Dennis Haysbert

Active - 1981 - 2019  |   Born - Jun 2, 1954 in San Mateo, California, United States  |   Genres - Thriller, Drama, Comedy, Action, Science Fiction

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Dennis Haysbert looks good in a suit, and his imposing frame and commanding voice make him ideal for roles as respected, but generally liked, authority figures. Although he does indeed excel at these types of roles, that isn't to suggest that the talented actor is without humor or a certain alluring charm. With a kindly face that suggests a sympathetic nature fronted by a confident exterior, Haysbert has excelled at portraying everything from detectives to presidential candidates, all undeniably convincing and with the sort of complex emotional texture that makes them entirely three-dimensional.

A San Mateo, CA, native and graduate of Pasadena's American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the burgeoning actor made his earliest appearances on such television classics as Laverne & Shirley, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and The Incredible Hulk. The made-for-television feature Code Red provided Haysbert with his first substantial role, and after reprising that part in the subsequent television series based on the feature, he would appear sporadically in numerous small-screen series and features throughout the remainder of the 1980s. In 1989, Haysbert garnered his most substantial role up to that time, playing the voodoo-worshiping baseball player Pedro Cerrano in the sports comedy hit Major League. His pitch-perfect comedic performance effectively launched his career into the 1990s, and Haysbert would later reprise the role in both of the film's sequels.

By the time of his supporting role in 1990's Navy SEALS, Haysbert was a recognizable face onscreen, and though audiences may not have committed his name to memory yet, roles in Mr. Baseball (1992, again running the bases), Love Field (1992), and Heat (1995) proved he was a talent on the verge of stardom. Haysbert's memorable lead in the darkly comedic 1993 thriller Suture, though unseen by many as a result of poor distribution and advertising, proved once and for all that he was well capable of carrying a film. Though he was not given that particular opportunity in many of the movies that immediately followed Suture, the few in which he did lead found him remarkably effective and the remainder found him higher on the credits list than ever before. Haysbert's role in the short-lived Sci-Fi Channel series Now and Again may have drawn favorable reviews from critics and audiences (even earning the actor a Saturn award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films), but that wasn't enough to keep the series afloat. After one all-too-brief season on that show, the actor moved on to memorable roles in Random Hearts (1999) and Love and Basketball (2000).

When the hit series 24 debuted in 2001, viewers discovered what the lucky few had been clued in to for years, and Haysbert's onscreen intensity proved an ideal match with the series' marked urgency. Haysbert's performance as presidential hopeful David Palmer proved so effective that he was not only nominated for a Golden Globe for the role in 2003, but an Image Award and a Screen Actor's Guild Award as well. Though an exhausting bi-coastal shuttle may have left Haysbert bleary-eyed as he maintained his role in 24 while also essaying a role in director Todd Haynes' acclaimed drama Far From Heaven, his flawless performances on both the big and small screens proved that he was no longer a talent to watch for, but one with which to contend.

Haysbert would go on to appear in several films, like Breach and The Details. He would also enjoy notoriety in subsuquent years as the official spokesperson for Allstate Insurance, as well as a starring role on the TV series The Unit.

Movie Highlights

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  • Was a defensive end on his high-school football team.
  • Graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Art.
  • Made TV debut in a 1979 Lou Grant episode; his movie debut was 10 years later in Major League.
  • Breakthrough movie was 1992's Love Field, opposite Michelle Pfeiffer.
  • Received acclaim for 2002's Far from Heaven, in his role as a gardener to whom a 1950s housewife (Julianne Moore) is attracted; the film was a reworking of 1955 tearjerker All That Heaven Allows.
  • David Mamet's series The Unit (2006-2009) is the sixth in which Haysbert was a regular, following 24, Now and Again, Just the Ten of Us, Off the Rack and Code Red.