August 15, 1970 • Augusta, Maine
Actor, writer, producer
With his boyish face and gap-toothed smile, and weighing over 270 pounds, Anthony Anderson is not a typical Hollywood leading man. In fact, for most of his career he has played second banana in such films as Big Momma's House (2000), Barbershop (2002), and Kangaroo Jack (2003). In March of 2003, however, Anderson signed a deal with the Warner Brothers Network to write, produce, and star in his own TV sitcom, All About the Andersons. And in 2004 he finally came into his own, appearing in at least four major movies. In fact, most moviegoers couldn't turn around without seeing Anderson grinning down from the screen. In an interview with Anderson on the Filmcritic Web site, Sean O'Connell remarked, "Few could argue with the fact that Anderson is the hardest working young talent in show business."
Born into the business
Anthony Anderson was born on August 15, 1970, in Augusta, Maine, but was raised in Compton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. His mother, Dora, was a movie extra, so young Anthony literally grew up on film sets. By the age of five, Anderson followed in his mother's footsteps and began appearing in television commercials. He showed such promise as an actor that he attended a Los Angeles performing arts high school, where he won an award given by the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), a program sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The annual award recognizes students in grades nine through twelve "who exemplify scholastic and cultural excellence."
Anderson won the ACT-SO award for a monologue, or short speech, which he performed from the play The Great White Hope (1968), written by American playwright Howard Sackler (1929–1982). The play is based on the life of Jack Johnson (1878–1946), the first African American heavyweight-boxing champion. Jackson was portrayed by James Earl Jones (1931–) both on the stage and in the film version of the play. Anderson considers Jones to be his favorite actor, and credits him as his inspiration. "I really respect and admire his work," Anderson commented to O'Connell. "It's why I do what I do."
"This is what my energy was created to do—entertain, to have an effect on people's lives with my work."
As a result of his talent, Anderson earned a drama scholarship to attend Howard University, a prestigious African American college in Washington, D.C. It was also a result of Anderson's determination and drive, since life could have been quite different for a child raised in Compton. The suburb is known for its gang violence, and frequently makes the news for incidents of drive-by shootings and drug arrests. In a 2002 interview appearing on the Femail magazine Web site, Anderson commented, "You were either made a ward of the court, on parole, or dead at 21 if you grew up in Compton, Los Angeles."
After graduating from Howard, Anderson paid the usual dues of an actor, taking such bit parts as that of Alley Hood #2 in the 1996 television movie Alien Avengers. His work on Avengers helped land him his first major job, as a regular on the NBC morning teen sitcom Hang Time. From 1996 to 1998 Anderson played the role of Teddy Brodis, a bumbling high school basketball player. He was in his mid-twenties at the time, but with his baby face and knack for comedy, no one would have guessed it. During his Hang Time days, Anderson also popped up on other television shows, including In the House, which starred rapper LL Cool J (1968–), and on NYPD Blue.
In 1999 Anderson made the leap to the big screen in the 1930s prison comedy Life, playing opposite established stars Eddie Murphy (1961–) and Martin Lawrence (1965–). That same year he also appeared in director Barry Levinson's 1950s coming-of-age movie Liberty Heights. In 2000 Anderson had what many consider to be his breakthrough year, when he played opposite Martin Lawrence in the hit comedy Big Momma's House. He also appeared in Me, Myself, and Irene, which starred Jim Carrey (1962–), one of Hollywood's biggest box office draws. Critics claimed it was a forgettable Carrey film, but Anderson, as Carrey's son, Jamaal, drew rave reviews.
Not all of Anderson's movies were comedies. Some were dramas, like Kingdom Come (2001). Some were action films such as Romeo Must Die (2000) and Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), both starring Jet Li (1963–), and Exit Wounds (2001), a Steven Seagal (1951–) thriller. In these films Anderson usually provided the comic relief, and he was consistently singled out over the stars with bigger billing. For example, in Cradle, many reviewers felt that as Tommy, the wisecracking henchman, Anderson's acting stole the show.
Anthony Anderson at the Movies
Liberty Heights (1999).
Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000).
Romeo Must Die (2000).
Me, Myself, and Irene (2000).
Big Momma's House (2000).
3 Strikes (2000).
Two Can Play at That Game (2001).
See Spot Run (2001).
Kingdom Come (2001).
Exit Wounds (2001).
Scary Movie 3 (2003).
Malibu's Most Wanted (2003).
Kangaroo Jack (2003).
Cradle 2 the Grave (2003).
My Baby's Daddy (2004).
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004).
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004).
All American Game (2004).
King's Ransom (2005).
