Tom Pelphrey, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Sebastian Stan earn nods for their roles on television and streaming series
Planning to tune in to the Emmy Awards on Sept. 12? There will be plenty of reasons to be feeling some Rutgers pride: Three alumni are competing for some of the most prestigious awards in television.
Before turning the dial to NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday or streaming live on Peacock, brush up on your knowledge of nominees and Rutgers graduates Tom Pelphrey, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Sebastian Stan.
Tom Pelphrey, who earned a bachelor's degree in theatre arts in 2004 from Rutgers–New Brunswick's Mason Gross School of the Arts, received an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for the Netflix crime drama Ozark.
Right out of school, Pelphrey acted in CBS soap operas Guiding Light and As the World Turns, winning three Daytime Emmy Awards along the way. Pelphrey was cast in David Fincher’s 2020 Oscar-nominated film Mank just as he landed his breakthrough role on Ozark as Ben Davis, brother of Wendy (a lead character portrayed by Laura Linney).
Speaking to Backstage in 2020, Pelphrey described how early mentors nurtured a collaborative spirit in him: “You are part of something bigger,” he said. “What’s happening here is bigger than you. You are one part of what is being created. One part. And without every single part, this creation would not exist."
At Mason Gross, he said, “I continued and carried out this philosophy. That was especially true of my experience with Kevin Kittle, my first-year acting teacher and, many years later, my director, collaborator and friend.”
Fun fact: Like Sebastian Stan, Pelphrey has a Marvel Comics connection, starring in the 2017-2018 superhero series Iron Fist. He also was a series regular on the Cinemax action drama Banshee.
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph is nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her role as veteran teacher Barbara Howard in the ABC hit show Abbott Elementary.
According to the university’s alumni association, Ralph “entered Rutgers as a pre-med student, but swiftly changed her major to English literature and theater arts after she encountered her first cadaver. She found her true calling when she landed the lead in a campus play.”
Ralph completed her degree requirements in three years, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1975 near the top of her class at age 19, Rutgers’ youngest female graduate at that time.
“I'd always wanted to go to Rutgers because Paul Robeson graduated from Rutgers,” Ralph said during a 2014 interview on Oprah: Where Are They Now? on the Oprah Winfrey Network. “Paul Robeson was an incredible athlete, an incredible orator, an incredible actor, an incredible singer, and very brilliant. And I thought that if a Black man or any man could be all of those things at the turn of that century in a place and a time where it was thought 'Who are you to be all of these things and a man of color, too?’ – that's the school that I wanted to go to.”
Fun fact: Ralph, known for her Tony-nominated turn as Deena Jones in the original cast of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, has voiced characters for DC Comics animated television series. She was the voice of government agent Amanda Waller in Young Justice and the supervillain Cheetah in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
Sebastian Stan, another Mason Gross alum who earned a bachelor's degree in theatre arts, is nominated for outstanding lead actor in a limited or an anthology series or movie for his portrayal of Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee in the eight-part Hulu series Pam & Tommy.
Stan, who graduated from Rutgers in 2005, reprised his role as Marvel Comics character Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, in the 2021 six-part Disney+ series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The Romanian-American actor, who also appeared in the teen drama Gossip Girl on the CW Network, has starred in several Marvel Studios films, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
As a Mason Gross student, Stan spent a year studying acting at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London as part of the Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe program, established in 2003.
Fun fact: Stan played Jeff Gillooly in I, Tonya, a 2017 biographical film about embattled figure skater Tonya Harding.