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Vance, Courtney B.

Courtney B. Vance

1960—

Actor

Courtney B. Vance has risen to become one of black Hollywood's most respected actors. After making a powerful Broadway debut in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Fences in 1987, Courtney B. Vance has enjoyed a busy career in theater, film, and television. His breakthrough film role came in the 1996 hit The Preacher's Wife; Vance, as a problem-plagued inner-city minister, shared the screen with Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, and Gregory Hines. Yet he laid a firm foundation for his continuing career starting in 2001, with his five years portraying an assistant district attorney on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. A talented actor, Vance has furthered his career aspirations to include film production.

Focused on Education, Discipline

Vance was born in Detroit in 1960. His father, Conroy Vance, held a variety of occupations, including grocery store manager, and benefits administrator for the Chrysler Corporation. His mother, Leslie Vance, was a former librarian. The family included Vance's older sister, Cecilie. Detroit was a turbulent place during Vance's childhood years in the 1960s, as urban unrest broke out across the nation. "The Detroit riots went right by my house, the tanks and soldiers. I remember I went up to one of them to shake his hand and he turned his bayonet on me. I was about 8," Vance told Henry Sheehan of the Orange County Register.

Vance's parents had high expectations for their children. Television was forbidden and bedtime was early. "The focus had to stay on school," Vance told People. Both sports and academics loomed large in Vance's youth. While attending the posh Detroit Country Day School on a scholarship, he was captain of the school's football, basketball, and track teams. Excellence as a scholar-athlete got him into Harvard University, where he majored in history. It was at Harvard that Vance acted on stage for the first time. As a lonely freshman, he joined a theatrical group in order to meet people. "After I got into it, I found I had an affinity for it. I felt I had found my gift," he told People.

By the time he graduated from Harvard in 1982, Vance had decided to pursue a career as an actor. "My parents were shocked, they said, ‘What are you talking about, boy?’" Vance told the Amsterdam News. To further hone his acting skills, he attended the school of drama at Yale University, which has been the training ground for many prominent performers, including Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, and Frances McDormand. While at Yale, Vance acted in the works of Shakespeare and other master playwrights. One modern classic in which he appeared was Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Mel Gussow of the New York Times said the 1983 Yale Repertory Theatre production revealed Hansberry's play as "an enduring work of contemporary theater," adding that the entire cast was "exceptional" from its leads Beah Richards, Mary Alice, and Delroy Lindo, to "three young Yale drama students who play representatives of a forthcoming generation."

Headed to Broadway with Fences

During his last months at Yale, Vance became involved with August Wilson's drama Fences, which was having its first staging at the Yale Repertory Theatre in the spring of 1985. Vance played the supporting role of Cory Maxson, a star high school athlete in 1950s Pittsburgh whose dreams of glory on the collegiate gridiron are crushed by his embittered father, Troy, a garbage collector and former player in the Negro baseball leagues. Troy refuses to let Cory accept a football scholarship and Cory ends up joining the Marines. Frank Rich of the New York Times had mixed feelings about Fences in its original incarnation, finding August Wilson's "extraordinary voice…too tidily fenced in by his generic dramatic carpentry." Rich called Vance's Cory "as formidable a foil as his etiolated role will allow."

Fences reached Broadway in March 1987, with most of its Yale cast intact, including Vance as Cory, James Earl Jones as the angry father Troy, and Mary Alice as Troy's long-suffering wife, Rose. John Simon of New York praised Fences as "dignified, understatedly eloquent, elegant…a work that tries to make sense of a predicament in which race is subsumed by humanity, in which black color is no more defining than the blue collar, and whose ultimate pigmentation is the black and blue of bruises—not so much on the body as on the soul." Simon added that "Courtney B. Vance gives a remarkably calibrated and compelling performance." Frank Rich thought Fences had improved since he first saw it at Yale two years earlier. Rich wrote in the New York Times that "it speaks of the power of the play—and of the cast assembled by the director Lloyd Richards—that Mr. Jones's patriarch doesn't devour the rest of Fences so much as become the life force that at once nurtures and stunts the characters who share his blood…Courtney B. Vance is not only formidable in challenging Mr. Jones to a psychological (and sometimes physical) kill-or-be-killed battle for supremacy but also seems to grow into Troy's vocal timbre and visage by the final scene."

In 1988, Vance played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at off Broadway's Public Theater. The production, which featured Peter MacNichol and Cynthia Nixon as the title characters, was poorly received. "The one bravura performer who makes it worth seeing: Courtney B. Vance…in Mercutio's death scene, he literally spits out his ‘plague a’ both your houses' line—an electrifying reading that makes all that follows seem paler than it is," wrote David Blum in New York. Vance explained to Blum that he "simplified" his flamboyant performance during previews so by opening night he was not getting such extreme reactions, including big laughs, from audiences.