All about Anthony
Anderson was on a career roll, starring in at least four movies each year, beginning in 2000. The exception was 2002, when his only on-screen performance was in Barbershop. He also continued to do guest spots on television programs, including Ally McBeal and My Wife and Kids. It seemed that Anderson was everywhere and could do anything, but he was not yet a household name. In 2003 all that changed. Anderson had a blockbuster hit with the film Kangaroo Jack, and then bounced back to the small screen in a big way to write, produce, and star in his own television sitcom.
For several years Anderson had been toying with the idea of writing a television script. In March of 2003 he finally pitched his idea to Warner Brothers (WB) executives, and they loved it. Mike Clements, a WB senior vice president of development, told Leslie Ryan of Television Week that Anderson "is such an enthusiastic and energetic guy that when he was telling us these stories, well, we literally hadn't laughed like that in a really long time."
Clements also commented that the stories were so outrageous they had to be true. And, in fact, they are. All About the Andersons is about a struggling actor (played by Anderson) who, along with his young son, moves back home to live with his parents. Anderson based the idea on a period in his own life when he moved back home after graduating from college. Still jobless, he just sat around the house eating. Eventually he drove his parents crazy. His stepfather was so determined to get Anderson out of the house that he put a padlock on the refrigerator, took out all the phone jacks and installed a pay phone, and bought a coin-operated washer and dryer so that Anderson was forced to pay in order to wash his clothes.
Anderson knew these things were a bit abnormal, but he also knew they were funny. "I realized my family was funny, because nobody ever wanted to leave our house," he explained in People. After his show debuted in the fall of 2003, TV viewers were given a glimpse into Anderson's early life, and they agreed with him: his family was hilarious. Critics, however, wrote mixed reviews. In particular, some felt that the relationship between Anderson's character and his on-screen father, played by veteran actor John Amos (1941–), was sometimes a bit harsh for a family comedy. In general, though, Anderson received applause for his acting and most agreed that All About the Andersons showed great potential. However, the show was cancelled in April of 2004.
A long way from Compton
In 2004 Anderson continued juggling his time between TV and film. He costarred in several movies, including Agent Cody Banks 2 with teen actor Frankie Muniz (1985–). In Agent Cody he played Derek, the wisecracking handler of the young secret agent. He also finished work on King's Ransom, the first movie in which Anderson took top billing. It seemed that the big man with the big potential was finally coming into his own.
What are his future plans? Although he admitted in People that "comedy is second nature for me," Anderson has also noted that he is eager to take on more dramatic roles. He also plans to balance out his movie choices by appearing in some movies that are family friendly and some that are more edgy. He explained to Julia Roman on the Latino Review Web site, "It's good making films that my family can sit back and enjoy." Anderson and his wife, Alvina, who was his college sweetheart, have two children, Kyra and Nathan.
Anderson also has plans to act on the stage, and hopes one day to do some stand-up comedy. The multitalented actor has come a long way from Compton, and there seems to be no stopping him. As busy as he is, Anderson frequently takes time out to visit his old school and talk to kids about what they can accomplish. As reported on the Femail Web site, he has urged young people to "set your seights on more than what you see around you, see beyond." Better than the message is Anderson himself, who is living proof that big dreams can become a reality.
For More Information
Kelleher, Terry. "All About the Andersons." People (October 27, 2003): p. 36.
Ryan, Leslie. "The Gonzo Life of Mr. Anderson." Television Week (April 28, 2003): p. 10.
Speier, Michael. "All About the Andersons." Daily Variety (September 10, 2003): pp. 50–51.
"Anthony Anderson Interview." Femail.com. http://www.femail.com.au/ma_anthonyanderson.htm (accessed on April 1, 2004).
"ACT-SO." NAACP.org. http://www.naacp.org/work/actso/act-so.shtml (accessed on April 2, 2004).
O'Connell, Sean. "Grave Discussions: Talking With Anthony Anderson." Filmcritic.com. http://www.filmcritic.com/misc/emporium.nsf/0/b130b479fe49434108256ccb0019880b?OpenDocument (accessed on April 1, 2004).
Roman, Julia. "My Baby's Daddy: Interview With Anthony Anderson." Latino Review. http://www.latinoreview.com/films_2004/miramax/mydaddysbaby/anthony-interview.html (accessed on April 2, 2004).
One of the fastest-rising African-American comic actors of the early 2000s was Anthony Anderson, who broke through to fame in 2000 with roles in the hit films Big Momma's House and Me, Myself & Irene. Following in the footsteps of other modern comedians such as Bernie Mac, he created comic situations modeled closely on his own life and experiences; his television series All About the Andersons (2003) drew on his relationship to his family. With his friendly, quick-witted image and his strong feel for the comedy inherent in family relationships, Anderson became a familiar face even to casual film and television fans.
