Tonya Pinkins is an award-winning actress, singer and author, born in Chicago, Illinois. She was interested in the arts from a young age. In high school, she studied acting at the Goodman Theatre Young People’s Program. Aged 18, she briefly attended college and decided to pursue an acting career instead. She later returned to college, earning an undergraduate degree from Columbia College in Chicago, followed by graduate work at Carnegie Mellon’s music theater program, and a year at California Western School of Law in San Diego.
Pinkins is probably most admired for her stage work. She 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 and A Time To Kill. She has also appeard in several Off-Broadway productions.
In 2014, Pinkins 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 has also had a prolific television career making guest appearances on such television shows as Army Wives, 24, Law & Order, The Cosby Show, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, and The Guardian among others. During the mid-1980s Pinkins created the role 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 still appeared, although in recurring status.
She has appeared in several films in supporting roles, including Newlyweeds, Home, Fading Gigolo opposite Woody Allen, Enchanted, Premium, Romance & Cigarettes, and Above the Rim among others.Pinkins performs several cabaret shows including Bring On The Men with Brad Simmons, Tonya Pinkins UnPlugged at The National Black Theater Festival and Hurricane Ethel.
In 2006 she wrote the book Get Over Yourself!: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve.
In the past few years, Pinkins appeared as Ethel Peabody for two seasons on the television series Gotham. In 2016 she played Mimi Corcoran on the Hulu sci-fi limited series 11.22.63, based on the Stephen King book of the same name. Most recently, she appeared on Madam Secretary and Scandal, and will appear on the upcoming season of The Strain.