Earned Praise for Stage, Film Roles

Vance won the off-Broadway honor, the Obie Award, for his work in My Children! My Africa!, written and directed by the white South African playwright Athol Fugard. In the play, which was staged at the Perry Street Theatre in the winter of 1989-1990, Vance portrayed Thami, a black South African high school student teamed with a white female student, Isabel, for a nationwide literary quiz. They are coached by Thami's schoolmaster/mentor, Mr. M. The three characters represent differing views on how to deal with the racial problems in their country. Mr. M believes learning is the way to freedom; Isabel seeks openness and goodwill; Thami advocates more aggressive measures. Edith Oliver of The New Yorker said Vance "gives a remarkable performance as Thami; at one point, when Isabel invites Thami to her house to tea to meet her mother and father, the complexity of his silence and the turbulence of his emotions are as riveting as any of his speeches."

At a Glance …

Born Courtney Bernard Vance on March 12, 1960 in Detroit, MI; the son of Conroy Vance, a benefits administrator for the Chrysler Corporation, and Leslie Vance, a former librarian; married Angela Bassett (an actress), 1997; children: Bronwyn and Josiah. Education: Graduated from Detroit Country Day School, 1978; Harvard University, 1982; Yale University School of Drama, 1985.

Career:

Actor, 1987-.

Awards:

Clarence Derwent Award (for most promising male actor on the New York stage), 1987; Theatre World citation for outstanding New York theatre newcomer, 1987; Obie Award for My Children! My Africa!, 1990; Tony Award nomination for best featured actor for Fences, 1987; Tony Award nomination for best lead actor for Six Degrees of Separation, 1991.

In 1990 Vance landed a high profile role on the New York stage in Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare. In this comedy-tinged drama, which opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center in November 1990, Vance played a young New York con man, calling himself Paul, who convinces a wealthy Upper East Side white couple that he is the son of actor Sidney Poitier. Paul moves in with the couple and vanishes as soon as his deception is found out. Stockard Channing co-starred with Vance as Ouisa Kittredge, the Manhattan matron whose life is changed by the event. Vance was not with the play when it began off-Broadway. Frank Rich of the New York Times, said that "Mr. Vance, younger than James McDaniel, his predecessor as Paul, proves a fine addition to the company…if Mr. Vance alters the chemistry of SixDegrees slightly, it is to accentuate the bond that inexorably develops between Paul and Ouisa…The real if buried plot of Six Degrees deals not with Paul's fraudulent identity but with the authenticity of spirit that allows him and Ouisa to break through those degrees of separation that isolate people in a dehumanizing metropolis overpopulated by all kinds of phonies." Vance was somewhat cynical about his nomination for a Tony Award for best actor for his performance in Six Degrees. "This is political. I assume it was my turn to win. It's all political," he told the Orange County Register. Apparently, it wasn't Vance's turn to win. He lost the award to Nigel Hawthorne in Shadowlands. Vance was disappointed but not devastated when the role of Paul in the 1993 film version of Six Degrees went to Will "Fresh Prince" Smith.

Vance made his first feature film appearance in Hamburger Hill in 1987. A drama about battle-weary American troops trying to capture and defend territory in Vietnam, Vance was part of an ensemble cast including Dylan McDermott. "Courtney B. Vance is outstanding as a black medic. His death, in the embrace of two white soldiers to the chattering requiem of a helicopter, is one of the most powerful scenes in the film," wrote Jack Kroll of Newsweek.

Portrayed Characters with Dignity

One of Vance's most noteworthy film projects was a screen version of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Vance played the pivotal role of Jim, the runaway slave. "My feeling is that if Jim is not right, the movie will fall apart," Vance told Henry Sheehan of the Orange County Register. Vance joined the list of actors who have essayed the controversial role, including Rex Ingram, retired boxer Archie Moore, Paul Winfield, Brock Peters, and Samm-Art Williams. "It's so delicate, it's life walking through a minefield…One of the toeholds I found is dignity. That had to be one of the major concerns and major focuses of doing it," Vance explained to Sheehan about portraying Jim. Released in 1993, the Disney-produced film, which co-starred Elijah Wood as Huck, was generally panned by critics, many of whom thought Vance looked too young for the part of Jim.

Another important role in a little-seen film was Vance's portrayal of Bobby Seale in 1995's Panther. A dramatization of the history of the Black Panthers, the film was directed by Mario Van Peebles and written by Melvin Van Peebles. "I didn't know much about the Panthers. I went to prep school. But I really wanted to do this movie. With the Panthers so much has been under the carpet for years. With many of the people involved characterized as radicals, Communists and militants, it's time to actually look at them, to bring out the classified documents, to actually see what was the real story," Vance told the Amsterdam News. Panther, which also featured Kadeem Hardison, received many good reviews but failed at the box office.

