PERSONAL: Born in Wilmington, DE (some sources say Chester, PA); daughter of Charles (a jazz pianist) and Ruth Freeman; married Larry Hartley (a jazz pianist), January 27, 1996. Education: University of Delaware, B.A., 1972.
CAREER: Actress, director, and writer. Theater of the Forgotten, member of company; Shen Chen Music Festival, China, featured performer. Actress in films, including Switch, Warner Bros., 1991; Dead Again, United International Pictures, 1991; Children of the Corn III (also known as Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest), Buena Vista, 1994; and Angus (also known as Angus Voll Cool), New Line Cinema, 1995. Actress in stage productions, including Dinah Was, WPA Theatre, New York, NY, 1998; has also appeared in Elegies for Angel Punks and Raging Queens; Nunsense; Showboat; Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Member of the Wedding; The Wiz; Don't Bother Me; I Can't Cope; Voices, Inc.; Ain't Misbehavin'; and Mademoiselle Rose. Actress in television series, including (as Nurse Haleh Adams) ER, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1994, and Working, NBC, 1997-99. Actress in made-for-television movies, including Just My Imagination, NBC, 1992, and Norma Jean & Marilyn, Home Box Office, 1996. Recorded, with husband Larry Hartley, the CD A Tribute to Dinah Washington; also recorded CD Songs from the Heart.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Award; Ovation Award, L.A. Weekly, Dramalogue Award, and Obie Award for Best Actress, Village Voice, all 1998, all for Dinah Was; Storyteller Award, Hollywood Black Film Festival, 2001, for The Dream.
(And director) The Blessing Way (screenplay), 2000.
Also author of the screenplay The Dream.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A documentary about African dance in Los Angeles.
SIDELIGHTS: Actress Yvette Freeman is best known for her portrayals of Nurse Haleh Adams on the hit television show ER and of Dinah Washington in the stage production Dinah Was, but she is also a screenwriter and director. Freeman, the second oldest of seven children of jazz pianist Charles Freeman, dreamed of being a performer from a young age. She started out on stage, first performing in prisons and clubs with the Theater for the Forgotten repertory company, later moving up to performing with traveling shows, and finally performing in Ain't Misbehavin' on Broadway. In 1994, she landed her role in ER, but Freeman didn't abandon the stage. Four years later she won an Obie Award for her role in the off-Broadway show Dinah Was.
In 1999 Freeman was accepted into the Directing Workshop for Women, a very selective program run by the American Film Institute. The program is designed to increase the number of women in directorial roles in Hollywood by giving them film-making experience. She was trained in how to be a director, provided with a camera and funding, and sent out to make her film, The Blessing Way. The film tells the story of two African-American sisters with different methods for reconciling their American and African heritages. One sister, about to have her first child, has decided to give birth at home, with a midwife and an African-derived ritual ceremony; the other sister, a successful businesswoman, disapproves. Freeman explained her position on "being Afrocentric or going the 'corporate way,' the American way," as she put it, to Lynn Elber of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I don't think we should separate. I think we should include our culture and be part of this society. But you come away from the movie with the two sides of the issue, and pull from it what you want."
The Blessing Way screened at several film festivals across the country and appeared on the Showtime Channel as well. Freeman followed up with another screenplay, The Dream, about a man named Sam who wants the American Dream for his family but nearly destroys them when he tries to acquire that dream through debt and theft. That screenplay won the Storyteller Award at the 2001 Hollywood Black Film Festival. Currently Freeman is at work on another film, a documentary about African dance in Los Angeles. She told Reggie Resino of Dramatica.com how it was that she became interested in making her own films: "Years of working as a character actress on some of the top television shows and as a singer/actress in musical theatre, on Broadway and off Broadway—I realized no one knows my stories," she told Resino. "The only way for my stories to be told—is for me to tell them. So I stopped my defeating attitude of blaming 'them' for not writing about me and began to write."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 27, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 30, 1999, Lynn Elber, "Filmmaker, Blues Diva, Dinah Fan: 'ER' Star Does It All," p. C1.
Back Stage, April 10, 1998, Victor Gluck, review of Dinah Was, p. 39.
Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), June 23, 1996, "Washington State of Mind: Freeman Hits Stride on 'ER'; Now She's Belting out History," p. L3.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, December 6, 1995, Gail Shister, "'ER' Nurse Is First Series Role for Actress Yvette Freeman," p. 1206K3158.
Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1996, Susan King, "Being in the Hit TV Series 'ER' Is Nice, but Yvette Freeman Really Struck Gold, Personally and Professionally, with a Musical about Dinah Washington," p. 5.
People, October 14, 2002, Jason Lynch, "Waist Management: How Did ER Nurse Yvette Freeman Drop 117 Lbs.? By Doing Just What the Doctor Ordered," p. 99.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 24, 1998, "Will 'Working' Too Hard Put Actress in the 'ER'? She Says No: Versatile Freeman on Two TV Shows," p. B4; August 30, 1999, "Singer, Director—And Wields a Mean IV," p. D7.
Variety, April 13, 1998, Robert L. Daniels, review of Dinah Was, p. 37.
Dramatica.com,http://www.dramatica.com/ (February 13, 2003), Reggie Resino, "Believe in Yourself: An Interview with Screenwriter/Actor Yvette Freeman."
Offıcial Yvette Freeman Site,http://www.yvettefreeman.com (February 3, 2003).
Sisters in Cinema,http://www.sistersincinema.com/ (February 13, 2003), "Hollywood Black Film Festival Announces Finalists in Storyteller Competition: All Five Are Women."*