Wilson, Debra 1970(?)–
Debra Wilson 1970(?)–
After eight seasons of the sketch-comedy show MAD TV on Fox Television, Debra Wilson remained as the only original cast member from the show’s debut season in 1995. In addition to her work on the Saturday night fixture, Wilson took on numerous film roles, including Spike Lee’s Girl 6, the improbable farce Jane White Is Sick and Twisted, and the thriller Skin Deep. MAD TV viewers are most familiar with the actress through her outspoken characters such as the trash-talking Melina and the irascible Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson. But Wilson’s real life has been far more thoughtful. In addition to sending fans personal responses to their problems through the MAD TV web site feature “Ask Debra,” Wilson has served as a volunteer and honorary board member of the Create Now! program, dedicated to helping at-risk youths find stability and personal growth through artistic programs.
A native New Yorker, Debra Wilson was born around 1970 in South Ozone Park, a neighborhood of Queens in New York City. She attended the prestigious Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. The school is perhaps best known as the model for the school depicted in the movie and subsequent television series Fame, and is the alma mater of performers such as Jennifer Aniston. After graduating from high school, Wilson majored in television and radio broadcasting at Syracuse University in upstate New York. As a performer, Wilson first attracted attention for her 1991 appearance in the play Passin’, which was produced at the American Theatre of Actors in New York City. Featured in the role of Denise, Wilson earned plaudits from Jeanette Toomer of Back Stage, who singled out her “boisterous shenanigans” in an otherwise sober drama on race relations. In a prediction of Wilson’s future career, Toomer also noted that the young actress “has the timing of a comedienne.”
Wilson, who practiced her improvisational skills in various comedy venues in New York City, made her television debut on The Apollo Comedy Hour in 1992. The following year she appeared in Uptown Comedy Club, another showcase for her comedic talent. After small television roles in New York Undercover and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Wilson branched out into film work with appearances in Cracking Up, New Jersey Drive, and Blue in the
Born ca. 1970, in South Ozone Park, Queens, New York. Education: Attended Syracuse University.
Career: Actress and comedian, 1991—; films include: Girl 6, 1996; Gridlock’d, 1997; B*A*P*S, 1997; Rubbernecking, 2000; Jane White Is Sick and Twisted, 2001; and Skin Deep, 2003; television appearances include: The Apollo Comedy Hour, 1992; Uptown Comedy Club, 1993; and Mad TV, 1995-.
Face. In 1995 she joined the inaugural cast of MAD TV, a new sketch-comedy show on the Fox Network.
In committing to MAD TV, Wilson and the other cast members were going head-to-head against Saturday Night Live, one of the most popular and long-running late-night comedy shows on television. “We were looking for funny people, but more importantly, we needed people who could act,” co-creator/producer Fax Bahr told the ZAP 2 It web site, about the challenge of putting the cast together. “So we explored all casting avenues. Everything from going to comedy festivals to holding auditions. We looked in New York, L.A., Chicago, and Toronto. It was a long process, but we put together a great cast, so it was worth it.” Taped in Los Angeles, MAD TV premiered in 1995 with a mix of topical sketches based on current events, parodies of television shows and movies, animated segments, and regular features with recurring characters. Two characters portrayed by Wilson became fan favorites: the young Puerto Rican diva Melina (paired with her equally brash partner, Lida, portrayed by Nicole Sullivan), and the outspoken meter maid with the memorable name of Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson. In an on-line chat posted on the MAD TV Central fan site, Wilson mentioned that Melina was her favorite creation. “She’s very brash and ignorant, but very true,” the actress commented. In a profile by Cheryl Klein posted on the ZAP 2 It web site, Wilson further explained that the duo of Melina and Lida “have their own truth and live in their own world. Everything makes logical sense [to them] so you take chances without being embarrassed. You can say, ‘This is what the character does’ and you don’t have to feel beholden as an actor to go, ‘Ooh, that’s wrong.’”