Born in Los Angeles on August 15, 1970, Anderson grew up in the tough but culturally fertile suburb of Compton, California. He was born into the acting life; his mother Doris was a telephone operator and an aspiring actress who had roles as an extra in such films as Uptown Saturday Night, and she put her son on stage in a play while he was still a baby. The strong male figure in Anderson's life was his stepfather Sterling Bowman, the owner of a chain of stores with clothes for plus-sized women. "For my sixth birthday my biological father said he was going to bring me a bike but never did," Anderson recalled to Jeannine Amber of Essence. "So my real daddy went out and got me one. That's my dad."
Saw Mother Perform in Play
Anderson appeared in a television commercial at the age of five, and soon his mother inspired him to pursue acting as a career. "I remember sitting in Compton Community College...in their theater at nine years old and my mother was doing a production of A Raisin in the Sun... man, and it just hit me," he told interviewer Tavis Smiley of National Public Radio. "I was like, you know what, that's what I'm going to do for the rest of my life." Anderson attended a performing arts high school and went on with the help of a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C. One of his classmates at Howard was comedian Marlon Wayans.
After graduating from Howard, Anderson returned to the Los Angeles area and moved back in with his mother and stepfather—much to their displeasure, for they had told Anderson and his siblings that they needed to plan to be out on their own after they turned 18. Anderson's stepfather pushed him gradually in the direction of independence, providing him with a rich source of future comic material in the process. He installed a pay telephone and a coin-operated washer and dryer in his own home, forcing the young graduate to end his freeloading when it came to phone calls and laundry. The hope was that Anderson would join the family clothing business, but when he refused and got a job in a mall instead, his stepfather padlocked the household refrigerator. "That's how my father systematically tried to get me out of the house," Anderson explained to TelevisionWeek.
Television Career Grew
Gradually, Anderson got his life in gear and began pursuing performance opportunities. His career began with small television roles, including one on the UPN series In the House in 1995. He had a recurring role as Theodore "Teddy" Brodis on NBC's Hang Time from 1996 to 1998, and he garnered roles in episodes of such top-rated series as NYPD Blue and Ally McBeal. In 1999 Anderson broke into films with a small role in the Martin Lawrence-and-Eddie Murphy comedy Life. Film roles followed thick and fast after that, with the actor showing his range by appearing in non-comic roles like one in the martial-arts Shakespeare adaptation Romeo Must Die. He had his first starring role in the Martin Lawrence comedy Big Momma's House (2000).
Top-notch slapstick turns in several huge comedy hits over the next few years made Anderson a familiar face among both industry people and audiences. He appeared opposite Jim Carrey as one of triplet sons of Carrey's split-personality character in Me, Myself & Irene, and in Barbershop (2002) he played one of a hapless pair of thieves who steal an automatic teller machine but then find that it becomes an enormous millstone as they struggle to move it from place to place. Anderson functioned well in the flourishing African-American ensemble film genre, taking a turn in the funeral-themed comedy-drama Kingdom Come.
The year 2003 brought Anderson, whose friends call him "Ant," no fewer than four film parts, including his first lead role, in Kangaroo Jack. That comedy featured Anderson as one of a pair of friends who try to recover $50,000 in an envelope lost to an aggressive kangaroo in Australia; it received generally lukewarm reviews but topped American box-office lists for a week. Anderson also appeared that year in Cradle 2 the Grave, Scary Movie 3, and the hip-hop spoof Malibu's Most Wanted.
Pay Phone Resurfaced as Gag
Meanwhile, Anderson and writing partner Adam Glass had been working on a big leap back into the world of television for the portly 270-pound actor: an idea and then a pilot episode for a weekly sitcom, starring Anderson and based in large part on his own experiences after he moved back in with his parents after college. Finally, after three years of meetings, the WB network signed on and premiered All About the Andersons in 2003. The pay phone and padlocked refrigerator resurfaced as plot elements in the show, although new characters (such as an eight-year-old son) were introduced and other details altered. Critics and audiences gravitated toward Anderson's enthusiastic personality, but the series suffered from uneven scripts. People opined that "the show gets close to a kind of truth that it's not really brave enough to confront," and it was canceled after a year.
