Art & Culture
The Moment Audra McDonald Hit ‘Bottom’ And Almost Gave Up On Broadway

By Lisa Capretto

Audra McDonald has made history as the star with the most Tony Awards under her belt, but there was a time when the actress truly believed she would have to give up her dreams on ever setting foot on Broadway’s big stage.

As McDonald tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” in this weekend’s upcoming interview, she envisioned her time at the prestigious Juilliard School as a powerful jumping off point for making her long-held Broadway goals a reality. However, McDonald’s initial experience there took her in a completely different direction.

“I entered into the classical vocal program, so, all of a sudden, I was on this different path,” she explains. “I was studying with a teacher whose … goal was to make my voice an operatic voice.”

Not only that, but McDonald was to focus solely on her classical training and nothing else.

“I was not allowed to sing Broadway,” she says. “And I wasn’t allowed to audition for musicals or anything like that.”

I just really hit bottom. Just decided, ‘Maybe I just don’t need to be here anymore.’

For a California girl who had always dreamed of singing on Broadway, the experience was devastating.

“Here I was, finally in New York, literally living on Broadway — my apartment was on Broadway! — and I’d never been further away from my dreams,” McDonald says.

Away from home, away from her family and friends, and feeling her future slipping through her fingers, McDonald says she felt lost.

“I just really hit bottom,” she says. “Just decided, ‘Maybe I just don’t need to be here anymore.’ It was a place of real pain.”

McDonald opens up about her battle with depression and subsequent suicide attempt on this weekend’s airing of “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, Saturday, April 9, at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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