Alfre Woodard on Her 1984 Oscar Nomination and Marvel’s ‘Luke Cage’

Alfre Woodard Reflects on Oscar Win
Caroline Andrieu for Variety

An Oscar nominee for “Cross Creek” in 1984, Alfre Woodard has won four Emmy awards. But her first mention in Variety was for her work Off Broadway in the ensemble show “So Nice, They Named It Twice” presented by Joseph Papp at the Public Theater.

How well do you remember the production? 

There were 27 of us in the cast and only two dressing rooms, one for the women, one for men. And there weren’t as many men as women. There were probably 18 women sharing a dressing room.

How did you land the role?

I was in town because I had been an understudy in “Me and Bessie.” I was going to go right back to Los Angeles when that show closed, but the casting director, Rosemary Tischler, said, “Come down; we’re doing this play. You don’t have to go back to California.” So I got in that play, and that’s how I met so many friends that I have now.

What do you remember about the show?

It was one of those where a lot of stuff was happening on stage at once. There was a murder, there were junkies, someone got shot on stage. I was playing a very innocent, pregnant country girl. Someone who thought the junkies were just sleepy when they were nodding out.

When was the last time you were on stage?

It was about 10 years ago. I did “Drowning Crow.” It was a reimagining of Chekov’s “The Seagull.”

Do you miss it? 

You know, I’ve seen more theater in the past four months than I have in the last eight years. I would rather see a really good play than be in a good play. It requires so much. I am going to go on stage soon in a Theresa Rebeck play she is writing for me; I’m so excited for that. It’s called “Zealot.” We did a reading last June and it went swimmingly. I get on stage when I feel like I can’t sit in the audience. And Theresa is so brilliant, I love her.

Do you get to be a superhero in Marvel’s “Luke Cage”?

I can’t tell you what I get to be, because Marvel is part production company, part NSA! They’re very secretive. It’s a lot of fun. But you have to be good at keeping secrets. Even from other actors.

What do you remember about your Oscar nomination?

It was an emotional morning. My dear best friend E. Lamont Johnson, he was a beautiful actor and person, and he passed on that morning. My husband and I had come from the hospital and were home for about an hour. Somebody called me and said, “You just got an Oscar nomination.” I said, “What?” I started to smile and laugh and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.” I got off the phone and we were both laughing and weeping, and I said, “I have to go down to the beach.” I jumped in the water with my clothes on. I wept and I smiled. It was like bungee jumping from space, that’s what it felt like.

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