From the opening moments of Menace II Society (1993) in which he commits a shocking double homicide, talented young actor Larenz Tate engrained himself into the public psyche as the virtual epitome of the random and senseless violence of the inner-city streets. And while subsequent roles in such similar projects such as Dead Presidents (1995) may have pigeonholed actors of lesser talent, versatile Tate has transcended his troubled ghetto-dwelling film persona to become an actor of impressive dramatic and comedic range.
Born on the west side of Chicago in September 1975, Tate was the youngest of three siblings whose family moved to California when he was nine years old. Convinced by their parents to enter a drama program at the Inner City Cultural Center, the trio didn't take the lessons seriously until classmate Malcolm-Jamal Warner's ascent to fame after being cast on the hugely popular sitcom The Cosby Show. Subsequently realizing that they could parlay their efforts into a tangible form of success, the siblings began to receive small roles and in 1985 Tate made his small-screen debut in an episode of The Twilight Zone -- The Series. Following appearances in such popular television series as 21 Jump Street and The Wonder Years, Tate was cast in the made-for-television feature The Women of Brewster Place before receiving a recurring role in the popular family comedy series Family Matters (both 1989). Offers soon began pouring in and, following numerous small-screen roles, collaborative filmmaking siblings Albert and Allen Hughes approached Tate to star in their debut feature Menace II Society. A jarring vision of inner-city desperation and decay, the film found Tate channeling his substantial energy into creating a truly memorable character that audiences would not soon forget.
Following up his breakthrough role with the little-seen but often-praised television series South Central, Tate would later appear in the family comedy-drama The Inkwell before re-teaming with the Hughes brothers for Dead Presidents (1995) and taking on the role of a love-stricken young poet in the romantic drama Love Jones (1997). With subsequent roles in such films as The Postman (as the automotively monikered Ford Lincoln Mercury), Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998), and 2000's Love Come Down, Tate continued to compel audiences well into the new millennium. Though a big theatrical release had eluded Tate for the first few years of the millennial turnover, the talented young actor would soon turn up opposite Laurence Fisburne in the high-octane Biker Boyz (2003). The thrills kept coming with a role in the action-packed Vin Diesel misfire A Man Apart, with a subsequent role in the Oscar underdog Crash affording Tate the ability to riff on the persona he had so successfully perfected in Menace II Society. Later that same year, Tate would play Quincy Jones to Jamie Foxx's Ray Cherles in director Taylor Hackford's critically-acclaimed biopic Ray. Upon taking back to the streets in director Vondie Curtis Hall's tense 2006 action entry Waist Deep, it was time to try to mediate a peaceful solution to a potentially-explosive situation when the cousin of Tate's character realizes that his car has been stolen with his son still inside. He joined the cast of the hit FX TV series Rescue Me in that shows fourth season, and stayed with the program until its conclusion in 2011.