Alfre Woodard

Active - 1978 - Present  |   Born - Nov 8, 1952 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States  |   Genres - Drama, History

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Intense, versatile African-American actress Alfre Woodard attended Boston University, then made her stage bow in 1974 with Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. After a few minor appearances in films like Remember My Name (1978) and H.E.A.L.T.H (1979), the Tulsa, OK, native was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Geechee in 1983's Cross Creek. She went on to further television acclaim during the decade, appearing on St. Elsewhere and winning Emmys for her recurring roles on Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law, and an ACE award for the made-for-cable Mandela (1987).

In film, the actress consistently shone in roles that featured her as unconventional women who usually had a troubled past; after a memorable appearance in Miss Firecracker (1989), she went on to star in such films as Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon (1991) and John Sayles' Passion Fish (1992), for which she won a Golden Globe nomination. Other notable film appearances included those in Rich in Love (1993), Crooklyn (1994), and Maya Angelou's Down in the Delta, in which Woodard played a single mother with drug and alcohol problems who returns to her family's southern hometown. In 1999, the actress starred in two films, Funny Valentines and Mumford, Lawrence Kasdan's tale of a small-town psychologist.

Woodard has also continued to work in television, earning considerable acclaim for her performances. In 1995, she won an Emmy nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Best Actress Award for her performance in the The Piano Lesson, and two years later won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award for her portrayal of the title character of Miss Evers' Boys, a nurse who consoled many of the subjects of the notorious 1930s Tuskeegee Study of Untreated Blacks with Syphilis. In addition, she has done a fair amount of narration, lending her voice to a variety of television documentaries.

The actress reteamed with HBO in 2003 for the film Unchained Memories, and took on a starring role on ABC’s Desperate Housewives in 2006. In addition to appearing on a variety of popular television shows (Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, The Practice, Homicide: Life on the Street). Woodard played the part of a woman falsely accused of drug trafficking in the 2009 drama American Violet, and was nominated for yet another Emmy in 2010 for her work on HBO’s hit drama True Blood.

Movie Highlights

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  • The youngest of three children, she was a cheerleader in high school.
  • Breakthrough role came in the 1977 Los Angeles stage production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.
  • Played Lily Stoane in 1996's Star Trek: First Contact, a role that resulted in the creation of an action figure made in her likeness.
  • Cofounded Artists for a New South Africa in 1989. The nonprofit organization combats HIV/AIDS, helps orphaned children and advances civil rights in that country.
  • Appeared in the 2004 Broadway production of Drowning Crow, opposite Anthony Mackie and Aunjanue Ellis.
  • Daughter Mavis Spencer was Miss Golden Globe at the 2010 ceremony.
  • Inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2014.