Audra McDonald 'Learned So Much' From Mike Nichols

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Jemal Countess/WireImage for Tony Award Productions

Audra McDonald

The Broadway superstar worked with the late director on 'Wit.'

By the time Audra McDonald got to work with Mike Nichols, she was 31 and had already won three Tony awards but had done limited work in television or movies. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson, Wit starred Emma Thompson as a poetry professor suffering the indignities of her remaining days in a cancer ward. McDonald received an Emmy nomination playing the nurse who administers to the dying woman in what Roger Ebert called one of the best films of 2002, even though it was never theatrically released.

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"I learned so much being with him and feel blessed to have someone like that in my life, a giant like that in my life who touched so many," McDonald tells The Hollywood Reporter about Nichols, who died Wednesday. "I'm pretty devastated about it, actually. It was horrible news to wake up to this morning."

She recalls last seeing Nichols in May when he was in the audience during a live recording of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, for which she won her record sixth Tony. "One cannot overstate his brilliance or his importance as far as theater and comedy and film is concerned. But more than that, he was such a kind and funny man."

When Joan Rivers was laid to rest back in September, McDonald sang the Charlie Chaplin composition "Smile" in tribute to the legendary comedian. With Broadway dimming its lights for Nichols, there will no doubt be solemn farewells and memorials to follow and McDonald says she's willing to pay her respects in whatever capacity Nichols' family feels is appropriate. "My thoughts are with Diane [Sawyer] and his kids and grandkids and all of us, in a way," sobs McDonald, "'cause we lost a great one today. It's not been a good year, we've lost a lot of really great, great giants in the field and it's sad."

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

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