Skip to main content

Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–

Marianne Jean-Baptiste 1967

Actress

At a Glance

Selected works

Sources

In 1997 Marianne Jean-Baptiste became the first black British actor nominated for an Academy Award. Her performance in 1996s Secrets and Lies earned her the nomination for best supporting actress, and though she did not take an Oscar home, her performance in the film by renowned director Mike Leigh brought glowing critical accolades and assured her future success. Jean-Baptiste, however, does not limit her career to acting alone; she is also an accomplished singer and composer.

Jean-Baptiste was relatively unknown even in England when she was named an Oscar contender, partly because Secrets and Lies was one of her first film roles. Until that point, her career as an actress had been spent mainly in the theater. The youngest of the four Jean-Baptiste children, she was born in London on April 26, 1967, and grew up in the city as well. An aptitude for music surfaced at a young age, and she began playing the guitar at the age of eight. As a youngster, she was told that she could pursue any career choice she wished, as long as she excelled. My parents taught me to place importance on family, Jean-Baptiste told Womens Wear Daily reporter Elizabeth Gladfeller. Appearances werent emphasized necessarily, but they did make an impression, she added. For a time, she considered studying for a law degree and becoming a barrister.

Instead Jean-Baptiste became sidetracked by her love of the performing arts. She earned a degree from the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and began appearing in roles on the stage of Londons Royal National Theater; she also was cast in productions in the English cities of Manchester and Yorkshire. For a time Jean-Baptiste was a member of the Cheek by Jowl Company, and once played two roles in one work, both Mariana and Mistress Overdone in Measure for Measure. Other stage credits include Running Dream at the Theater Royal Stratford, and Ave Africa, which Jean-Baptiste both wrote and performed.

Jean-Baptistes first screen role was in the 1991 Hanif Kureishi film London Kills Me, the story of homeless teens living in Londons subway system. In 1993 she appeared back on the London stage in Its a Great Big Shame. The play was written by stage and screen director Mike Leighknown for his quirky, intense portraits of modern England and its class differencesand collaboration with his cast plays an integral part in Leighs oeuvre. In the play, Jean-Baptiste played Faith, the sister in a lower-middle-class family in Londons East End; the play contrasted the modern-day lives of her family with their apartments nineteenth-century inhabitants. Her character, wrote Ian Buruma in the New York Review of Books, clucking with disdain and parroting the language of advertising brochures, was the perfect example of a developed Leigh character.

For her next project with Leigh, Jean-Baptiste was asked to consider this premise: a black woman looks into her adoption records and discovers her birth mother was white. She then seeks her out, and her biological parent is equally astonished. Jean-Baptistes development of this character into Secrets and Liess Hortense Cumberbatch centered around the tragicomic possibilities that surface when the lives of a

At a Glance

Born on April 26, 1967, in London, England; married Evan Williams; children: one. Education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London, England.

Career: Actor, singer, composer, 1991.

middle-class, educated black woman and a vulgar, chain-smoking factory worker connect. The concept behind Jean-Baptistes first major screen role was something that had been in the works for some time, she said in an interview with Cinemania Onlines Sheila Benson. Mike Leigh was sort of saying, every year, Would she look for her mother? And I would say, No, the actress said, referring to her Hortense character. So he killed her father off, and he asked again. And I said, Of course not, because her mums on her own, it would be even worse. So he killed her off as well, and said, Now, would she look? And I said, All right, now shed look, she continued.

