Four-time Emmy champ Valerie Harper is contending for her first Tony Award this year for her lead performance in the play "Looped." Though Harper garnered rave reviews for her portrayal of theatrical diva Talullah Bankhead, the New York critics were less kind to this new work by Matthew Lombardo ("Tea at Five"), and the Broadway run ended in April.
Harper's rivals are Viola Davis ("Fences"), Linda Lavin ("Collected Stories"), Laura Linney ("Time Stands Still") and Jan Maxwell ("The Royal Family"). Davis is competing in a role that won Mary Alice the featured-actress Tony for the original production of "Fences" in 1987, when Lavin -- who shares many theatrical connections with Harper -- prevailed in the lead race for "Broadway Bound." Three-time Emmy winner Linney has two previous unsuccessful Tony bids, as does Maxwell, who this year became only the fourth actress to land dual nominations; the other is for her featured performance in "Lend Me a Tenor."
In this conversation with Envelope contributor Paul Sheehan, Harper discusses her extensive research into Bankhead, including repeated viewings of the grande dame's appearance on "I Love Lucy," as well as her own connections with Lucille Ball and her experiences at the Emmy Awards.
Video: Tom O'Neil
Photo: "Looped" Playbill cover. Credit: Lyceum Theatre