Actor, singer, and voice actor Keith David has spent much of his career on the stage, but also frequently works in feature films and on television. A native of New York City, David first performed as a child, singing in the All Borough Chorus and later attended the prestigious High School of Performing Arts. Shortly after graduating from Juilliard, where he studied voice and theater, David landed a role in a production of Coriolanus at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. He starred opposite Christopher Walken. David made his Broadway debut in Albee's The Lady From Dubuque (1980) and, two years later, had his first film role in John Carpenter's The Thing. He would not appear in another feature film until he played King in Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986). In between, David alternated between stage and television work. He appeared in five films in 1988, including Clint Eastwood's Bird, where he gave a memorable performance as jazz sax player Buster Franklin. In 1992, David showed his considerable skill as a singer and dancer and won a Tony nomination for starring in the musical Jelly's Last Jam, opposite Gregory Hines. David's film career really picked up in the mid-'90s, with roles ranging from a gunslinger in Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead to a New York cop in Spike Lee's Clockers to an amputee who owns a pool parlor in Dead Presidents (all 1995). In 1998, David had a brief but memorable role as Cameron Diaz's boisterous stepfather in the Farrelly brother's zany Something About Mary. In one of the film's funniest scenes, David tries to help Diaz's prom date, Ben Stiller, extricate himself from an embarrassingly sticky situation. He is also well known to animation fans for his voice work in, among other projects, Disney's Gargoyles, HBO's Spawn, and the English-dubbed version of the Japanese-animated film Princess Mononoke. In 2000 he appeared in Requiem for a Dream, Pitch Black, and Where the Heart Is, as well as providing the narration of Ken Burns documentary on the history of jazz. He continued to work steadily in a variety of projects including Barbershop, 29 Palms, Agent Cody Banks, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and the 2005 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Crash. He also found work in Transporter 2, The Oh in Ohio, Meet Monica Velour, Lottery Ticket, and the 2010 remake of Death at a Funeral.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- First acting role was as the Cowardly Lion in his grammar school's production of The Wizard of Oz.
- Right after Juilliard, became Raul Julia's understudy for the Shakespeare Festival in Central Park's production of Othello.
- Won the 1989 Actors' Equity Association's St. Clair Bayfield Award (for best Shakespearean performance) for his work in Coriolanus.
- Won the 1996 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Actor for his work in the Broadway play Seven Guitars.
- Provided the narration for the 2012 Community episode "Pillows and Blankets" in a parody of his narration of Ken Burns' documentaries like Jazz (2001) and The War (2007).
- Has his own cabaret act, which features renditions of pop and jazz standards, and has starred in a musical tribute to Nat King Cole.