Jeffrey Wright

Active - 1990 - 2022  |   Born - Dec 7, 1965 in Washington, District of Columbia, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, History

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Biography by Rovi

Actor Jeffrey Wright has earned an estimable reputation as one of the most versatile character actors of his generation, both on-stage and onscreen. Jeffrey Wright was born in Washington, D.C., in late 1965. Wright's father died when he was only a year old, and his mother, a lawyer working with the United States Customs Department, raised him with the help of her sister, a nurse. A strong student, Wright attended the prestigious St. Alban's School for Boys in Washington, D.C., and went on to receive a B.A. in Political Science at Amherst College in 1987. While at Amherst, Wright developed an interest in acting, and decided to continue his studies in the Theater department at New York University. While Wright was good enough to win an acting scholarship at N.Y.U., after only two months he opted to strike out on his own as a professional. Roles in off-Broadway plays followed, and Wright scored his first film role in 1990 with a bit part in Presumed Innocent. After a number of television roles and much theater work, in 1994 Wright got his big break when he was cast as Belize, Roy Cohn's nurse, in the acclaimed Broadway drama Angels In America: Perestroika; his performance won him a Tony Award. In 1996, Wright scored a breakthrough film role when he was cast in the lead of Basquiat, delivering a strong performance alongside a veteran cast which included Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and Benicio del Toro. A steady flow of character roles followed, including showy supporting work in Celebrity, Ride With the Devil, and Shaft, while Wright gave a compelling performance as Dr. Martin Luther King in the made-for-cable film Boycott. Wright continued to pursue his love of live theater as well, winning an Obie Award in 2002 for his performance (opposite Don Cheadle) in Suzan-Lori Parks' play Topdog/Underdog. Critically-acclaimed screen roles in Lackawanna Blues, Broken Flowers, and Syriana kept Wright on the short list for producers in search of quality supporting players, and by bridging the gap between stage and screen with his multi-tiered role in the acclaimed HBO miniseries Angels in America, the actor would would earn both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. In 2006 Wright could be seen performing opposite Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard in director M. NIght Shyamalan's modern fairytale Lady in the Water.

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  • Father died when he was a baby; was raised by his mother, a lawyer for the U.S. Customs Department.
  • Originally planned to attend law school but decided to study acting instead. Fittingly, his first film role was an attorney in Presumed Innocent (1990).
  • In 1993, joined the Broadway cast of Tony Kushner's award-winning play Angels in America; later recreated the role of nurse Belize for the 2003 HBO adaptation.
  • Won a 2001 American Film Institute Actor of the Year Award for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in the HBO miniseries Boycott.
  • Received an honorary degree from Amherst College in 2004.
  • Founded Taia Lion Resources, an organization devoted to finding ethical mining solutions in Sierra Leone, in 2011.