Tonys: James Earl Jones thanks NYPD in Lifetime Achievement Award speech

James Earl Jones received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre on Sunday night, just before the live broadcast of the Broadway-lauding Tony Awards.

Upon accepting the award, honoring his illustrious career that spans six decades on the New York stage, he immediately received a rapturous standing ovation from the audience.

"So this is a big deal, huh?" he said with a laugh. "I want to thank my father, the actor Robert Earl Jones, who opened the door to his world and his work."

After thanking his past collaborators, he added, "I always want to thank the NYPD for assisting us at our backstage doors every night," a mention which received applause from the attendees.

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Jones also thanked his late wife Cecilia Hart "for being such a wonderful companion in my life and in my work, and for being the great co-producer of our son, Flynn."

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A revered figure among the Broadway community, the 86-year-old veteran has appeared in 20 productions since making his debut in 1958 in Dore Schary's Sunrise at Campobello. He won Tonys for best actor in a play in 1969 for Edwin Sherin's The Great White Hope, and in 1987 for August Wilson's Fences. He most recently starred opposite Cicely Tyson in a revival of The Gin Game.

Honoring the best of the Broadway season, the awards were handed out in a June 11 ceremony that aired live on CBS from New York City. Kevin Spacey made his debut as the annual event's emcee.

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