In contrast to her wild MAD TV characters, Wilson has earned praise for her thoughtful approach to using her talent and celebrity to help others. She is active as a mentor in the Create Now! foundation, which uses artistic pursuits to help troubled youth broaden their horizons and improve their self-esteem, and has served as an honorary board member of the organization. Wilson has also devoted numerous hours to answering letters from fans seeking advice through her “Ask Debra” link on the MAD TV web site. “The purpose of this site is not to tell people how to conduct their lives, but rather to lend emotional and spiritual support through similar experiences, tapping into situations that inspire us all to acknowledge our [own] power in decision making,” Wilson explained on the web site. “Although some solutions you discover will not always be easy, my desire is that they broaden your path of wisdom and understanding and help you continue to take powerful steps on your personal journey of growth.”
Wilson’s stint on MAD TV led to numerous film appearances, including roles in Spike Lee’s Girl 6 and the comedies B*A*P*S and Jane White Is Sick and Twisted. In 2002 Wilson continued in her eighth season on MAD TV as the only cast member left from its first season, and completed a major role in the psychological thriller Skin Deep, set for release in 2003. Making her home in Los Angeles, Wilson lives with Victor and Lizzie, two seven-foot-long boa constrictors, an Emperor scorpion named King Solomon, and two cats, Nala and Tabitha.
Cracking Up, 1994.
New Jersey Drive, 1995.
Blue in the Face, 1995.
Girl 6, 1996.
Sleeping Together, 1997.
Jane White Is Sick and Twisted, 2001.
Skin Deep, 2003.
The Apollo Comedy Hour, 1992.
Uptown Comedy Club, 1993.
Mad TV, 1995-.
The Mr. Potato Head Show, 1998.
Clone High, 2002-.
Back Stage, July 12, 1991, p. 28.
Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2001.
Variety, January 20, 1997, p. 46; June 23, 2000.
Create Now!, http://www.createnow.org
Internet Movie Database, http://us.imdb.com/Name?Wilson,+Debra
MAD TV, http://www.madtv.com
MAD TV Central, http://www.madtvcentral.com/cast/debratranscript.php
ZAP 2 It, http://tv.zap2it.com
"Wilson, Debra 1970(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wilson-debra-1970
"Wilson, Debra 1970(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wilson-debra-1970
Wilson, Debra 1970–
WILSON, Debra 1970–
Born April 26, 1970, in Queens, NY. Education: Studied television and radio broadcasting at Syracuse University.
Manager—Rosenberg & Associates, 145B Allen Blvd., Farmingdale, NY 11735.
Actress and director. Previously worked as a recreation specialist for the City of New York Parks & Recreation.
Cracking Up, Phaedra Cinema, 1994.
New Jersey Drive, Gramercy, 1995.
Statistician, Blue in the Face (also known as Brooklyn Boogie), Miramax, 1996.
Salesgirl #3, Girl 6, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1996.
Medicaid woman #2, Gridlock'd, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, 1997.
Flight attendant, B*A*P*S (also known as B.A.P.S.), New Line Cinema, 1997.
Jennifer Williams, Soulmates, Curb Entertainment, 1997.
Wendy, Sleeping Together, Trident Releasing, 1997.
Security officer, Star Trek the Experience: The Klingon Encounter, Rhythm & Hues, 1998.
Julia, Rubbernecking, 2000.
Voice of Chi–Chi, Jane White Is Sick & Twisted (animated), Artist View Entertainment, 2002.
Alex, Skin Deep, Urbanworks LLC, 2003.
Nolan, Target, First Look Home Entertainment, 2004.
Lisa, Nine Lives, 2004.
Herself, Ghost Encounters: The Queen Mary, 2004.
Voice of Akia May, The Chosen One (animated), 2005.
Butch Mystique (short film), 2003.
Television Appearances; Series:
Various characters, Uptown Comedy Club, syndicated, 1992.
Announcer, Can We Shop?, 1995.
Various characters, Mad TV, Fox, 1995–2003.