Secrets and Liess Hortense Cumberbatch is an optometrist and the epitome of the sleek and fashionable young urban European woman. When she begins thinking about having a child of her own after her foster parents pass on, she becomes curious about her real heritage. She tracks down her birth motherwhom she already knows is of a different raceand by telephone arranges to meet with her. Leighs actors work with just a skeleton of the script, then develop the characters in workshop-type rehearsals. Initially they work one on one with Leigh, and later move to an ensemble format, but Jean-Baptiste and Brenda Bl-ethyn, the actress who played her birth mother, had not met until the day shooting was scheduled for their first scene together outside a London Underground station. Blethyn had noticed Jean-Baptistes name on the cast list, but did not know she was blacknearly the same experience of her character Cynthia, who in the film receives a telephone call from a well-spoken young woman wishing to meet her. When the two characters met, Blethyn assumed Jean-Baptiste was part of the film crew. So when Cynthia says there has been some mistake, that was my honest reaction, Blethyn told Time film critic Richard Corliss. It wasnt acting, she added.

After the initial shock at discovery, the film tracks the unlikely mother-daughter pair as they begin to enrich one anothers lives: Jean-Baptistes Hortense remedies some of the squalor in Cynthias life, and finds herself part of a highly dysfunctional new family; eventually Cynthias secret that was the source of so many lies is revealed. The movie debuted to British audiences in 1995 and the following year in North America, winning laudatory reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Critics lauded Jean-Baptistes cool, understatedly elegant portrayal of Hortense, and she herself had selected the clothes that emphasized her characters educated, middle-class status, in dramatic contrast to the loud, working-class chaos of Cynthias household. All the actors are so convincing that Secrets and Lies often seems like a documentary, wrote Joseph Cuneen in the National Catholic Reporter.

Secrets and Lies took home the Palme dOr at Cannes Film Festival, and the following year Jean-Baptiste was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. People are talking about the race issue in the film, of which there is none, Jean-Baptiste said in the Cinemania Online interview. Its about adoption. Its about a mother and a daughter. The bigger issue here is that these people here are related. We do, sort of, judge people by the way they dress or the way they appear. But I dont think we should. Hortense doesnt. Shes an optometrist and that isnt a coincidence. Its somebody who looks deep into other people, who has real insights, who helps other people see clearly, she continued.

Jean-Baptiste followed the success of Secrets and Lies with a steady stream of work. She told Essence that In the States its much easier to get work once you have an Oscar nomination. Although none of the works she appeared in matched the critical acclaim of Secrets and Lies, Jean-Baptiste has drawn more praise for her individual work. Superior, Library Journal reviewer Danna Bell-Russel said of Jean-Baptists portrayal of Stephen Lawrences mother in The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, a fictionalized account of an actual murder. Although Variety critic panned Women in Film as an overwritten, patronizing piece of pseudo-feminist flatulence, he praised Jean-Baptistes performance for being better than the material. For her work as part of the dramatic ensemble in the television series Without a Trace, she was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2004. In addition to her acting work, Jean-Baptiste is a talented musician. She wrote and sang four songs on British jazz musician Jason Rebellos 1993 album, Keeping Time, and composed the score for Michael Leighs 1997 film, Career Girls.

Selected works

Films

London Kills Me, 1991.

Secrets & Lies, 1996.

Mr. Jealousy, 1997.

How to Make the Cruelest Month, 1998.

Nowhere to Go, 1998.

The 24 Hour Woman, 1999.

28 Days, 2000.

The Cell, 2000.

Women in Film, 2001.

New Years Day, 2001.

Spy Game, 2001.

Dont Explain, 2002.

Television

The Wedding, 1998.

The Man, 1999.

The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, 1999.

Men Only 2001.

Without a Trace (series), 2002.

Loving You, 2003.

Other

(Contributed) Keeping Time (jazz album), 1993.

(Wrote musical score) Career Girls (film), 1997.

Sources

Periodicals

America, November 9, 1996, p. 22.

Entertainment Weekly, October 18, 1996, p. 58; May 2, 1997, p. 68.

Essence, December 2003, p. 146.

Jet, March 3, 1997, p. 64.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, p. 106.

Nation, October 7, 1996, p. 34.

National Catholic Reporter, January 17, 1997, p. 18.

New York Review of Books, January 13, 1994, pp. 7-11.

Newsweek, September 30, 1996, p. 74.

Time, September 30, 1996, p. 66.

