From Broadway to Bangkok, Ernestine Jackson has received critical acclaim. A distinguished actress and singer, she has been nominated twice for the Tony Award. She was nominated as Best Actress for playing the role of Sarah Brown in the all-black cast of Guys and Dolls (1974) and for Best Supporting Actress, playing the role of Ruth Younger, in the musical Raisin (1977). For the latter role she also won the prestigious Theatre World Award. Other Broadway credits include: Applause with Lauren Bacall; Hello, Dolly with Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson; The Bacchae; and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Off-Broadway audiences have seen her in numerous productions including the musical Brownstone and Woody Guthrie’s American Song.
In 2004 Ms. Jackson won the Black Theatre Alliance Award for her portrayal of blues singer, Alberta Hunter in Cookin’ at the Cookery: The Life and Times of Alberta Hunter.
In 2006 she added another award to her already distinguished career: Ms. Jackson won the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for her performance at the Long Wharf Theatre in the one-woman show, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, the story of the jazz legend, Billie Holliday, a role that she first played in Chicago in 1989, for which she was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award.
Also in 2006, as Ms. Jackson puts it, she "came full circle." Having played the role of Ruth in the original Raisin, this past year she played the role of Mama, Lena Younger, at the Court Theatre in Chicago. Hedy Weiss, theatre critic for the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Jackson—a lean, small-boned woman of grace and elegance…speaks softly, but when it’s time for her to erupt, she does so in mighty fashion."
Her diverse regional roles include playing the 101-year-old Bessie Delany in Having Our Say. The critic Michael Long wrote, "The much younger Jackson is a thoroughly believable Bessie. She portrays the venerable matron with spunk, and silences the audience with her moments of tenderness. Her beautiful a cappella strains of “Amazing Grace” are a showstopper.” A few of her other regional roles: Elizabeth in The Old Settler at the Cleveland Playhouse; Jack’s Mother in Sondheim’s Into the Woods at the Walnut Street Theatre; Mama Rose in Gypsy at Albany’s Playhouse in the Park; and Bloody Mary in South Pacific at the North Shore Music Theatre.
Internationally, Ms. Jackson received critical acclaim for her role as the Astrologer in Cole Porter’s Aladdin, which she performed in Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, among other countries. She has also performed both internationally and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in a concert version of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Some Enchanted Evening.
TV and film credits include: The West Wing; Law & Order; A Man Called Hawk; Roots: The Next Generation; the Showtime original, 10,000 Black Men Named George; Bonfire of the Vanities; Girls Town; and Freedomland, starring Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson. She completed shooting Steam Room, an independent film with Ruby Dee, which was released in 2008.
The usually acerbic critic John Simon said of Ms. Jackson in New York Magazine, "I have seldom seen such highly concentrated yet unhistrionic humanity exuded so simply on stage or anywhere else. Miss Jackson has precious few equals."
A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Ernestine Jackson resides with her husband in Manhattan.