A talented actor who began to win due notice in the late '90s, Sean Patrick Thomas broke through to mainstream audiences with winning turns in such films as Cruel Intentions (1999) and Save the Last Dance (2001). The son of immigrants from Guyana, Thomas was born in Wilmington, DE, in 1970. While attending the University of Virginia, where he studied English and planned to become a lawyer, Thomas decided to pursue a career in acting after auditioning for a student production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.
Thomas broke into film with small roles in productions that included Courage Under Fire (1996), Conspiracy Theory (1997), and Can't Hardly Wait (1998). In 1996, he further added to his acting credentials by earning an M.A. in drama from New York University. Relative fame and even a blush of notoriety greeted the actor in 1999, with a pivotal role in Cruel Intentions, Roger Kumble's free and loose adaptation of Choderlos De Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Co-starring alongside alpha-teens Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, and Ryan Phillippe in the torrid tale of lust, betrayal, and negligent parenting on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Thomas earned (literal) exposure as the cello teacher/illicit lover of one of the film's principle characters.
Even greater exposure followed for Thomas the subsequent year, when he was cast in a substantial role as Detective Temple Page on the critically acclaimed TV series The District. Riding high, he then won his first starring role on the big screen in Save the Last Dance (2001), an interracial love story set in Chicago's South Side that featured him as a black high school student in love with a white classmate (Julia Stiles). Although the film earned mixed reviews, it found an appreciative audience, and with it, a growing fan base for the young actor.