Variety, February 19, 2001, p. 46.

Vibe, September 1997.

Womens Wear Daily, August 7, 1997, p. S2.

Other

Additional information for this profile was provided by a Cinemania Online interview with Sheila Benson.

Carol Brennan and Sara Pendergast

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jean-baptiste-marianne-1967-0

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved May 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jean-baptiste-marianne-1967-0

Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967(?) –

Marianne Jean-Baptiste 1967(?)

Actress

A Decade in Theater

Hortense Cumberbatchs Origins

Film Won Critical Acclaim

Sources

When Marianne Jean-Baptiste was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1995s Secrets and Lies, she became the first black British actor to achieve such rank. Though she did not take an Oscar home that night, her performance in the film by renowned director Mike Leigh had brought glowing critical accolades and assured her future success. But Jean-Baptistes talents are not limited to drama: she is also an accomplished singer and composer.

Jean-Baptiste was relatively unknown even in England when she was named an Oscar contender, partly because Secrets and Lies was one of her first film roles. Until that point, her career as an actress had been spent mainly in the theater. The youngest of the four Jean-Baptiste children, she was born in London in the late 1960s, and grew up in the city as well. An aptitude for music surfaced at a young age, and she began playing the guitar at the age of eight. As a youngster, she was told that she could pursue any career choice she wished, as long as she excelled. My parents taught me to place importance on family, Jean-Baptiste told Womens Wear Daily reporter Elizabeth Gladfeller. Appearances werent emphasized necessarily, but they did make an impression, she added. For a time, she considered studying for a law degree and becoming a barrister.

A Decade in Theater

Instead Jean-Baptiste became sidetracked by her love of the performing arts. She earned a degree from the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and began appearing in roles on the stage of Londons Royal National Theater; she also was cast in productions in the English cities of Manchester and Yorkshire. For a time Jean-Baptiste was a member of the Cheek by Jowl Company, and once played two roles in one work, both Mariana and Mistress Overdone in Measure for Measure. Other stage credits include Running Dream at the Theater Royal Stratford, and Ave Africa, which Jean-Baptiste both wrote and performed.

Jean-Baptistes first screen role was in the 1991 Hanif Kureishi film London Kills Me, the story of homeless teens living in Londons subway system. In 1993 she appeared back on the London stage in Its a Great Big

At a Glance

Born in London, England, c. 1967. Education: Re ceived degree from Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London, England.

Appeared in London Kills Me, 1991; first major film role, Secrets and Lies, 1995 (United Kingdom; released the following year in North America); stage credits include productions with the Cheek by Jowl Company, Theater Royal Stratford, and Royal National Theater (London); played Faith in the Mike Leigh stage play Its a Great Big Shame, 1993; also appeared on the Manchester and Yorkshire stages; wrote and performed Ave Africa; also recorded an album of blues songs; composed music for Career Girls, 1997.

Awards: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a Golden Globe award, both 1996, for Secrets and Lies.

Shame. The play was written by stage and screen director Mike Leighknown for his quirky, intense portraits of modern England and its class differencesand collaboration with his cast plays an integral part in Leighs oeuvre. In the play, Jean-Baptiste played Faith, the sister in a lower-middle-class family in Londons East End; the play contrasted the modern-day lives of her family with their apartments nineteenth-century inhabitants. Her character, wrote Ian Buruma in the New York Review of Books, clucking with disdain and parroting the language of advertising brochures, was the perfect example of a developed Leigh character.

Hortense Cumberbatchs Origins

For her next project with Leigh, Jean-Baptiste was asked to consider this premise: a black woman looks into her adoption records and discovers her birth mother was white. She then seeks her out, and her biological parent is equally astonished. Jean-Baptistes development of this character into Secrets and Liess Hortense Cumberbatch centered around the tragicomic possibilities that surface when the lives of a middle-class, educated black woman and a vulgar, chain-smoking factory worker connect. The concept behind Jean-Baptistes first major screen role was something that had been in the works for some time, she said in an interview with Cinemania Onlines Sheila Benson. Mike Leigh was sort of saying, every year, Would she look for her mother? And I would say, No, the actress said, referring to her Hortense character. So he killed her father off, and he asked again. And I said, Of course not, because her mums on her own, it would be even worse. So he killed her off as well, and said, Now, would she look? And I said, All right, now shed look, she continued.

