Lynda Gravátt Dies: Broadway Actor, TV’s ‘The Hoop Life’ Star Was 77

Lynda Gravátt, a mainstay of the New York stage, a seminal figure in the Washington D.C. theater community and a familiar presence on television through appearances in the Law & Order franchise shows, The Good Wife and the 1999 Showtime series The Hoop Life, died February 23 at a hospital in New Jersey. She was 77.

Her death was confirmed by the National Black Theatre. A cause has not been disclosed.

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Born in Harlem May 24, 1946 (some reports indicate 1947), Gravátt made her Broadway debut at age 4 in The King and I, and would subsequently appear as a child performer and singer on local TV shows and in concerts.

A graduate of Howard University, Gravátt resumed her acting career as a founding member of the Living Stage, a company at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage devoted to theater works promoting social justice.

Returning to New York City, Gravátt became a staple of the Off Broadway scene, where her resume would come to include John Henry Redwood’s The Old Settler, Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, August Wilson’s King Hedley II, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes and Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew.

On Broadway, . Gravátt was a standby in 2001 for Leslie Uggams in King Hedley II, and the same year starred in 45 Seconds From Broadway. She returned to Broadway in 2006 in the original production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, and in 2008 understudied the role of Big Mama for Phylicia Rashad in a revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Gravátt was nominated for four AUDELCO awards and two Drama League Awards, winning the 1999 Theatre World award for her performance in The Old Settler, and the 2004 AUDELCO Award for her performance in Intimate Apparel.

Other television credits include The Good Wife, 30 Rock, Person of Interest and Madam Secretary.

Gravátt also was a beloved teacher of the theater arts, sharing her skills and talents with students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C., Howard University and Rutgers University.

“Greatness,” wrote actor Viola Davis in a social media post. “That’s what you will be…great heart, great actress, great friend….I will love you forever. Rest well Lynda Gravat.” Phylicia Rashad, a longtime friend, said in an article written by Howard University acting professor Vera J. Katz, “Lynda was always intelligent, beautiful, talented, purposeful and clean in her work.”

She is survived by sons David and Oge; five grandchildren, and other extended family.

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