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.
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.
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.
Gray married Galen Hamilton in 2011. They have two children.
Gray identifies as biracial.
|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|
|2011||Roger, the Chicken||Dr. Rose|
|2017||Walden: Life in the Woods||Melinda|
|2021||Where There's Smoke||Jenifer||Short film|
|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
|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|
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