The Preacher's Wife gave Vance the opportunity to appear in a lighthearted, big-budget screen project. Though given a mediocre reception by critics, the film was a crowd pleaser during the 1996 Christmas season. The Penny Marshall directed film, an urbanized remake of the 1947 movie The Bishop's Wife, told the story of a human-looking angel (Denzel Washington) sent to help out a beleaguered inner-city minister, Henry Biggs (Vance), and his wife, Julia (Whitney Houston). "The background of the story is familiar to me. The church is like the one I attended growing up in Detroit. I know people like Reverend Biggs and Julia. I felt I had something special to bring to the film," Vance told Jet. "Courtney Vance adds a serious note to the colorful ensemble as the conflicted Reverend Biggs," wrote Deborah Gregory in Essence.

Relied on Faith in Work, in Life

To prepare for the role of Reverend Biggs, Vance visited the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. He was baptized there in December 1995, shortly before production on the film began. "I'd been trying to find a spiritual outlet for awhile. When I got this role, it was an excuse to do what I've always wanted to do. I didn't have to get baptized to do this film, but I decided it was time," Vance told Jet. It was his religious faith that helped Vance cope with the 1990 suicide of his father. "It devastated our family," he told People.

On a happier note, Vance announced his engagement to actress Angela Bassett in December 1996. Vance and Bassett were longtime acquaintances who began a more serious relationship after running into each other at a play in Los Angeles in 1996. "We're like old friends who all of a sudden looked up and said, ‘Hmmmm …’ Gradually it dawned on us that we like each other," Vance told People. The couple married in 1997, and had twin children in 2006 through a surrogate.

Vance prefers to play parts that mean something to him. He noted during a Sidewalk TV interview with Cindy Rhodes that he was drawn to stories with "drama." He found plenty in film and television, playing such roles as a police office in Naked City, a hitman in Love and Action in Chicago, and Martin Luther King in Parting Waters. His most prominent role in the new millennium came on the popular television series Law and Order: Criminal Intent, which he joined in 2001. His portrayal of an assistant district attorney on the series prompted theater and film professor Steven Vineberg wrote in the New York Times to praise Vance as a "gifted" actor. After five years on the show, Vance turned his attentions toward home. With his wife, he penned the first nonfiction book from Harlequin publishers, Friends: A Love Story, which chronicled the longtime friendship and then decade-long marriage of Bassett and Vance. The book published in time for Valentine's day in 2007, but Vance had no intentions of abandoning film for a writing career; he had already begun work producing a new film entitled Erasure.

Selected works

Plays

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA, 1982.

A Raisin in the Sun, Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1983.

Fences, Yale Repertory Theatre, 1985.

Fences, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1986.

Fences, 46th Street Theatre, NY, 1987.

Romeo and Juliet, Public Theatre, NY, 1988.

My Children! My Africa!, Perry Street Theatre, NY, 1989-1990.

Six Degrees of Separation, Lincoln Center, NY, 1990-1991.

Films

Hamburger Hill, 1987.

Hunt for Red October, 1990.

In the Line of Duty: Street War, TV, 1992.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1993.

Percy and Thunder, TV, 1993.

Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad, TV, 1994.

The Affair, I and II, TV, 1995.

Dangerous Minds, 1995.

The Last Supper, 1995.

Panther, 1995.

The Piano Lesson, TV, 1995.

The Tuskegee Airmen, TV, 1995.

The Preacher's Wife, 1996.

The Boys Next Door, TV, 1996.

Twelve Angry Men, TV, 1997.

Naked City, TV, 1998.

Love and Action in Chicago, 1999.

Space Cowboys, 2000.

Whitewash: The Charles Brandley Story, 2002.

Television

Thirtysomething, 1989.

Picket Fences and Law and Order, 1995.

Law and Order: Criminal Intent, 2001-2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Amsterdam News (New York), May 6, 1995, p.23.

Cincinnati Call and Post, May 11, 1995, p.1B.

Ebony Man, January 1997, p. 36.

Essence, December 1996, p.40.

Jet, December 16, 1996, p.58-62; January 13, 1997, p.33.

Michigan Chronicle, May 9, 1995, p.1B.

Nation, December 17, 1990, p.783.

New York, April 6, 1987, p.92; May 30, 1988, p.24.

New York Beacon, May 10, 1995, p.35; October 11, 1995, p.35.

New York Times, November 9, 1983, p.C23; May 7, 1985, p.C17; March 27, 1987, p.C3; April 10, 1987, p.C1,4; May 24, 1988, p.C15; December 19, 1989, p.C19; November 9, 1990, p.C5; February 3, 1995, p.D16; August 11, 1995, p.C3; August 21, 1995, p.C11; April 5, 1996, p.C12; December 13, 1996, p.C8.

