Tunie times two: The actress stars in daytime,
By Amy Amatangelo
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Tamara Tunie, who simultaneously plays Medical
Examiner Melinda Warner on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit” and Jessica Griffin on CBS’ “As the
World Turns,” has always been a multitasker.
“It’s like, the more I have going on, the better,”
Tunie said during a recent interview. “My mom, she’s a
doer, too. She’s a multitasker. So I come by it
honestly. My philosophy has always been ‘anything can
be done.’ I say ‘yes’ to everything. That’s how I have
moved through my career. ‘Yes, we can do that.’ ‘We
could make that work.’ . . . There’s a saying there
aren’t enough hours in the day; I say there are enough
hours in the day.”
The “ultimate of all jobs converging” came one day
last winter when she also was starring in Broadway’s
“Julius Caesar” opposite Denzel Washington. She did an
evening performance of the play followed by a night
shoot of “SVU” and then woke up at 5 a.m. to hit the
set of her daytime soap. Oh, but she wasn’t done. She
then did a matinee and evening performance of the
Shakespearean play. But it was worth it.
“It was one of the most perfect theatrical
experiences anyone could ever have.”
Like the family on “Six Feet Under,” the
Pennsylvania native grew up in the funeral home her
parents owned. Tunie was interested in pursuing a
career in medicine when her high school teacher
suggested she look at Carnegie Mellon University. As a
musical theater major, she got her first taste of the
frenetic pace of the business.
“It’s really about doing as much as I can when I
can. I get fueled by the work. I feel tired, but it’s
a very satisfying kind of tired,” she said.
After graduation, she headed to New York and
landed her first big break as a background singer and
dancer in Lena Horne’s one-woman Broadway show.
The actress, who is married to jazz vocalist Gregory
Generet, laughed when recalling the original call she
got from her agent to audition for the role of the
coroner on “SVU.” She was in the middle of doing a
reading of a play and couldn’t leave.
“I said to my agent, ‘I’ve done every (executive
producer) Dick Wolf show there is - “Law & Order,”
“New York Undercover,” “Swift Justice.” ’ I was like,
‘Either they want me or they don’t.’ ”
Thankfully they did, and this season Tunie has been
bumped up to series regular on the NBC hit drama.
“I’m in the opening credits; I’m very excited.
This season we’re going to find out just a little bit
more about Melinda and her background and where she
comes from. . . . One thing that I thought would be
really fun is to find out Melinda grew up in a funeral
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Tunie did not
have to choose between her soap and other projects.
After departing “As the World Turns” on good terms in
1995, she was asked to return for a specific story
line in 1999.
“I never said I wouldn’t come back because I love
that job, I love working with everyone on that show.
They asked me to return for a couple of weeks. A
couple of weeks turned into five years.”
She found that the producers are willing to work
with her schedule.
“So my feeling is, as long ‘As the World Turns’
is willing to work with me and afford me the
opportunity to still do other television, film and
theater, why should I leave?” she said.