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Born Caryn Elaine Johnson in 1955 in New York City, Johnson is professionally known by her stage name of Whoopi Goldberg, which she adopted due to her energetic stage presence.
Falling in love with theatre from the age of eight after joining a New York children’s theatre program, she later left New York for the lights of southern California. Dropping out of high school, she moved to San Diego where she starred in productions of Mother Courage and Getting Out, before joining Blake Street Hawkeyes, a prolific theatre company in the Bay Area.
Honing her acting talents, Goldberg moved into one-woman shows, writing and starring in a series of character monologues. She first performed in The Spook Show in 1983 in California. The production caught the eyes of director Mike Nichols, who offered to take the show to Broadway. Retitled to her full stage name of Whoopi Goldberg for the Broadway production, director Steven Spielberg saw Whoopi on stage, and later cast her in the lead role of Celie in The Color Purple. Goldberg won her first Golden Globe award for the performance.
After Goldberg’s breakout performance in The Color Purple, she was cast in a number of television shows and films including her Academy Award-winning performance in Ghost (1990) as Oda Mae Brown, Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act (1992) and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993) and Shenzi in The Lion King (1994).
Returning to Broadway, Goldberg starred in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as Prologus/Pseudolus, taking on the role made famous by Zero Mostel. She’s also starred in Broadway productions of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as Ma Rainey and Xanadu as Calliope/Aphrodite.
Away from the stage and silver screen, Goldberg has been a host of American talk-show The View since 2007, winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host in 2009 and becoming the tenth person to EGOT: win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.
Receiving another Sister Act calling, she made her West End debut as Mother Superior in the original London production for a limited engagement originally scheduled from 10 - 31 Aug. 2011. However, Goldberg left the cast on 27 August due to family emergencies, later taking on the role from 22 - 25 October. Goldberg was due to reprise her performance in the London revival of Sister Act in 2022, but has since dropped out. Read here for more information.