Mary Alice, Tony Award-Winning Actress for ‘fences,’ Has Died at the Age of 85!
Mary Alice, the Tony and Emmy award-winning actress best remembered for her roles in “Fences” and “I’ll Fly Away,” died on Wednesday. She was 85 years old.
According to the NYPD, Alice died of natural causes in her Manhattan apartment.
Alice won the Tony Award for best-featured actress in 1987 for her performance as Rose in “Fences.” The August Wilson play premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre in 1985 before moving to Broadway two years later and dominating the Tony Awards that year.
Alice, who played Troy opposite James Earl Jones, captivated viewers with her commanding performance.
“I just tried to comprehend (Rose) and put myself in her shoes,” Alice explained in an interview in 1987. “I believe Troy is a character with a great spirit, and Rose had to be someone who would compliment that, in her devotion, support, loving, nurturing, and caring for him.”
Six years later, Alice received an Emmy for best-supporting actress for her work in “I’ll Fly Away.” She’d been nominated for the same prize a year before.
Younger audiences may remember Alice most for her small but pivotal role as the Oracle in 2003′s “The Matrix Revolutions.”
“RIP Mary Alice…the original Rose Maxson,” said Viola Davis, who won an Oscar for portraying Rose in the 2016 “Fences” film. “You were one of the greatest actresses of all time!! Thank you for the work, and inspiration, and thank you for Rose. Godspeed Queen.”
Alice was born on December 3, 1936, in Indianola, Mississippi, and her family relocated to Chicago when she was a child. She attended Chicago Teachers College (later Chicago State), and her first employment was, predictably, in education.
In 1966, Alice joined a local theatre company and went on to become a professional actress. She quit teaching the next year and moved to New York to pursue her aspirations before joining Yale Rep.
She appeared in a couple of TV shows as well as “The Sty of the Blind Pig,” a 1974 TV movie that she subsequently stated was her favorite performance.
“There is no role I’ve ever done where the character is as multifaceted as I am, as a human, as a woman,” she remarked in a 2002 interview. “It was the most fulfilling role I’ve ever played.”
Alice worked as a solid character performer throughout the 1970s and early 1980s before landing her big break in “Fences.” Her best performance came in the 1976 fan-favorite “Sparkle,” which was partially modeled on Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Following her performance in “Fences,” Alice won a lead role in the “Cosby Show” offshoot “A Different World,” and she proceeded to appear in plays, movies, and TV shows for the rest of her career. Her final film appearance was in the 2005 version of “Kojak.”
“You will work for a lot of people.” “It will be lovely at times and painful at others,” Alice predicted in 2002. “So you need something within yourself that you know is yours and that no one can take away.”