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.

Read more: Tony Awards: The Winners List (Updating Live)

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."

PHOTOS: Inside the 2017 Tony Awards

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Inside the 2017 Tony Awards
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Inside the 2017 Tony Awards
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: James Earl Jones accepts the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Scarlett Johansson speaks onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Jane Greenwood accepts the award for Best Costume Design of a Play for Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: James Earl Jones accepts the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Michael Aronov accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for �Oslo� onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Stephen Colbert and Host Kevin Spacey perform onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Stephen Colbert performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Stephen Colbert performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Mimi Lien accepts the award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Santo Loquasto accepts the award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical for Hello, Dolly! onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Jonathan Groff and Brian d'Arcy James speak onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Alex Lacamoire accepts the award for Best Orchestrations for �Dear Evan Hansen� onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Kevin Kline accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for �Present Laughter� onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Host Kevin Spacey speaks onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: David Oyelowo and Sarah Paulson speak onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Andy Karl performs onstage with the cast of 'Groundhog Day' during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Andy Karl performs onstage with the cast of 'Groundhog Day' during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Andy Karl performs onstage with the cast of 'Groundhog Day' during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
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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.

PHOTOS: 2017 Tony Awards red carpet arrivals

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Tony Awards 2017: Red carpet arrivals
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Tony Awards 2017: Red carpet arrivals
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Chrissy Teigen (L) and John Legend attend the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Chrissy Teigen attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde attend the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Anna Kendrick attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actress Sally Field attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Bette Midler attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Cobie Smulders attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Bee Shaffer (L) and Anna Wintour attend the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: David Oyelowo attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actress Alison Wright attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Patina Miller attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actress Sally Field attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Condola Rashad attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actor Darren Criss attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Sarah Paulson attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Cynthia Nixon attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Singer Justin Guarini attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Kevin Spacey attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Costume designer Paloma Young attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Jayne Houdyshell attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Josh Gad attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Tim Minchin attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Ben Platt attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Christine Ebersole attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Director Michael Greif (R) attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Taye Diggs (L) and Amanza Smith attend the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Playwright Steven Levenson (L) attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Mimi Lien attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Keltie Knight attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Linda Cho attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Stephanie J. Block attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Courtney Reed attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Santo Loquasto attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Eva Noblezada attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Daryl Roth attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Denis Jones attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Stephanie J. Block attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Susan Hilferty attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Lea Salonga attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Andrew Rannells attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Olivia Wilde attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Danny Rubin attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Thalia attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Model Candice Swanepoel attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Kate Baldwin attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Keegan-Michael Key and Elisa Pugliese attend the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Andrew Rannells and Dorota Kishlovsky attend the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actor Andrew Rannells attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Brandon Uranowitz (R) attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Lea Salonga attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Musician Josh Groban attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Orfeh attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Actor Casey Cott attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
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