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Amber Renae Gray (born April 2, 1981) is an American actress and singer. She is known for portraying Hélène Bezukhova in the 2016 Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 and for originating the role of Persephone in the musical Hadestown, both off and on Broadway. For the latter 2019 role, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, additionally earning the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

Early life and education

Gray was born on April 2, 1981, in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. She is a military brat and spent her early childhood across Europe and the United States. She later settled in Wayland, Massachusetts where she attended Wayland High School.

She attended Boston University where she received a BFA in acting and New York University where she received an MFA in acting.

Career

In 2007, she began her screen career by appearing in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, titled "Haystack", as a character named Raye. She also worked as a photographer on Canada's Top Model in 2009 on the episode "Bright Lights: No Pity". In 2012, Gray first became involved with Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812. Gray portrayed Countess Hélène Bezukhova in the musical's performances at the Off-Off-Broadway Ars Nova Theater. Gray continued with Great Comet when it moved to Kazino Meatpacking in 2013, Kazino Times Square in 2014, and when it opened on Broadway in late 2016. Gray was awarded a 2017 Theatre World Award for her performance as Hélène.

In 2014, Gray reprised her leading role as Zoe in An Octoroon at Soho Repertory Theatre An Octoroon utilized the plot of The Octoroon, an 1859 melodrama, but turned it into a contemporary new play that discusses America's slave history and both past and present racism. In an interview with The New York Times , Gray spoke of the part's difficulty due to many intense racial scenes/ Gray remained with the production when it went on to play at Theatre for a New Audience in 2015.

Anaïs Mitchell

In 2016, Gray portrayed Persephone in New York Theatre Workshop's production of the new musical Hadestown, based on Anaïs Mitchell's album of the same name and the tragic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Gray was again directed by Rachel Chavkin, whom she collaborated with during Great Comet. Gray was praised by critics, who were impressed by her "vocal dexterity," "charisma," and "powerhouse voice". She reprised this role in the Edmonton Citadel Theatre, London National Theatre, and Broadway productions. For the Broadway production, she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

In 2021, Gray debuted her first leading role in the Amazon limited series The Underground Railroad as Gloria Valentine.

Personal life

Gray married Galen Hamilton in 2011. They have two children.

Gray identifies as biracial.

Theatre

Years Production Role Theatre Director
2004 Ain't Misbehavin Charlaine Huntington Theatre Company Marcia Milgrom Dodge
2005 Lady Windermere's Fan Lady Plymdale Williamstown Theatre Festival Moisés Kaufman
2005 On The Razzle Lisette Williamstown Theatre Festival David Jones
2005 Prudence Sarah Connecticut Repertory Theatre Tyler Marchant
2006 Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir Activist, Singer Internationally Savitri D
2009 A Midsummer Night's Dream Puck, Hippolyta, Theseus Florence's Villa La Pietra, NYC Bandshells, Classic Stage Company Jim Calder
2010 An Octoroon Zoe P.S. 122 Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
2010 Banished Children of Eve Eliza Irish Repertory Theatre Ciaran O'Reilly
2011 Sueño The Sun Atlas Theatre Jack Fletcher
2011–13 The TEAM's Mission Drift Joan P.S. 122's COIL Festival, London's National Theatre, Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, Lisbon, Coimbra, Salzburg, Hong Kong, Perth, Williams College Rachel Chavkin
2012 All Hands Greta Hoi Polloi Alec Duffy
2012 We Play for the Gods Simi Women's Project Jessi D. Hill, Sarah Rasmussen, Mia Rovegno
2012 The World is Round Rose Rose Rose Ripe Time Rachel Dickstein
2012 Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Hélène Ars Nova Rachel Chavkin
2012 Eager to Lose Trixie Ars Nova Portia Krieger and Wes Grantom
2013 Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Hélène Bezukhova Kazino Meatpacking District Rachel Chavkin
2014 Kazino Times Square
2014 An Octoroon Zoe Soho Rep Sarah Benson
2014–15 A 24 Decade History of Popular Music: 1900s-1950s Singer New York Live Arts with Under the Radar Taylor Mac, Niegel Smith
2015 An Octoroon Zoe Theatre for a New Audience Sarah Benson
2015 Oklahoma! Laurey Williams Bard SummerScape Daniel Fish
2015 Iphigenia in Aulis Clytemnestra, Menelaus Classic Stage Company Rachel Chavkin
2016 Hadestown Persephone New York Theatre Workshop
2016–17 Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Hélène Bezukhova Imperial Theatre, Broadway
2017 The TEAM's Primer for a Failed Superpower Activist, Singer Roulette
2017 Hadestown Persephone Edmonton's Citadel Theatre
2018–19 Olivier Theatre, Royal National Theatre
2019–22 Walter Kerr Theatre
2021 Against Women and Music Celine Gray Virtual Production Sarna Lapine

Filmography

Movies
Year Title Role Notes
2011 Roger, the Chicken Dr. Rose
2013 The Weekend Maggie
2017 Walden: Life in the Woods Melinda
2021 Where There's Smoke Jenifer Short film
2022 Master Liv Beckman
Television
Year Title Role Notes
2007 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Raye Episode: "Haystack"
2018 Escape at Dannemora Annie 2 episodes
2020 Ms. Guidance Bethany Bump 6 episodes
2021 Bull Dr. Kinsey Episode: "To Save a Life"
2021 The Underground Railroad Gloria Valentine 2 episodes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
2017 Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Hadestown Nominated
Theatre World Award Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Won
2018 Sterling Awards Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Hadestown Won
2019 Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Won
Drama League Awards Distinguished Performance Award Nominated
2020 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Won