Secrets and Liess Hortense Cumberbatch is an optometrist and the epitome of the sleek and fashionable young urban European woman. When she begins thinking about having a child of her own after her foster parents pass on, she becomes curious about her real heritage. She tracks down her birth motherwhom she already knows is of a different raceand by telephone arranges to meet with her. Leighs actors work with just a skeleton of the script, then develop the characters in workshop-type rehearsals. Initially they work one on one with Leigh, and later move to an ensemble format, but Jean-Baptiste and Brenda Blethyn, the actress who played her birth mother, had not met until the day shooting was scheduled for their first scene together outside a London Underground station. Blethyn had noticed Jean-Baptistes name on the cast list, but did not know she was blacknearly the same experience of her character Cynthia, who in the film receives a telephone call from a well-spoken young woman wishing to meet her. When the two characters met, Blethyn assumed Jean-Baptiste was part of the film crew. So when Cynthia says there has been some mistake, that was my honest reaction, Blethyn told Time film critic Richard Corliss. It wasnt acting, she added.

Film Won Critical Acclaim

After the initial shock at discovery, the film tracks the unlikely mother-daughter pair as they begin to enrich one anothers lives: Jean-Baptistes Hortense remedies some of the squalor in Cynthias life, and finds herself part of a highly dysfunctional new family; eventually Cynthias secret that was the source of so many lies is revealed. The movie debuted to British audiences in 1995 and the following year in North America, winning laudatory reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Critics lauded Jean-Baptistes cool, understatedly elegant portrayal of Hortense, and she herself had selected the clothes that emphasized her characters educated, middle-class status, in dramatic contrast to the loud, working-class chaos of Cynthias household. All the actors are so convincing that Secrets and Lies often seems like a documentary, wrote Joseph Cuneen in the National Catholic Reporter.

Secrets and Lies took home the Palme dOr at Cannes Film Festival, and the following year Jean-Baptiste was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. People are talking about the race issue in the film, of which there is none, Jean-Baptiste said in the Cinemania Online interview. Its about adoption. Its about a mother and a daughter. The bigger issue here is that these people here are related. We do, sort of, judge people by the way they dress or the way they appear. But I dont think we should. Hortense doesnt. Shes an optometrist and that isnt a coincidence. Its somebody who looks deep into other people, who has real insights, who helps other people see clearly, she continued.

Jean-Baptistes next work was composing the musical score for another Mike Leigh film, 1997s Career Girls. A jazz fan, she is also a solo vocalist who has recorded an album of blues songs. Her next screen role was opposite Annabella Sciorra and Eric Stolz in Mr. Jealousy, in production in 1997. She lives in London.

Sources

Periodicals

America, November 9, 1996, p. 22.

Entertainment Weekly, October 18, 1996, p. 58; May 2, 1997, p. 68.

Jet, March 3, 1997, p. 64.

Nation, October 7, 1996, p. 34.

National Catholic Reporter, January 17, 1997, p. 18.

New York Review of Books, January 13, 1994, pp. 7-11.

Newsweek, September 30, 1996, p. 74.

Time, September 30, 1996, p. 66.

Vibe, September 1997.

Womens Wear Daily, August 7, 1997, p. S2.

Other

Additional information for this profile was provided by a Cinemania Online interview with Sheila Benson.

Carol Brennan

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967(?) –." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967(?) –." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jean-baptiste-marianne-1967

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967(?) –." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved May 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jean-baptiste-marianne-1967

Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–

Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–

PERSONAL

Full name, Marianne Raigipcien Jean-Baptiste; born April 26, 1967, in London, England; married Evan Williams (a ballet dancer); children: two daughters. Education: Studied voice at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Avocational Interests: Jazz music.