Queenie (also known as Queen Sweet Potato) and Miss Licorice Lips, The Mr. Potato Head Show, 1998.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Herself, I Love the '80s (documentary), VH1, 2002.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Belinda Davis, Asylum, HBO, 1996.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Mad TV Goes to the Movies, Fox, 1996.
The Best of Mad TV, Fox, 1996.
Judge, The Sexiest Bachelor in America, fox, 2000.
The 4th Annual Soul Train Christmas Starfest, syndicated, 2001.
The 2001 Teen Choice Awards, Fox, 2001.
Voice of Great Grandma, Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, 2002.
Herself, 101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Herself, 101 Juiciest Hollywood Hookups, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Herself, 101 Biggest Celebrity Oops, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Herself, 101 Most Starlicious Makeovers, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Herself, Super Secret Movie Rules: Disaster Movies, 2004.
Herself, 101 Reasons the '90s Rules, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Herself, Best Kept Hollywood Secrets, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Host (red carpet arrivals), The 2004 IFP/Independent Spirit Awards, Bravo, 2004.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Herself, The Apollo Comedy Hour, syndicated, 1992.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Shanna, "High on the Hog," New York Undercover, Fox, 1995.
Herself, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Channel 4, 1998.
Voice of Captain Lisa Cusak, "The Sound of Her Voice," Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, syndicated, 1998.
Herself, "Band or Artist Who Made the Most Influential Fashion Statement," The List, VH1, 1999.
Voice of Mrs. Kraner, "Love Thy Trophy," Family Guy (animated), Fox, 2000.
Voice, "There's Something about Paulie," Family Guy (animated), Fox, 2000.
Voice, "Heroine Addict," Oblongs …, The WB, 2001.
Voice, "Disfigured Debbie," Oblongs …, The WB, 2001.
Voices of Janet, Mrs. Kanner, and nurse, "And the Wiener Is …," Family Guy, Fox, 2001.
Herself, "Full Moon Rising," Rendez–Vous, Fox, 2001.
Herself, "No Wheels? No Way!," Rendez–Vous, Fox, 2001.
Herself, "Cop's Kid Guilty of Frisky Business," Rendez–Vous, Fox, 2001.
Krya, "Road Rage," Gary and Mike, UPN, 2001.
Radio voice, "Cult Status," Gary and Mike, UPN, 2001.
Voice, "The Furry Duffel," Gary and Mike, UPN, 2001.
Herself, American Idol: The Search for a Superstar, Fox, 2002.
Voice of reporter, "Plane Crazy: Gate Expectations," Clone High (animated), MTV, 2002.
Voice of Oprah Winfrey, "Hmmm … Tastes Like," The Proud Family (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003.
Voices of Tabasco and Basil, "Adventures in Bebe Sitting," The Proud Family (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003.
Voice of girl in commercial, "Snowflake Day: A Very Special Holiday Episode," Clone High (animated), MTV, 2003.
Voices of Harriet Tubman and Eva Peron, "Makeover, Makeover, Makeover: The Makeover Episode," Clone High (animated), MTV, 2003.
Herself, WWE Confidential, 2003.
Herself, "Debra Wilson," Star Dates, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Zorah, "Kimmie Has Two Moms," The Parkers, UPN, 2003.
Divine, "Getting Off," CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as CSI), CBS, 2004.
Brenda, "Friends in Low Place," I'm with Her, ABC, 2004.
Maisha, "Spa Day Afternoon," That's So Raven, The Disney Channel, 2004.
Also appeared as voice of Oprah Winfrey, "Behind Family Lines," The Proud Family (animated), The Disney Channel; voice, "Corn Dog Ugly," Gary & Mike, UPN.
Denise, Passin', American Theatre of Actors, New York City, 1991.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 38, Gale Group, 2003.
"Wilson, Debra 1970–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wilson-debra-1970-0
"Wilson, Debra 1970–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved April 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wilson-debra-1970-0