McDonald won her latest Tony-Award for the same role in the 2004 Broadway revival of the play.
Audra McDonald knows her role well, in fact, she says, almost too well. The Fresno native and Roosevelt High School graduate brought back her Tony-Award winning portrayal of Ruth Younger from Broadway to Television.
With a star-studded cast that included rapper and producer, Sean P-Diddy Combs, A Raisin in the Sun tells the story of a poor African-American family in 1950's Chicago, struggling to improve their lives.
The patriarch dies and leaves a $10,000 life insurance policy and each family member dreams of using the money to finally break free of a cycle of poverty.
For Audra, the movie has a moving message that is just as relevant today, as it was in 1959 when the play debuted on Broadway. "These people all just so suffocated, bursting with promise; but being suffocated with their socio-economic situation. And so everybody can identify with that, it's just that powerful," said McDonald.
The 37-year-old actress appeared on ABC's "The View" last week to talk about her emotional role saying it was the hardest character she's had to play because it was so close to her heart. "I started to think about my family. I started to think about my mother and my grandmother's experiences and this is a way to tell their story."
That family story includes her own experience of growing up in Fresno. Audra said she and her family faced the same kind of racial prejudice portrayed in the movie. In an interview in USA Today, she said, ""I only had to deal with it a little bit, growing up in Fresno. When I was 5 or 6 we went to buy a house in a white neighborhood, the neighbors let us know in no uncertain terms that we weren't welcome. We moved another area."
For Audra, it may be art imitating a bit of her own life that has helped shape the characters she plays on stage and on the big and small screen.
She's currently on the cast of the hit ABC show, "Private Practice," but for the 37-year-old accomplished performer and mother of a 7-year-old, it's what she can leave for the next generation that drives her dreams.
Audra says even after over a decade on Broadway she wasn't a "household name," but since she's been on the TV series, "Private Practice," she's had to get used to being recognized on the street.