Theatre's revival of Ed Bullins' The Fabulous Miss Marie opposite Roscoe Orman; in the Broadway production of Holler If Ya Hear Me; and the world premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' War at Yale Repertory. She also made guest appearances on such television shows as Army Wives, 24, Law & Order, The Cosby Show, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, and The Guardian among others.[6]

During the mid-1980s Pinkins created the character of "Heather Dalton" on the CBS soap As the World Turns. In 1991, she was cast as Livia Frye in All My Children. Pinkins left All My Children in 1995 but returned to her role in 2003. She was later put on contract with the show from March 2004 until June 2006, when she was downgraded to recurring status.[citation needed]

She played Amala Motobo on 24. Pinkins played Ethel Peabody on the television show Gotham.[6] In 2016, she played Mimi Corcoran on the Hulu science fiction limited series 11.22.63, based on the Stephen King book of the same name, and starring James Franco and Sarah Gadon.[6] On March 16, 2017, she portrayed Sandra in the ABC television series Scandal.[citation needed]

Pinkins has appeared in several films in supporting roles, including Newlyweeds, Home, Fading Gigolo opposite Woody Allen, Enchanted, Premium, Romance & Cigarettes, Noah's Arc: Jumping The Broom and Above the Rim among others.[6]

Pinkins has performed in several cabaret shows including Bring On The Men with Brad Simmons, Tonya Pinkins UnPlugged at The National Black Theater Festival and Hurricane Ethel.[citation needed]

Pinkins wrote, directed, and starred as Cassandra in Red Pill, to be released in 2020.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1980 Growing Up Young Carol Short
1984 Beat Street Angela
1989 See No Evil, Hear No Evil Leslie
1994 Above the Rim Mailika Watson
2000 Redemption Dr. Jones Short
2002 Love Hurts Auntie V
2004 Love, Mom Mom Short
2006 Premium Marva
2007 Enchanted Phoebe Banks
2008 Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom Mrs. Robinson
2013 Newlyweeds Patrice
2013 Fading Gigolo Othella
2013 Home Esmin
2015 Ori Inu: In Search of Self Mama Lola Short
2016 Collective: Unconscious Ripa Segment: "Everybody Dies!"
2016 Fearless Love Det. Cambridge Short
2017 Aardvark Abigail
2017 The Book of Henry Principal Wilder
2017 My Days of Mercy Agatha
2017 An Act of Terror Mary Church Terrell Short
2018 Write When You Get Work Roberta Simmons
2019 The Artist's Wife Liza Caldwell
2020 Red Pill Writer, Direct, Cassandra
2020 The Surrogate Karen Weatherston-Harris Drama film


Year Title Role Notes
1984–1986 As the World Turns Heather Dalton Recurring role
1986 Rage of Angels: The Story Continues Sharon TV film
1990 The Cosby Show Iris Episode: "Elvin Pays for Dinner"
All My Children Livia Frye Regular role
1993 Strapped A.T.F. Officer TV film
1994 Against Their Will: Women in Prison Sondra TV film
1995 University Hospital Nurse Mary Jenkins Main role
2002 The Guardian Melinda Tralins Episode: "In Loco Parentis"
2005 Sleeper Cell Anita Al-Sayeed Episode: "Family"
2006 Criminal Minds Det. Nora Bennett Episode: "A Real Rain"
2006 Cold Case Dina Miller Episode: "The River"
2006 Law & Order Angela Young Episode: "Hindsight"
2007 Unfabulous Ms. Best Episode: "The Toot"
2008 The Closer Donna Taft Episode: "Split Ends"
2009 24 Alama Matobo 4 episodes
2009 Army Wives Viola Crawford Recurring role; 5 episodes
2013 Hostages Beth Nix Episode: "2:45 PM"
2015 Nurse Jackie Charlane Episode: "Deal", "Nice Ladies"
2015 For Justice Marian Horn TV film
2016 11.22.63 Mia Mimi Corcoran TV miniseries; 4 episodes
2015–16 Gotham Ethel Peabody Recurring role; 11 episodes
2016–19 Madam Secretary Susan Thompson 10 episodes
2017 Scandal Sandra Episode: "Extinction", "A Traitor Among Us"
2017 The Strain Francis Episode: "Belly of the Beast"
2018 Random Acts of Flyness Ripa The Reaper 3 episodes
2018 Elementary Judge Marilyn Whitfield Episode: "Fit to Be Tied"
2018 Fear the Walking Dead Martha 6 episodes
2019 NCIS: New Orleans Julie Episode: "Reckoning"
2019 Bull Judge Maynard Episode: "When the Rains Came"
2019 Wu-Tang: An American Saga Burgess Episode: "Impossible"
2020 Katy Keene Busker Episode: "Pilot"
2020 God Friended Me Marsha 3 episodes
2021 Women of the Movement Alma Carthan 6 episodes
2021 Run the World Gwen Greene Episode: "Plus Ones"


  1. ^ Tonya Pinkins: A Diva, Absolutely!,; accessed March 31, 2018.
  2. ^ Playbill News: Her Shining Hour: Tonya Pinkins Sings Arlen Archived July 19, 2012, at
  3. ^ For a photo of Tonya Pinkins in the role of Mopsa in The Winter's Tale, see Riverside Shakespeare Company
  4. ^ "Tony Winner Tonya Pinkins to Star in Milk Like Sugar at Playwrights Horizons"., September 23, 2011.
  5. ^ Blank, Matthew (February 23, 2012). "PHOTO CALL: Tonya Pinkins, Saycon Sengbloh and More in Katori Hall's Hurt Village".
  6. ^ a b c d Tonya Pinkins at IMDb
  7. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (July 7, 2020). "Tonya Pinkins' Thriller 'Red Pill' Puts A Frightening Lens On The 2020 Election". Deadline. Retrieved July 25, 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 27 November 2021, at 00:35
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