Tamara Tunie

Active - 1987 - 2021  |   Born - Mar 14, 1959 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Horror

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Biography by Nathan Southern

She might not be a household name, but the statuesque character actress Tamara Tunie sports a resumé as distinctive as she is innately glamorous. Tunie landed her first major role as litigator Jessica Griffin McKechnie Harris on the soap opera As the World Turns in 1986 -- a part she played for 11 years. In the mean time, Tunie signed for a small role in the endearing yet sadly overlooked coming-of-age dramedy Sweet Lorraine (1987), an unsung predecessor to the box-office blockbuster Dirty Dancing, starring Maureen Stapleton and Trini Alvarado. Tunie signed for a bit part in the 1989 period murder mystery Bloodhounds of Broadway, but despite the fact that it claimed a pedigree as impressive as Lorraine (with Matt Dillon, Madonna, Jennifer Grey, and others), the movie unfortunately failed to deliver on its noble intentions.

Over the course of the next several years, Tunie turned up several times on Steven Bochco's NYPD Blue, and landed the bit part of Leslie Christos in the Al Pacino big-city crime drama City Hall (1996), directed by Harold Becker (Taps). She re-teamed with Pacino for the darkly comic supernatural horror film The Devil's Advocate (1997), then worked with Brian De Palma and Nicolas Cage on the 1998 thriller Snake Eyes. Tunie's most high-profile work, however, was yet to come. In 2002, she delivered a compelling performance as Alberta Green in the first season of the series thriller 24. In 1999, the actress resumed her portrayal of Jessica Harris on As the World Turns and continued to sporatically return to the role through the 2000s. Beginning in 2000, Tunie also portrayed Melinda Warner on the popular series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

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  • Both her parents were morticians; the family lived above the funeral parlor.
  • Was a contestant in the Miss Black Teenage Pageant in Pittsburgh in the early 1970s.
  • Made her Broadway debut alongside Lena Horne in Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.
  • In 2002, worked on three TV series (on three different networks) simultaneously: As the World Turns, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and 24.
  • Mayor Bloomberg presented her with one of the inaugural Made in NY awards in 2006.
  • Coproduced the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening, which debuted on Broadway in 2006, and August Wilson's final play, Radio Golf, which debuted on Broadway in 2007.
  • Made her directorial debut in 2010 with the film See You in September.
  • Became an official spokesperson for the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths in 2011. 
  • Serves on the board of directors of Figure Skating in Harlem, Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with young girls in the community.
  • Has worked with several charitable organizations and theater companies, including Hearts of Gold and Harlem Stage/The Gatehouse.