New Yorker, April 6, 1987, p.81; January 15, 1990, p.80.

Newsweek, April 6, 1987, p.70; September 14, 1987, p.83.

New York Times, March 3, 2002, p. 2.37.

Orange County Register, May 18, 1991, p.F2; April 1, 1993, p.F4; April 2, 1993, p.16; February 18, 1994, p.42; May 3, 1995, p.F5; August 11, 1995, p.6; October 13, 1995, p.83.

People, January 20, 1997, p.96-97.

Pride, November 30, 1995, p.68.

Voice, November 28, 1995, p.33.

Wall Street Journal, August 28, 1995, p.11; December 13, 1996, p.12.

Washington Post, February 4, 1995, p.D1; May 3, 1995, p.C1; August 11, 1995, p.F1; August 20, 1995 (television supplement), p.7; February 4, 1996, p.G1; April 27, 1996, p.C7; December 13, 1996, p.C1.

Weekly Journal, November 16, 1995, p.12.

On-line

"Courtney and Angela: Sweet Love," Upscale Magazine, www.upscalemagazine.com/portal/view.asp?chanID=2&id=98 (April 9, 2007). "Sidewalk TV: Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance," Sidewalks Entertainment,http://sidewalkstv.com/webclips/v/bassett-vance.html (April 9, 2007).

                                                               —By Mary Kalfatovic and Sara Pendergast

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Vance, Courtney B. 1960–

Courtney B. Vance 1960

Actor

At a Glance

Sources

After making a powerful Broadway debut in the Pulitzer Prize winning drama Fences in 1987, Courtney B. Vance has enjoyed a busy career in theater, film, and television. Most of his roles have been supporting or ensemble parts and he has held his own along side acting virtuosos and glamorous stars. In the hit 1996 film The Preachers Wife, Vance, as a problem-plagued inner-city minister, shared the screen with Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, and Gregory Hines. Courtney Vance adds a serious note to the colorful ensemble as the conflicted Reverend Biggs, wrote Deborah Gregory in Essence.

Vance was born in Detroit in 1960. His father, Conroy Vance, held a variety of occupations, including grocery store manager, and benefits administrator for the Chrysler Corporation. His mother, Leslie Vance, was a former librarian. The family included Vances older sister, Cecilie. Detroit was a turbulent place during Vances childhood years in the 1960s, as urban unrest broke out across the nation. The Detroit riots went right by my house, the tanks and soldiers. I remember I went up to one of them to shake his hand and he turned his bayonet on me. I was about 8, Vance told Henry Sheehan of the Orange County Register.

Vances parents had high expectations for their children. Television was forbidden and bedtime was early. The focus had to stay on school, Vance told People. Both sports and academics loomed large in Vances youth. While attending the posh Detroit Country Day School on a scholarship, he was captain of the schools football, basketball, and track teams. Excellence as a scholar-athlete got him into Harvard University, where he majored in history. It was at Harvard that Vance acted on stage for the first time. As a lonely freshman, he joined a theatrical group in order to meet people. After I got into it, I found I had an affinity for it. I felt I had found my gift, he told People.

By the time he graduated from Harvard in 1982, Vance had decided to pursue a career as an actor. My parents were shocked, they said, What are you talking about, boy? Vance told the Amsterdam News. To further hone his acting skills, he attended the school of drama at Yale University, which has been the training ground for many prominent performers, including Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, and Frances McDor-mand. While at Yale, Vance acted in the works of Shakespeare and other master playwrights. One modern classic in which he appeared was Lorraine Hansber-rys A Raisin in the Sun. Mel Gussow of the New York Times said the 1983 Yale Repertory Theatre production revealed Hansberrys play as an enduring work of contemporary theater, adding that the entire cast was exceptional from its leads Beah Richards, Mary Alice, and Delroy Lindo, to three young Yale drama students who play representatives of a forthcoming generation.

At a Glance

Born Courtney Bernard Vance on March 12, 1960 in Detroit, Ml; the son of Conroy Vance, a benefits admin. for the Chrysler Corp., and Leslie Vance, a former librarian.Education-Graduated from Detroit Country Day Sch., 1978; Harvard Univ., 1982; Yale Univ. Sch. of Drama, 1985. Became engaged to Angela Bassett (an actress), December 1996.