Anderson bounced back easily, starring in the films Hustle & Flow and My Baby's Daddy, and signing on to appear in at least 10 episodes of a crime drama, The Shield, on the FX cable network in 2005. That marked a new challenge for the actor; he was set to take on his first dramatic television role, as a former drug dealer whose claims to have reformed were questionable. Happily married with two daughters and a son, Anderson was an unlikely candidate for the Hollywood rumor mill, and a rape charge leveled against the actor by a Memphis woman in 2004 was thrown out by a judge who termed the accuser's testimony some of the most suspicious he had ever heard. Continuing to expand his reach and hone his technique, Anderson seemed set to remain a fixture of both large and small screens in years to come.
At a Glance...
Born August 15, 1970, in Los Angeles, CA; married; children: two daughters and one son. Education: Howard University, Washington, DC.
Career: Actor, 1996–.
Selected awards: Acapulco Black Film Festival, Rising Star Award, 2001.
Addresses: Agent— William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90212.
Liberty Heights, 1999.
Romeo Must Die, 1999.
Big Momma's House, 2000.
Me, Myself & Irene, 2000.
Kingdom Come, 2001.
Two Can Play That Game, 2001.
Exit Wounds, 2001.
Kangaroo Jack, 2002.
Scary Movie 3, 2003.
Malibu's Most Wanted, 2003.
Cradle 2 the Grave, 2003.
My Baby's Daddy, 2003.
Hustle & Flow, 2004.
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, 2004.
King's Ransom, 2005.
Hang Time, 1996-98.
All About the Andersons, 2003.
The Shield, 2005.
Chicago Sun-Times, January 22, 2003, p. 50.
Daily News (Los Angeles), September 12, 2003, p. U30.
Essence, March 2004, p. 128.
Jet, February 3, 2003, p. 54; October 25, 2004, p.35.
People, October 27, 2003, p. 36; November 17, 2003, p. 120.
TelevisionWeek, April 28, 2003, p. 10.
Toronto Sun, October 23, 2003, p. 78.
Variety, January 12, 2005, p. 14.
"Anthony Anderson," All Movie Guide, http://www.allmovie.com (March 1, 2005).
—James M. Manheim
Anderson, Anthony 1970–
ANDERSON, Anthony 1970–
Born August 15, 1970, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Doris Bowman (a telephone operator and actress); stepson of Sterling Bowman (an owner of a chain of clothing stores); married Alvina (a homemaker), 1995; children: Kyra, Nathan, some sources cite another daughter. Education: Howard University, B.A., theatre; attended Los Angeles High School for the Arts.
Addresses: Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Manager—Principato/Young Management, 9465 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 880, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Actor. With Adam Glass, principal of A Squared. Appeared in television commercials. Worked in retail.
Awards, Honors: Rising Star Award, Acapulco Black Film Festival, 2001; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2002, for Two Can Play That Game; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture, 2003, for Barbershop; Teen Choice Award nomination, choice movie actor—comedy, 2003, for Kangaroo Jack; Teen Choice Award nomination, choice television actor—comedy, 2004, for All about the Andersons; Black Movie Award, best supporting actor, 2005, and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, 2006, both for Hustle & Flow.
Cookie, Life, Universal, 1999.
Scribbles, Liberty Heights, Warner Bros., 1999.
Jamaal Baileygates, Me, Myself & Irene, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.
Maurice, Romeo Must Die, Warner Bros., 2000.
Nolan, Big Momma's House (also known as Big Mamas Haus), Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.
Stan, Urban Legends: The Final Cut (also known as Legendes urbaines: La suite, Legendes urbaines 2, and Leyendas urbanas: Corte final), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2000.
Benny, See Spot Run, Warner Bros., 2001.
Junior Slocumb, Kingdom Come, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2001.
T. K. Johnson, Exit Wounds, Warner Bros., 2001.
Tony, Two Can Play That Game (also known as How to Make Your Man Behave in 10 Days … or Less), Screen Gems, 2001.
J. D., Barbershop, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2002.
Louis Booker, Kangaroo Jack, Warner Bros., 2003.
Mahalik, Scary Movie 3, Dimension Films, 2003.
P. J., Malibu's Most Wanted, Warner Bros., 2003.
Tommy, Cradle 2 the Grave, Warner Bros., 2003.
Burger Shack employee, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (also known as Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies), New Line Cinema, 2004.
Derek, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (also known as Agent Cody Banks 2), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2004.
G, My Baby's Daddy, Miramax, 2004.
Key (Clyde), Hustle & Flow, MTV Films, 2005.
Malcolm King, King's Ransom, New Line Cinema, 2005.
Voice of Detective Bill Stork, Hoodwinked (animated; also known as Hoodwinked! The True Story of Red Riding Hood), The Weinstein Company, 2005.
Brown, The Departed, Warner Bros., 2006.
Jay, The Last Stand, 2006.
