Regina Taylor

Active - 1981 - 2020  |   Born - Aug 22, 1960 in Dallas, Texas, United States  |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Nathan Southern

After commencing minor on-camera appearances in the early '80s, multi-talented African-American actress Regina Taylor juggled careers as a character actress and playwright with great aplomb. As both a thespian and a scribe, Taylor often dealt with material that grappled with race relations and civil rights. This was hardly accidental, for she rose up out of a bitter and tumultuous youth in the Deep South that forced her to face racism head-on and thus marked her for life. After an appearance as Mrs. Carter in John G. Avildsen's uneven Joe Clark biopic Lean on Me (1989), Taylor first made members of the press sit up and take notice with her pivotal role on I'll Fly Away. This thoughtful and heartfelt series drama -- set in the apocryphal Southern town of Bryland in the late '50s -- starred the venerable Sam Waterston as D.A. Forrest Bedford, a conservative prosecuting attorney grappling with shifting attitudes about race relations as he took on a new black housekeeper, Lilly Harper (Taylor). The program's consistent inability to land an audience, in spite of across-the-board critical acclaim, marked one of the most unfortunate events to befall a prime-time series program during the early '90s.

Taylor returned to similar themes -- albeit in a much earlier setting -- with the 1995 Children of the Dust, a telemovie starring Sidney Poitier, about the tensions between black and white homesteaders. The actress also graced the casts of such noteworthy theatrical features as Spike Lee's Clockers (1995), Ed Zwick's Courage Under Fire (1996), and F. Gary Gray's The Negotiator (1998) before hearkening back to television as military man Jonas Blane's (Dennis Haysbert) beleaguered wife, Molly, on the CBS drama The Unit.

As a playwright, Taylor received her first significant break with the 1983 Watermelon Rinds, and spent the following decades authoring such critically acclaimed productions as Oo-Bla-Dee (2000) and Urban Zulu Mambo (2001). She debuted on Broadway in 2004 with her work Drowning Crow, a loose adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull posited in the Gullah Islands of South Carolina. At one point, she was reported to have been involved with the Broadway musical production of The Color Purple, but it was ultimately credited to other writers.

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  • Intended to become a journalist, but switched her focus to theater after taking her first acting class in college.
  • Landed her first professional acting job while still a college student in the TV-movie Crisis at Central High (1981).
  • Was the first black woman to play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway.
  • An artistic associate of the famed Goodman Theater in Chicago, she has written a number of plays including Oo-Bla-Dee, A Night in Tunisia, Escape from Paradise, Watermelon Rinds, Inside the Belly of the Beast,Crowns, The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, and the Broadway show, Drowning Crow, her adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.
  • In 2000, her play, Oo-Bla-Dee, won the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award.
  • Her musical, Crowns, was the most performed musical in the country in 2006.
  • In 2009, she premiered her play, Magnolia, at the famed Goodman Theater in Chicago.