Career: StageFences, 1987;Romeo and Juliet, 1988;My Children! My Africa!, 1989-90;Six Degrees of Separation, 1990-91.The Comedy of Errors, 1982;A Raisin in the Sun, 1983;Fences, Yale Repertory Theatre, 1985;Fences, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, 1986. Films:Hamburger Hill, 1987;Hunt for Red October, 1990;In the Line of Duty: Street War, TV, 1992;The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1993;Percy and Thunder, TV, 1993;Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad, TV, 1994;The Affair, I and II, TV, 1995;Dangerous Minds, 1995;The Last Supper, 1995;Panther, 1995;The Piano Lesson, TV, 1995;The Tuskegee Airmen, TV, 1995;The Preachers Wife, 1996;The Boys Next Door, TV, 1996, Twelve Angry Men, TV, 1997. Television: Episodes of Thirtysomething, 1989; Picket Fences andLaw and Order, 1995. Narration (books on tape)Bo Knows Bo, by Bo Jackson and Dick Schapp, 1991 ;/Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, by Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler, 1991 ;The Feast of All Saints, by Anne Rice, 1992;Children of the Dust, by Clancy Carlile, 1995;And This Too Shall Pass, by E. Lynn Harris, 1996; (documentary)Half Lives, by the Nuclear Waste Documentary Project, 1995.

Awards: Clarence Derwent Award, 1987;Theatre World citation, 1987; Obie Award for My Children! My Africa!, 1990; Tony Award nomination for best featured actor for Fences, 1987; Tony Award nomination for best lead actor for Six Degrees of Separation, 1991.

Addresses: Home -Topanga, CA. Agent -lntl. Creative Mgmt. 8899 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048

During his last months at Yale, Vance became involved with August Wilsons drama Fences, which was having its first staging at the Yale Repertory Theatre in the spring of 1985. Vance played the supporting role of Cory Maxson, a star high school athlete in 1950s Pittsburgh whose dreams of glory on the collegiate gridiron are crushed by his embittered father, Troy, a garbage collector and former player in the Negro baseball leagues. Troy refuses to let Cory accept a football scholarship and Cory ends up joining the Marines. Frank Rich of the New York Times had mixed feelings about Fences in its original incarnation, finding August Wilsons extraordinary voice ... too tidily fenced in by his generic dramatic carpentry. Rich called Vances Cory as formidable a foil as his etiolated role will allow.

Fences reached Broadway in March 1987, with most of its Yale cast intact, including Vance as Cory, James Earl Jones as the angry father Troy, and Mary Alice as Troys long-suffering wife, Rose. John Simon of New York praised Fences as dignified, understatedly eloquent, elegant ... a work that tries to make sense of a predicament in which race is subsumed by humanity, in which black color is no more defining than the blue collar, and whose ultimate pigmentation is the black and blue of bruises--not so much on the body as on the soul. Simon added that Courtney B. Vance gives a remarkably calibrated and compelling performance. Frank Rich thought Fences had improved since he first saw it at Yale two years earlier. Rich wrote in the New York Times that it speaks of the power of the play-and of the cast assembled by the director Lloyd Richards-that Mr. Joness patriarch doesnt devour the rest of Fences so much as become the life force that at once nurtures and stunts the characters who share his blood... Courtney B. Vance is not only formidable in challenging Mr. Jones to a psychological (and sometimes physical) kill-or-be-killed battle for supremacy but also seems to grow into Troys vocal timbre and visage by the final scene.

In 1988, Vance played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at off Broadways Public Theater. The production, which featured Peter MacNichol and Cynthia Nixon as the title characters, was poorly received. The one bravura performer who makes it worth seeing: Courtney B. Vance ... in Mercutios death scene, he literally spits out his plague a both your houses line-an electrifying reading that makes all that follows seem paler than it is, wrote David Blum in New York. Vance explained to Blum that he simplified his flamboyant performance during previews so by opening night he was not getting such extreme reactions, including big laughs, from audiences.

Vance won the off-Broadway honor, the Obie Award, for his work in My Children! My Africa!, written and directed by the white South African playwright Athol Fugard. In the play, which was staged at the Perry Street Theatre in the winter of 1989-1990, Vance portrayed Thami, a black South African high school student teamed with a white female student, Isabel, for a nationwide literary quiz. They are coached by Thamis schoolmaster/mentor, Mr. M. The three characters represent differing views on how to deal with the racial problems in their country. Mr. M believes learning is the way to freedom; Isabel seeks openness and goodwill; Thami advocates more aggressive measures. Edith Oliver of The New Yorker said Vance gives a remarkable performance as Thami; at one point, when Isabel invites Thami to her house to tea to meet her mother and father, the complexity of his silence and the turbulence of his emotions are as riveting as any of his speeches.