Addresses: Agent—Elise Konialian, Untitled Entertainment, 331 North Maple Dr., Third Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

Career: Actress and composer. Performed on stage at Royal National Theatre, London, and with regional companies in Manchester and Yorkshire, England.

Awards, Honors: Academy Award nomination, best actress in a supporting role, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture, Film Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and Chlotrudis Award nomination, best supporting actress, all 1997, and Golden Palm, Cannes International Film Festival, all for Secrets & Lies; Royal Television Society Award nomination, best actor—female, 2000, for The Murder of Stephen Lawrence; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series, 2004, and Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a drama series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2006, both for Without a Trace.

CREDITS

Film Appearances:

Nanny, London Kills Me, Fine Line Features, 1991.

Hortense Cumberbatch, Secrets & Lies (also known as Secrets et mensonges), October Films, 1996.

Christina Parks, How to Make the Cruelest Month, Fugue State/Magnet Productions, 1997.

Lucretia, Mr. Jealousy, Lions Gate Releasing, 1997.

Madeline Labelle, The 24-Hour Woman, Artisan Entertainment, 1999.

Dr. Miriam Kent, The Cell, New Line Cinema, 2000.

Roshanda, 28 Days, Columbia, 2000.

Gladys Jennip, Spy Game, Universal, 2001.

Sara, Women in Film, Lions Gate Films, 2001.

Veronica, New Year's Day, Les Filmes du Losange, 2001.

Elana, Don't Explain, JB World, 2002.

Tina, Welcome to California, Form, 2005.

Lorraine, Jam, Thanksgiving Films, 2006.

Television Appearances; Series:

Vivian Johnson, Without a Trace (also known as Vanished), CBS, 2005–.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Helen (some sources cite Ellen) Coles, The Wedding (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "The Wedding"), ABC, 1998.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Doreen Lawrence, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, 1999.

Elizabeth Pope, A Murder of Crows, Cinemax, 1999.

Lynne Jacobs, Nowhere to Go (also known as Silent Hearts), Lifetime, 1999.

Michelle, The Man, 1999.

Gemma, Men Only, 2001.

Jude, Loving You (also known as The Rainbow Room), Independent Television (England), 2003.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Inside the Academy Awards, TNT, 1997.

Television Appearances; Specials:

The 69th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1997.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Marcia Reid, "Men Should Weep," Cracker (also known as Fitz), Independent Television (England), 1994.

Guest, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1997.

Vivian Johnson, "Gung-Ho," Without a Trace (also known as Vanished), CBS, 2002.

Vivian Johnson, "In Extremis," Without a Trace (also known as Vanished), CBS, 2004.

Guest, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (also known as The Late Late Show), CBS, 2005.

Stage Appearances:

Ave Africa (solo show), 1991.

Faith, It's a Great Big Shame, London, 1993.

Matilda, The Suit, Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, 1999.

The Vagina Monologues, London, 2001.

RECORDINGS

Albums; with Others:

Jason Rebello, Keeping Time, BMG/Novus, 1993.

Audiobooks; with Others:

William Shakespeare, When Love Speaks (collection of sonnets), EMI Classics, c. 2002.

WRITINGS

Film Music:

Career Girls, October Films, 1997.

Writings for the Stage:

Ave Africa (solo show), 1991.

Albums; with Others:

Jason Rebello, Keeping Time, BMG/Novus, 1993.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 46, Thomson Gale, 2005.

Periodicals:

Essence, December, 2003, pp. 146-47.

TV Guide, January 23, 2006, p. 30.

Women's Wear Daily, August 7, 1997, p. S2.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jean-baptiste-marianne-1967-1

"Jean-Baptiste, Marianne 1967–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved May 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jean-baptiste-marianne-1967-1