An actress whose eyes seem able to peer directly into the souls of audience members, Kimberly Elise has garnered notable critical acclaim for her roles in such features as Beloved and The Ditchdigger's Daughters. Though many actresses might have been intimidated at the prospect of portraying a character from the Toni Morrison novel that is often cited as one of the most important works in American literary history, Beloved, Elise's ability to channel her characters gave her all of the confidence and strength needed to truly bring the character to life and hold her own opposite such formidable talents as Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. For as far back as Elise can remember, she wanted to become an actress, and she even wrote a letter to the local newspaper's "Fix-It" column at the age of ten asking for information on how to achieve her goal. Elise had already been doing stage work before the fateful letter was penned, so it was obvious to all who knew her that she was ready and capable to put in the effort needed to become a true star.
Elise began acting in Minneapolis professionally around the age of 20, and though she studied communications at the University of Minnesota, the prospect of becoming an actress full-time was always at the forefront of her intentions. Her dreams became a reality when a short film she had directed served as her entrance into the American Film Institute, and the experience of moving to Los Angeles and studying at the prestigious and fiercely competitive school gave Elise all the confidence needed to make a name for herself in Hollywood. Shortly after making her debut in the television series In the House, Elise made the leap to feature films as a down-on-her-luck young mother who participates in a robbery in Set It Off. Though Elise did make quite an impression with her feature debut, the film was only a moderate success, and it wasn't until receiving critical acclaim and a Cable Ace award that her career truly took off. Her remarkable performance in Beloved followed shortly thereafter. In 2000, Elise stepped into the lead for the made-for-television feature The Loretta Claiborne Story, playing the mentally and physically disabled athlete who made a name for herself by overcoming tremendous odds and becoming a competitor in the Special Olympics. The film provided an excellent showcase for the versatile young actress, with roles in Bait and Bojangles quickly following. By the time she appeared in John Q as a financially strained mother whose husband's insurance won't cover their son's heart transplant, Elise had been singled out by many critics to be one of Hollywood's brightest young stars, and her strong performance in the film opposite Denzel Washington only helped to strengthen that sentiment. In 2004, Elise would once again appear with Washington -- an actor for whom she has publicly voiced great admiration -- in the cautiously anticipated but warmly received remake The Manchurian Candidate. She worked with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker in The Great Debaters, a 2007 drama following the temperamental debate coach of a small town college, and co-starred with Bernie Mac and Terrence Howard in the inspirational drama Pride the same year. In 2010 she took a starring role in the film adaptation of the Obie Award-winning play For Colored Girls.