So far, Vances highest profile role on the New York stage has been in Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare. In this comedy-tinged drama, which opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center in November 1990, Vance played a young New York con man, calling himself Paul, who convinces a wealthy Upper East Side white couple that he is the son of actor Sidney Poitier. Paul moves in with the couple and vanishes as soon as his deception is found out. Stockard Channing co-starred with Vance as Ouisa Kittredge, the Manhattan matron whose life is changed by the event. Vance was not with the play when it began off-Broadway. Frank Rich of the New York Times, said that Mr. Vance, younger than James McDaniel, his predecessor as Paul, proves a fine addition to the company ... if Mr. Vance alters the chemistry of Six Degrees slightly, it is to accentuate the bond that inexorably develops between Paul and Ouisa ... The real if buried plot of Six Degrees deals not with Pauls fraudulent identity but with the authenticity of spirit that allows him and Ouisa to break through those degrees of separation that isolate people in a dehumanizing metropolis overpopulated by all kinds of phonies. Vance was somewhat cynical about his nomination for a Tony Award for best actor for his performance in Six Degrees.This is political. I assume it was my turn to win. Its all political, he told the Orange County Register. Apparently, it wasnt Vances turn to win. He lost the award to Nigel Hawthorne in Shadow-lands. Vance was disappointed but not devastated when the role of Paul in the 1993 film version of Six Degrees went to Will Fresh Prince Smith.

Vance made his first feature film appearance in Hamburger Hill in 1987. A drama about battle-weary American troops trying to capture and defend territory in Vietnam, Vance was part of an ensemble cast including Dylan McDermott. Courtney B. Vance is outstanding as a black medic. His death, in the embrace of two white soldiers to the chattering requiem of a helicopter, is one of the most powerful scenes in the film, wrote Jack Kroll of Newsweek.

One of Vances most noteworthy film projects was a screen version of Mark Twains novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Vance played the pivotal role of Jim, the runaway slave. My feeling is that if Jim is not right, the movie will fall apart, Vance told Henry Sheehan of the Orange County Register. Vance joined the list of actors who have essayed the controversial role, including Rex Ingram, retired boxer Archie Moore, Paul Winfield, Brock Peters, and Samm-Art Williams. Its so delicate, its life walking through a minefield ... One of the toeholds I found is dignity. That had to be one of the major concerns and major focuses of doing it, Vance explained to Sheehan about portraying Jim. Released in 1993, the Disney-produced film, which co-starred Elijah Wood as Huck, was generally panned by critics, many of whom thought Vance looked too young for the part of Jim.

Another important role in a little-seen film was Vances portrayal of Bobby Seale in 1995s Panther. A dramatization of the history of the Black Panthers, the film was directed by Mario Van Peebles and written by Melvin Van Peebles. I didnt know much about the Panthers. I went to prep school. But I really wanted to do this movie. With the Panthers so much has been under the carpet for years. With many of the people involved characterized as radicals, Communists and militants, its time to actually look at them, to bring out the classified documents, to actually see what was the real story, Vance told the Amsterdam News. Panther, which also featured Kadeem Hardison, received many good reviews but failed at the box office.

The Preachers Wife gave Vance the opportunity to appear in a lighthearted, big-budget screen project. Though given a mediocre reception by critics, the film was a crowdpleaser during the 1996 Christmas season. The Penny Marshall directed film, an urbanized remake of the 1947 movie The Bishops Wife, told the story of a human-looking angel (Denzel Washington) sent to help out a beleaguered inner-city minister, Henry Biggs (Vance), and his wife, Julia (Whitney Houston). The background of the story is familiar to me. The church is like the one I attended growing up in Detroit. I know people like Reverend Biggs and Julia. I felt I had something special to bring to the film, Vance told Jet.

To prepare for the role of Reverend Biggs, Vance visited the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. He was baptized there in December 1995, shortly before production on the film began. Id been trying to find a spiritual outlet for awhile. When I got this role, it was an excuse to do what Ive always wanted to do. I didnt have to get baptized to do this film, but I decided it was time, Vance told Jet. It was his religious faith that helped Vance cope with the 1990 suicide of his father. It devastated our family, he told People.

On a happier note, Vance announced his engagement to actress Angela Bassett in December 1996. Vance and Bassett were longtime acquaintances who began a more serious relationship after running into each other at a play in Los Angeles in 1996. Were like old friends who all of a sudden looked up and said, Hmmmm ... Gradually it dawned on us that we like each other, Vance told People.

A resident of Los Angeles since 1993, Vance prefers to play parts that mean something to him. His policy of refusing criminal roles has not seemed to have harmed his career. Vance does not fret about what will come next. As he explained to People-Theres a higher power at work. Hell reveal to you what He wants you to do.

Sources

Amsterdam News (New York), May 6, 1995, p. 23.

Cincinnati Call and Post, May 11, 1995, p.IB.

Essence, December 1996, p.40.

Jet, December 16, 1996, pp.58-62; January 13, 1997, p.33.

Michigan Chronicle, May 9, 1995, p.IB.

Nation, December 17, 1990, p. 783.

New York, April 6, 1987, p. 92; May 30, 1988, p.24.

