After delivering award-winning performances in such stage productions as “Valley Song” (1998), “Threepenny Opera” (1999) and “Eli's Comin'” (2001, won an Obie Award), American actress Anika Noni Rose gained major success with her role as impulsive Emmie Thibodeaux in the Broadway musical “Caroline, or Change,” (2004), for playwright Tony Kushner. For her good acting job, the petite actress was handed several honors, including a Tony Award, a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination. Rose appeared on the big screen two years later in the role of Lorrell Robinson in the movie adaptation of the hit musical “Dreamgirls.” Under the direction of Bill Condon, she picked up nominations at the Image Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Grammy Awards. She received her second Image Award nomination in 2008 for her performance in the NBC miniseries “The Starter Wife” (2007).
The 37-year-old thespian is going to play the voice role of Princess Tiana in the Disney cartoon film “The Princess and the Frog” (2009). Her character is hailed as the first black Disney princess.
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of Claudia and John Rose, Jr., a corporate counselor for the city of Hartford, Anika Noni Rose was born on September 6, 1972, in Bloomfield, Connecticut. She graduated in 1990 from Bloomfield High School, where she made her stage debut in a school production of “Fame.” Anika pursued acting at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, and the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, California, from which she earned a B.A. degree in theatre, and a M.F.A. degree in drama, respectively. She later moved to New York City to pursue a career on Broadway.
Caroline, or Change
Anika Noni Rose did not pursue acting as a career until after she received her M.F.A. degree in 1998. The Bloomfield, Connecticut, native performed in various plays during the late 1990s, such as “Valley Song” (1998, as Veronica Jonkers), “Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr. Browne” (1998), “Tartuffe” (1999, as Marianne) and “Threepenny Opera” (1999, as Polly Peachum). She won the Garland/Drama Logue Award and the Dean Goodman Choice Award for the first production and the S.F. Bay Guardian Upstage/Downstage Award for the first and last plays. Rose made her screen debut in 1999 when she was cast in “Ralph Ellison's 'King of the Bingo Game,’” a short film directed by Elise Robertson.
In the new millennium, Rose continued to add stage roles to her resume. She landed the role of Rusty in the Broadway musical “Footloose” and played Amneris in the musical “Aida” (both 2000). The next year, she could be seen as Cindy Lou in “Carmen Jones” and Cookie in “Me and Mrs. Jones.” However, it was her portrayal of The Woman in the production of “Eli's Comin'” that brought Rose real attention from critics and also an Obie award.
Rose was next hired for the film “From Justin to Kelly” (2003), which was created to capitalize on the popularity of the first “American Idol” finalists Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. The musical, however, was a huge box office disaster. Prior to appearing in the movie, she guest starred on the A&E Television Network short-lived drama “100 Centre Street” (2001) and the NBC Emmy Award-winning show “Third Witch” (2002).
2004 saw Rose with small roles in the musical film “Temptation,” which starred Zoe Saldana and Adam Pascal, and the box office dud “Surviving Christmas,” which starred Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O'Hara and Josh Zuckerman. Her big breakthrough arrived that same year when she won the role of Emmie Thibodeaux in playwright Tony Kushner’s critically applauded “Caroline, or Change,” (2004). Her performance as the hot-headed daughter of a black maid (played by Tonya Pinkins) earned her rave reviews and she was awarded the prestigious Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. The role also brought her a Theatre World Award, a Clarence Derwent Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, a Los Angeles Critic's Circle Award and an Ovation Award.
Lured by her success in the Broadway musical, director Bill Condon hired Rose to star with Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson in the long-anticipated screen version of “Dreamgirls” (2006), based on the 1981 acclaimed Broadway musical of same name. Playing the third Dreamette, Lorrell Robinson, a role originated by Loretta Devine on Broadway, Anika was nominated for an Image award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and a Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture. She also jointly nabbed a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
Rose revisited the small screen with an important role in the NBC mini series “The Starter Wife” (2007), opposite Judy Davis, Joe Mantegna, Debra Messing and Miranda Otto. She received a 2008 Image nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series/Television Movie for her work in the show. The following year, Rose played R'ch'lle in the independent comedy film “Just Add Water,” written and directed by Hart Bochner. Among her costars in the film were Danny DeVito, Dylan Walsh, Jonah Hill and Justin Long. She also starred as Mma Makutsi in the made-for-TV film “The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency” (HBO/BBC), alongside Grammy Award winning singer Jill Scott. The movie marked the last film to be directed by British filmmaker Anthony Minghella before his death on March 18, 2008. On stage, Rose played Maggie in the 2008 Broadway revival of Tennessee William's “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” directed by Debbie Allen.
Rose will provide the voice of the lead character Princes Tiana, the first black Disney Princess, in Disney's upcoming animated movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” a fairy tale focusing on a young girl who lived in New Orleans' French Quarter during the Jazz Age. The movie is set to be released on December 25, 2009.
“I’m thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to give a voice to this very special character. I grew up loving Disney princess fairy tales and to work with Disney's creative team and bring this wonderful story to life has been a truly amazing experience.” Anika Noni Rose
Tony: Best Actress (Featured Role – Musical), “Caroline, or Change,” 2004
Theatre World Award: “Caroline, or Change,” 2004
Clarence Derwent Award: “Caroline, or Change,” 2004
Lucille Lortel Award: Outstanding Featured Actress, “Caroline, or Change,” 2004
Los Angeles Critic's Circle Award: “Caroline, or Change,” 2004
Ovation Award: “Caroline, or Change,” 2004
OBIE: “Eli's Comin',” 2001
S.F. Bay Guardian Upstage/Downstage Award: “Valley Song” and “Threepenny Opera,” 1999
Dean Goodman Choice Award: “Valley Song,” 1998
Garland/Drama Logue Award: “Valley Song,” 1998