Tony Award-nominated actress Valarie Pettiford garnered critical acclaim on Broadway for her performance in the hit three-act musical revue showcasing the choreography of Bob Fosse, "Fosse" (1999). Adding to her Off Broadway and regional productions appearances, the New York native, who honed in on her craft at the Bernice Johnson Theatre for the Performing Arts, also worked with the late great Bob Fosse on the musical revue “Dancin'” and in his last Broadway musical, “Big Deal.” She also appeared in the Broadway and the national tour productions of the musicals “Sophisticated Ladies” and “West Side Story.”
On the small screen, TV viewers could catch her as Det. Courtney Walker (1988-1990) on "Another World," the original Sheila Price Gannon (1990-1994) on "One Life to Live," and as Big Dee Dee Thorne on "Half & Half" (2002-2006). She also had recurring roles on "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show," "Fame L.A.," and "The District." She will next be seen in an upcoming medical drama based on the lives of cancer patients, "Anatomy of Hope."
Pettiford also ventured on the wide screen, appearing in the films "The Cotton Club" (1984), "Street Hunter" (1990), "Glitter" (2001), "Like Mike" (2002), and "Stomp the Yard" (2007). She will star in a new comedy movie called "Why Am I Doing This?"
Childhood and Family:
On July 8, 1960, Valarie Pettiford was born in Queens, New York, began her training as a child at the Bernice Johnson Theatre for the Performing Arts in Queens, N.Y. Daughter to Ralph and Blanche, and younger sister to Atonia, Pettiford continued her early training at the Performing Arts High School.
Pettiford makes her home in Los Angeles with her husband, Tony Rader, and their two dogs, one of whom named Buster. Her hobbies include shopping and knitting. She likes to read "Memoirs of a Geisha" and loves to watch the movie "All About Eve."
One Life to Live
Sharpening her craft at the Bernice Johnson Theatre for the Performing Arts, Valarie Pettiford, 14 years old at the time, had become a teacher and choreographer for the school and became one of the lead dancers in the company. She also starred in the chorus of the film, “The Wiz,” starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
She then headed to Broadway, where she first became a "Fosse dancer," working with the late great Bob Fosse on the musical revue “Dancin'” and in his last Broadway musical, “Big Deal.” She also appeared in the Broadway and national tour productions of the musicals “Sophisticated Ladies” and “West Side Story.”
Meanwhile, Pettiford has appeared on such Off Broadway plays as “Freefall,” for which she earned an ADELCO Award nomination for Best Actress in a play, Jean Genet's “The Balcony,” “Tango Apasionado,” Alan Menkin's “Weird Romance,” “Beehive,” and Paul Rudnick's “The Naked Truth.” She also has starred in several local productions, including “She Stoops To Conquer,” “Summer and Smoke,” and “the World Premiere of Marsha Norman's Sarah and Abraham.”
Pettiford began appearing on the screen in the 1980s, beginning with a small role as a dancer in Francis Ford Coppola's crime-drama film centered on a popular real-life Harlem jazz club in the 1930s, "The Cotton Club" (1984; starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, and Gregory Hines). She also played Det. Courtney Walker on the NBC soap opera "Another World" from 1988 to 1990.
In the 1990s, Pettiford originated the role of the indomitable Sheila Price Gannon (1990-1994) on the ABC soap "One Life to Live," which gave her three Image Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She had recurring roles on the syndicated family comedy series "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show" and on the short-lived drama series "Fame L.A." She was also spotted as a guest in an episode of "The Sentinel," "Silk Stalkings," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Sliders," and "The X Files."
On the big screen, she could be seen playing the female lead in John A. Gallagher's action/drama film "Street Hunter" (1990), alongside Steve James, Reb Brown, and John Leguizamo.
Meanwhile, Pettiford starred in "Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance," which opens on Broadway on December 26, 1998. She made her West End debut in the autumn of 1999 in Bob Fosse's “Chicago,” portraying Velma Kelly, opposite Chita Rivera and Maria Friedman until February 2000. She was nominated for Broadway's 1999 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Musical) for her work in the hit three-act musical revue showcasing the choreography of Bob Fosse, "Fosse."
2001 saw Pettiford in William Branden Blinn's 24-minute short drama film "Confidences" and in Vondie Curtis-Hall's musical drama film starring Mariah Carey, "Glitter." She also guest-starred in an episode of "Jack & Jill," "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," "Frasier," and "Men, Women & Dogs."
From 2002 to 2004, Pettiford played the recurring role of Gayle Noland on the CBS cop drama "The District." She also co-starred as "Big Dee Dee" Thorne, the mother to Essence Atkins' Dee Dee, on the UPN sitcom "Half & Half" (2002-2006).
During this time, she appeared in the films "Like Mike" (2002), John Schultz's family/basketball movie starring Lil' Bow Wow, Brenda Song, Jonathan Lipnicki and Morris Chestnut, Ramin Niami's contemporary film noir "Paris" (2003; starring Chad Allen and Bai Ling), and Abby Luttrell's comedy movie starring Abby Luttrell, "Surviving in L.A." (2005). She also guest-starred in "The West Wing" and "CSI: Miami."
On stage, Pettiford essayed the role of Dorothy Shaw in Jule Styne and Leo Robin's musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" at Freud Playhouse, Westwood, California, in March 2002, and portrayed Leontine in "He Hunts" play by Georges Feydeau adapted by Phillip Littell at Geffen Playhouse, Westwood, California, in April 2002.
Pettiford was recently cast in Kier Miles' drama film "Stomp the Yard," starring Columbus Short and Meagan Good, and in T.A. Williams' thriller film, "The Stolen Moments of September" (both in 2007). She was also spotted as a guest in an episode of the CBS cop/crime drama series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and Fox crime-drama starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, "Bones."
She will next be seen in an upcoming medical drama based on the lives of cancer patients, "Anatomy of Hope." She will also star in a new comedy movie by writer/director Tom Huang, "Why Am I Doing This?" As for her stage work, Pettiford is set to perform at Birdland in July 2008 alongside Lucie Arnaz and Sam Harris.