New York Beacon, May 10, 1995, p.35; October 11, 1995, p.35.

New York Times, November 9, 1983, p.C23; May 7, 1985, P.C17; March 27, 1987, p. C3; April 10, 1987, p.Cl, 4; May 24, 1988, p. C15; December 19, 1989, p. C19; November 9, 1990, p. C5; February 3, 1995, P.D16; August 11, 1995, P.C3; August 21, 1995, p.C11; April 5, 1996, p.C12; December 13, 1996, p.C8.

New Yorker, April 6, 1987, p.81; January 15, 1990, p. 80.

Newsweek, April 6, 1987, p.70; September 14, 1987, p.83.

Orange County Register, May 18, 1991, p.F2; April 1, 1993, p.F4; April 2, 1993, p. 16; February 18 1994, p.42; May 3, 1995, p.F5; August 11, 1995, p. 6;October 13, 1995, p.83.

People, January 20, 1997, pp.96-97.

Pride, November 30, 1995, p.68.

Voice, November 28, 1995, p.33.

Wall Street Journal, August 28, 1995, p.11; December 13, 1996, p. 12.

Washington Post, February 4, 1995, p.Dl; May 3, 1995, p.Cl; August 11, 1995, p.Fl; August 20, 1995 (television supplement), p.7; February 4, 1996, p.G1; April 27, 1996, p.C7; December 13, 1996, p.C1.

Weekly Journal, November 16, 1995, p. 12.

Mary Kalfatovic

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"Vance, Courtney B. 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Vance, Courtney B. 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vance-courtney-b-1960

"Vance, Courtney B. 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vance-courtney-b-1960

Vance, Courtney B. 1960(?)–

VANCE, Courtney B. 1960(?)–

(Courtney Vance)

PERSONAL

Full name, Courtney Bernard Vance; born March 12, 1960 (some sources cite 1959), in Detroit (some sources cite Birmingham), MI; son of Conroy (a benefits administrator and grocery store manager) and Leslie (a librarian) Vance; married Angela Bassett (an actress), October 12, 1997. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1982; Yale University, M.A., 1985. Religion: Baptist. Avocational Interests: Folk art.

Addresses:

Agent—Adena Chawke, Innovative Artists, 1505 10th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401; Adam Venit, Endeavor Talent Agency, 9701 Wilshire Blvd., Third Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212 (some sources cite 9601 Wilshire Blvd., Third Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210). Manager—Dolores Robinson, Dolores Robinson Entertainment, 112 South Almont Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Publicist—Jessica Cohen, Bragman/Nyman/Cafarelli, 8687 Melrose Ave., Eighth Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Career:

Actor and producer. Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA, company member, beginning 1981.

Awards, Honors:

Clarence Derwent Award, 1987; Theatre World Award, outstanding newcomer, 1987; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best featured actor in a play, 1987, for Fences; Obie Award, outstanding performance, Village Voice, 1990, for My Children! My Africa!; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best lead actor, 1991, for Six Degrees of Separation; Independent Spirit Award nomination, best male lead, Independent Features Project/West, 1999, for Blind Faith; Video Premiere Award, best actor, DVD Exclusive awards, 2001, for Love and Action in Chicago; Image Award nomination, outstanding actor in a drama series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2002, for Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

CREDITS

Film Appearances:

Doc Johnson, Hamburger Hill, Paramount, 1987.

Sonar operator Jones, The Hunt for Red October, Paramount, 1990.

Jim, The Adventures of Huck Finn (also known as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), Buena Vista, 1993.

Journalist, The Emperor's New Clothes, 1993.

Cooper, Holy Matrimony, Buena Vista, 1994.

Bobby Seale, Panther, Gramercy Pictures, 1995.

George Grandey, Dangerous Minds (also known as My Posse Don't Do Homework), Buena Vista, 1995.

Luke, The Last Supper, Columbia, 1995.

Reverend Henry Biggs, The Preacher's Wife, Buena Vista, 1996.

Eddie Jones, Love and Action in Chicago, MTI Home Video, 1999.

Otis Tucker, Cookie's Fortune, October Films, 1999.

Himself, The Acting Class, 2000.

Roger Hines, Space Cowboys, Warner Bros., 2000.

Willie Jones, D–Tox (also known as Eye See You and Im Auge der Angst), DEJ Productions/Universal, 2002.

Film Work:

Coproducer, Love and Action in Chicago, MTI Home Video, 1999.

Television Appearances; Series:

Assistant district attorney Ron Carver, Law & Order: Criminal Intent (also known as Law & Order: CI), NBC, 2001—.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Martin Luther King, Parting the Waters, ABC, 2000.

Voice, Jazz, PBS, 2001.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Second male student, First Affair, CBS, 1983.

