As the World Turns
“I grew up in a mixed community outside Pittsburgh. I was not raised with bigotry. I was not raised with racism. I was certainly aware of it because we didn't live in a bubble, but my family embraced anyone I cared about. Their attitude was, ‘If this is a good person and you like him, we like him too.’” Tamara Tunie
African American actress Tamara Tunie is well associated with her role of attorney Jessica Griffin McKechnie Harris on the soap opera “As the World Turns,” a role she played from 1987 to 1995 and again from 1999 to 2007. For her acting job, she was handed two Soap Opera Digest nominations and two Image nominations. She is popular among nighttime fans as medical examiner Melinda Warner on NBC's top rated show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2005-present). She also had recurring roles on “NYPD Blue” (1994-1997) and “24” (2002) and guest roles in such hit series as “Law & Order,” “Sex and the City” and “Chicago Hope.” Tunie received an Independent Spirit nomination for her performance in Kasi Lemmons' “The Caveman's Valentine” (2001), starring Samuel L. Jackson. The three previously worked together in “Eve's Bayou” (1997), Lemmon's feature directorial debut in which Tunie narrated the story and Jackson starred as Louis Batiste. Other movie credits include Oliver Stone's “Wall Street” (1987), Philip Kaufman's “Rising Sun” (1993), Harold Becker's “City Hall” (1996), Mimi Leder's “The Peacemaker” (1997), Taylor Hackford's “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997) and Brian De Palma's “Snake Eyes” (1998).
Starting out on stage, Tunie has acted on Broadway and in such plays as “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” “Call the Children Home,” “Oh Kay,” “Anthony and Cleopatra” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She also co-produced the Broadway hit “Spring Awakening” and the Tony nominated “Radio Golf.”
Tunie serves on the Board of Directors of Figure Skating in Harlem. It is a non-profit organization that provides education and life skills to young girls age 6 to 16 in the Harlem community through the art of figure skating. She also works with the Randalls Island Sports Foundation.
5' 9” Tunie lives in Harlem, New York, with her second husband, Jazz Vocalist/Post Editor Gregory Generet, whom she married in 1995.
Billie Allen's Protégé
Childhood and Family:
Tamara Lou Tunie was born on March 14, 1959, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. The daughter of Evelyn, a mortician, and James W. Tunie, an undertaker, she and her three siblings (Linda, Stacey and Kelly) were raised in a funeral home in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, where her family still runs the business. As a teenager, she competed in the Miss Black Teenage Pageant in Pittsburgh. With an interest in acting, Tamara later applied and was accepted to the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She went on to train under the guidance of famous drama couch Billie Allen.
In September 1988, Tamara married Greg Bouquett but they divorced in 1991. She married Gregory Generet in October 1995.
Tamara enjoys dancing and singing.
Law & Order: SVU
Kicking off her career on stage, Tamara Tunie charmed audiences with her portrayal of Helen of Troy in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of “Troilus and Cressida” in Central Park and subsequently made the jump to Broadway with an assignment alongside one of her idols, the legendary Lena Horne, in the musical “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music” (1982). She would continue to embrace the stage throughout her career with impressive performances in such productions as David Merrick's revival “Oh Kay,” “Call the Children Home” (as Mary), and William Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar” (as Calpurnia) and “Anthony and Cleopatra” (starred with Robert Cuccioli). She also toured Europe as a cast member of the musical “Bubblin' Brown Sugar” and played Maggie in the first all African-American production of Tennessee Williams' “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Theatre Virginia in Richmond.
Tunie branched out to television in 1986 when she landed a part in an episode of the Robert Urich-led crime series “Spencer: For Hire.” Her big breakthrough arrived a year later when she won the role of Jessica Griffin Harris on the CBS long-running daytime drama “As the World Turns.” For the next eight years, she built up her character and it became one of the first tough and independent African American women on the show. By the time she left in 1995, Tunie had received her first Soap Opera Digest nomination in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress.
Tunie made her feature film acting debut in 1987 with a supporting role in Steve Gomer's “Sweet Lorraine,” opposite Maureen Stapleton, Giancarlo Esposito and Edie Falco. She then starred with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone's drama “Wall Street” (1987), was featured with Madonna and Matt Dillon in Howard Brookner's “Bloodhounds of Broadway” (1989) and portrayed Lauren Smith in “Rising Sun” (1993), a thriller based on the Michael Crichton novel, directed by Philip Kaufman, and starring Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes. She also made guest appearances in the Humanitas Prize winner “Tribeca” in 1993, the NBC action series “SeaQuest DSV” and the Fox series “New York Undercover” in 1995. In 1994, she began her recurring role of Lillian Fancy, Lieutenant Arthur Fancy's (played by James McDaniel) wife, on ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” a gig she held until 1997.
In 1996, a year after leaving the soap opera, Tunie could be seen in such movies as the short “Quentin Carr” (with Jared Karis), “Rescuing Desire” (as Van), Harold Becker's “City Hall” (starred Al Pacino, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda, Danny Aiello and Martin Landau) and the award winning drama “The Money Shot” (directed and written by Matthew Mailer). On TV, she was cast as Miss Marcus in the HBO made-for-TV movie “Rebound: The Legend of Earl 'The Goat' Manigault,” which was helmed by Eriq La Salle and starred Don Cheadle. She also appeared in episodes of “Swift Justice” and “Law & Order.”
The Pennsylvania native's film career gained an important boast when she was hired as a narrator on the well-received “Eve's Bayou” (1997), the directorial debut of Kasi Lemmons, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie starred Samuel L. Jackson, Debbi Morgan, Jurnee Smollett, Lynn Whitfield, and Meagan Good. It was followed by supporting roles in the George Clooney/Nicole Kidman vehicle “The Peacemaker” (1997), “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997) with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, and Brian De Palma's “Snake Eyes” (1998), with Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise and John Heard. During this time, Tunie maintained her small screen presence by guest starring in such shows as “Feds” (1997), “Chicago Hope” (1997), “New York Undercover” (1998) and “Sex and the City” (1999). It was her return to “As the World Turns” in 1999 that put the actress back in the spotlight. Reprising her role of Jessica Griffin Harris, she picked up her second Soap Opera Digest nomination (2003) and two consecutive Image nominations for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series (2003-2004). She stayed on the series until 2007.
Tunie doubled her victory in 2000 when she landed the prominent recurring role of Dr. Melinda Warner on the popular series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a spin-off of “Law & Order.” After approximately five years on the show, she was added to the opening credits for the show's seventh season and is currently still on the show.
In 2001, Tunie was reunited with director Kasi Lemmons and actor Samuel L. Jackson for “The Caveman's Valentine,” an adaptation of George Dawes Green's novel. Portraying Sheila Ledbetter, she was handed a 2002 Independent Spirit nomination in the category of Best Supporting Female. The next year, she joined the cast of Fox's “24” in the recurring role of Alberta Green. However, due to health reasons, she left “24,” which was shot in L.A., and focused her energy in New York where both “As the World Turns” and “Law & Order: SVU” is filmed.
In 2007, Tunie starred as Nicole in “AfterLife,” a 27-minute short written and directed by Lana Garland. She moved behind the camera as director and producer for “See You in September,” a 2009 romance film starring Estella Warren. Tunie has also lent her producing talents to “Spring Awakening” (2006), a Tony Award winning rock musical adapted from the controversial 1891 German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, and August Wilson's “Radio Golf” (2007), which was nominated for a Tony for Best Play.