Television Appearances; Series:
Theodore "Teddy" Brodis, Hang Time, NBC, 1996–98.
Anthony Anderson, All about the Andersons, The WB, 2003–2004.
Antwon Mitchell, The Shield (also known as The Barn and Rampart), FX Channel, beginning 2005.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Second alley hood, Alien Avengers (also known as Roger Corman Presents "Alien Avengers" and Welcome to Planet Earth), Showtime, 1996.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Himself, The Osbourne Family Christmas Special, MTV, 2003.
Host, Outrageous Halloween Outtakes, The WB, 2003.
The Sixth Annual Sears Soul Train Christmas Starfest, UPN, 2003.
Himself, TV's Illest Minority Moments Presented by Ego Trip, VH1, 2004.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The Ninth Annual Lady of Soul Train Awards, The WB, 2003.
Himself, BET Comedy Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2004.
Himself, Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards '04, Nickelodeon, 2004.
Himself, The Black Movie Awards, TNT, 2005.
Host, The Third Annual Vibe Awards on UPN, UPN, 2005.
VH1 Hip Hop Honors, VH1, 2005.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Eddie, "Nanna Don't Play," In the House, UPN, 1995.
Mickey "Wah-Hee-Who-Ha" Williams, "Gettin' Off Easy Reunion," Night Stand with Dick Dietrick (also known as Night Stand), syndicated, 1996.
Snax, "Close Encounters of the Worst Kind," In the House, UPN, 1996.
Sonny, High Incident, ABC, c. 1996.
Vondell, "Weaver of Hate," NYPD Blue, ABC, 1998.
Lee Lee, "The Sweet Hell of Success," Malcolm & Eddie, UPN, 1999.
Himself, "Romeo Must Die," HBO First Look, HBO, 2000.
Matthew, "The Oddball Parade," Ally McBeal, Fox, 2000.
Matthew, "Prime Suspect," Ally McBeal, Fox, 2000.
Himself, "Scene Stealers Edition," Weakest Link, NBC, 2001.
Dr. Bouche, "Thru Thick and Thin," My Wife and Kids, ABC, 2001.
Dr. Bouche, "The Whole World Is Watching," My Wife and Kids, ABC, 2001.
Himself, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2001.
Mad TV, Fox, 2002, 2003.
Himself, JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment (also known as The Jamie Kennedy Experiment and JKX), The WB, 2003.
Guest host, The Sharon Osbourne Show (also known as Sharon), syndicated, 2003.
Host, Pepsi Smash, The WB, 2003.
Guest cohost, Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC, 2003, 2004.
Himself, Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC, 2003, 2004, 2005.
Himself, Chappelle's Show, Comedy Central, 2004.
Himself, Living It Up! With Ali and Jack, NBC, 2004.
Himself, On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, syndicated, 2004.
Himself, The Sharon Osbourne Show (also known as Sharon), syndicated, 2004.
Himself, Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2004.
Himself, Tinseltown TV, International Channel, 2004.
Himself, Total Request Live (also known as TRL and Total Request with Carson Daly), MTV, 2004.
Himself, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2004.
Guest cohost, The Sharon Osbourne Show (also known as Sharon), syndicated, 2004.
Himself, Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2004, 2005.
Himself, "Neighbors," Entourage, HBO, 2005.
Himself, "Tournament 6, Game 4," Celebrity Poker Showdown, Bravo, 2005.
Bryan, "Father Knows Best," The Bernie Mac Show, Fox, 2005.
Bryan, "Pop Pop Goes the Weasel," The Bernie Mac Show, Fox, 2005.
Percy "Bone" Hamilton, "Lord of the Bling," Veronica Mars, UPN, 2005.
Himself, Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2005.
Himself, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2005.
Himself, 106 and Park (also known as 106 & Park: BET's Top 10 Live), Black Entertainment Television, 2005.
Himself, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2005.
Himself, Weekends at the DL, Comedy Central, multiple episodes in 2005.
Appeared in episodes of other series.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Thomas "Bear" Powell, Homewood P.I., CBS, 2000.
Anthony Anderson, All about the Andersons, The WB, 2003.
Television Work; Series:
Creator and producer, All about the Andersons, The WB, 2003–2004.
Appeared in radio programs.
Himself, Making "Scary Movie 3" (documentary), Dimension Home Video, 2004.
All about the Andersons, The WB, episodes beginning c. 2003.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 51, Thomson Gale, 2005.
Cinefantastique, October, 2000.
Essence, March, 2004, p. 128.
People Weekly, November 17, 2003, p. 120.
USA Today, April 19, 2005, p. 2D.