Justice Butler, In the Line of Duty: Street War (also known as In the Line of Duty: The Two Tonys and Urban Crossfire), NBC, 1992.

Wayne "Thunder" Carter, "Percy and Thunder," TNT Screenworks, TNT, 1993.

Conroy Price, Beyond the Law (also known as Fixing the Shadow, Secret Investigation Division, and The Sid), HBO, 1994.

Thomas, Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad (also known as Underground to Canada and Underground to Freedom), syndicated, 1994.

(As Courtney Vance) Lieutenant Jeffrey Glenn, The Tuskegee Airmen, HBO, 1995.

Travis Holloway, The Affair (also known as Black Tuesday), HBO, 1995.

Jury foreman, 12 Angry Men, Showtime, 1997.

Jerry Robinson, Ambushed, HBO, 1998.

John Williams, Blind Faith, Showtime, 1998.

Officer James "Jimmy" Halloran, Naked City: Justice with a Bullet, Showtime, 1998.

Officer James "Jimmy" Halloran, Naked City: A Killer Christmas, Showtime, 1998.

Clarence Brandley, Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story, Showtime, 2002.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Lymon, "The Piano Lesson," Hallmark Hall of Fame, CBS, 1995.

Lucien P. Singer, "The Boys Next Door," Hallmark Hall of Fame, CBS, 1996.

Narrator, "Born to Trouble: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Culture Shock, PBS, 2000.

Voice, The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story (documentary), Cinemax, 2000.

Reader, Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (documentary), HBO, 2003.

Voice, War Letters (documentary), PBS, 2003.

Narrator, "The Fight" (documentary), The American Experience, PBS, 2004.

Voices, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (documentary), PBS, 2005.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

The 41st Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1987.

Presenter, The Ninth Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, TNT, 2003.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Curtis Caldwell, "Trust Me," thirtysomething, ABC, 1989.

Voice of scribe, "The Emperor's New Clothes," Long Ago and Far Away (animated), PBS, 1989.

(Uncredited) Mr. McKee, "By Hooker, by Crook," Law & Order, NBC, 1990.

Benjamin "Bud" Greer, "Rage," Law & Order, NBC, 1995.

Warren Grier, "Final Judgment," Picket Fences, CBS, 1995.

Warren Grier, "Without Mercy," Picket Fences, CBS, 1995.

Guest, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1996.

Walter Harrelson, "Chapter Five," Boston Public, Fox, 2000.

Television Appearances; Pilots:

(As Courtney Vance) Mr. James Jackson, "Unfinished Symphony," Any Day Now, Lifetime, 1998.

Walter Harrelson, "Chapter One," Boston Public, Fox, 2000.

Stage Appearances:

Attendant, The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA, 1982.

A Raisin in the Sun, Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1983.

Fences, Yale Repertory Theatre, 1985.

Cory, Fences, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1986, Forty–Sixth Street Theatre, New York City, 1987–88.

Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, Delacorte Theatre, New York City, 1988.

Thami Mbikwarna, My Children! My Africa!, New York Theatre Workshop, Perry Street Theatre, New York City, 1989–90.

Paul, Six Degrees of Separation, Lincoln Center Theater Company, Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, New York City, 1990, then Lincoln Center, Vivian Beaumont Theater, New York City, 1990–92.

Walter Burns, His Girl Friday, Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN, 2005.

Also appeared in other productions, including Butterfly, Geronimo Jones, Hamlet, Jazz Wives Jazz Lives, A Lesson from Aloes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Temptation.

RECORDINGS

Videos:

Nonesense and Lullabyes: Nursery Rhymes, 1992.

Nonesense and Lullabyes: Poems, 1992.

(In archive footage) Reverend Henry Biggs, Whitney Houston: The Greatest Hits, 2000.

Audiobooks:

Bo Jackson and Dick Schaap, Bo Knows Bo, Random House Audio, 1991.

Hank Aaron and Lonnie Wheeler, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, HarperAudio, 1991.

Anne Rice, The Feast of All Saints, Random House Audio, 1992.

Clancy Carlile, Children of the Dust, Publishing Mills, 1995.

Nuclear Waste Documentary Project, Half Lives, 1995.

E. Lynn Harris, And This Too Shall Pass, Random House Audio, 1996.

David Pesci, Amistad, Publishing Mills, 1999.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 15, Gale, 1997.

Periodicals:

Entertainment Weekly, October 24, 1997, p. 14.

InStyle, February, 1998, p. 205.

Jet, January 13, 1997, p. 33; October 27, 1997, p. 64.

People Weekly, January 20, 1997, pp. 96–97; October 6, 1997, p. 55.

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"Vance, Courtney B. 1960(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Vance, Courtney B. 1960(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vance-courtney-b-1960-0

"Vance, Courtney B. 1960(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vance-courtney-b-1960-0