After more than a decade in the business, hard-working actor Mykelti Williamson achieved true fame as Tom Hanks' army buddy in Forrest Gump (1994). Born in St. Louis, Williamson and his family moved frequently during his childhood, finally settling in Los Angeles when he was 15. After studying acting in high school, Williamson landed a recurring role on Hill Street Blues in 1983. Working steadily in TV and movies throughout the 1980s, Williamson appeared in a number of films, including Walter Hill's Streets of Fire (1984); the pilot movie for the stylish cop series Miami Vice (1984); and the Goldie Hawn football comedy Wildcats (1986). By the 1990s, Williamson added a bona fide sleeper hit to his credits with his role as a paternal cop in Free Willy (1993). His transformative performance as Forrest's ill-fated shrimp-loving friend Bubba in the blockbuster, 1994 Best Picture winner Forrest Gump then earned Williamson critical raves, propelling him into a varied range of high-profile films. After appearing in Free Willy 2 (1995) and playing a small but attention-getting role as one of Lela Rochon's unworthy suitors in Waiting to Exhale (1995), Williamson joined forces with Al Pacino in Michael Mann's Heat (1995). Continuing to work in TV as well, Williamson acted in several series, co-starred as Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson in the well-received TV film The Soul of the Game (1996), played a black cavalryman in the TNT Western Buffalo Soldiers (1997), and joined the prestigious ensemble cast of 12 Angry Men (1997). Williamson continued to ride high as Nicolas Cage's ill cell mate in the summer blockbuster Con Air (1997), but his 1998 movie work in Primary Colors and Species 2 was personally overshadowed by his legal troubles when he was arrested for stalking his ex-wife and stabbing her friend. Acquitted of the charges, Williamson returned to form with a blistering performance as an Army colonel in David O. Russell's critically lauded Three Kings (1999). Williamson reprised his role as Lt. Gerard in the second TV series version of The Fugitive(2000). Despite pre-season hype and the prior success of other Fugitives, the series lasted only one season. Williamson then made another onscreen splash when he reunited with Heat director Michael Mann to appear as the flamboyant, shock-haired boxing impresario Don King in Mann's ambitious biopic Ali (2001). Williamson is married and has three daughters.
Biography by Lucia Bozzola
- At 13, performed on Soul Train with the Lockers, a dance troupe that also included Fred Berry (who went on to play Rerun on What's Happening!!).
- Landed his first professional acting audition, which was for a guest role on Starsky & Hutch in an episode entitled "Black and Blue."
- Appeared on Hill Street Blues as Officer Ron Garfield for three seasons.
- Gained weight and wore prosthetic lips for his breakout role as Bubba in 1994's Forrest Gump.
- Reunited with his Forrest Gump costar Gary Sinise during a series of guest-starring spots on CSI: NY starting in 2007.
- Appeared on a 2010 episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories to tell his tale of a mysterious phone call he received in the early 1980s.