Joie Lee

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Joie Lee 1962(?)


At a Glance


Joie Lee first became familiar to filmgoers in her brother Spike Lees hit 1986 movie, Shes Gotta Have It, and has since appeared in three other of his acclaimed films. In Spikes films which critics have praised as stirring depictions of contemporary black societyJoie regularly portrays characters who represent a voice of conscience. Veronica Webb explained in Spin : Joies work with her brother, who is fast becoming the pope of polemics in American cinema, seems to take on the role of the benevolent black Madonna that inhabits her brothers imagination. She is the eternal incarnation of the good girl.

Joies acting style has been described as natural and refreshing; Webb calls her the Gechee woman in a head-on collision with the fly-girl. Joie has received positive notices for her film performances. She had her most major role in the 1990 film MoBetter Blues, where she played Indigo Downes, the long-suffering girlfriend of an unscrupulous jazz musician played by Denzel Washington. Lee lights up the screen with her sassy portrayal of the devoted Downes, wrote Victor Dwyer in Macleans. Hopelessly in love, but pragmatic about the prospects of convincing Gilliam to settle down, she succeeds in bringing a genuine touch of lightness to the overbearing gloom that pervades the movie.

Joie noted to Marjorie Rosen and David Hutchings in People the differences between her and Indigo. I was not raised to be someones wife. I was raised so that things should be evenly distributed. Indigo is very soft-spoken, and I can get loud. As a youth in Brooklyn, Joie was brought up in an environment that encouraged artistic development and independence. The Lee childrenfour boys and one girlwere exposed early to the arts and ideas of black culture everything from Broadway musical theater to the writings of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, reported Rosen and Hutchings.

Joies father, Bill, was a noted jazz trumpeter and composer(he wrote the score for Mo Better Blues while her mother, Jackie, was a teacher in an exclusive private school. Jackie, from whom Joie says she got her acting style, taught black pride to the Lee children. She started experimenting with African hairstyles long before anyone else did, Joie told Rosen and Hutchings. Wed walk down the street together wearing beads and cornrows.

At a Glance

First name originally Joy; changed to Joie (pronounced Zhwah); born c. 1962; grew up in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Bill (a jazz trumpeter and composer) and Jackie (a teacher) Lee; four brothers: Spike, David, Chris, Cinque. Education: Attended Sarah Lawrence College.

Actress. Appeared in Spike Lee films, Shes Gotta Have It, 1986; SchoolDaze, 1988; Do the Right Thing, 1989; and Mo Better Blues, 1990; appeared in James Dearden film, A Kiss before Dying.

Addresses: Home Brooklyn, NY.

She saw it as history, not fashion. She researched everything. People laughed at us, but it didnt matter.

Lees parents were supportive of her acting. When I was little my parents always encouraged me to act, she told Webb. They were never daunted by the fact that there were so few black images on screen. Joie hopes to forge new opportunities for black actresses. She commented to Webb: Id like to break all the standards as an actress, and as a black actress. Id like to bring a different image to the public. I want to see something other than what Ive seen. Insightful portraits of black women. Im only one person, but Id like to perform in every genre of film: sci-fi, gangster, comedy. There are so many barriers to be broken down.

In 1990, Joie acted in her first non-Spike Lee film, the murder-mystery A Kiss before Dying, starring Sean Young and Matt Dillon. I decided this would be a good time to branch out. People dont know if I can do things on my own, she told Rosen and Hutchings. In addition to more acting, Joies future plans include developing a childrens television pilot with her brother Cinque. Among her other goals in film, she told Webb: Id like to find some stability as an actress. Id like to have my own production company in the next five to ten years, a multimedia ensemble company. Id like to own the rights to a lot of things. Id like to be writing my own projects. Id really like to write something for Spike.


Jet, August 6, 1990.

Macleans, August 6, 1990.

Nation, August 13, 1990.

National Review, September 3, 1990.

People, August 27, 1990.

Spin, October 1990.

Michael E. Mueller

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Lee, Joie 1962- (Joie Susannah Lee, Joy Lee)


First name pronounced "Jwah"; original name, Joy Lee; born June 22, 1962, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of William "Bill" James Edwards (a jazz bassist, composer, and actor) and Jacquelyn (a teacher of arts and black literature; maiden name, Shelton) Lee; sister of Spike Lee (an actor, producer, director, and writer), Cinque Lee (an actor), and David Lee (a photographer). Education: Attended Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, for two years.


Agent—Don Buchwald and Associates, 6500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2200, Los Angeles, CA 90048.


Actress. Child Hoods Productions, cofounder, 1992. Member of faculty at New School, School of Visual Arts, and Black Nexxus; Actors Studio, member.


Actors' Equity Association.


Film Appearances:

Clorinda Bradford, She's Gotta Have It, Island, 1986.

Lizzie Life, School Daze, Columbia, 1988.

First customer, Coffee and Cigarettes II (short film; also known as Coffee and Cigarettes: Memphis Version), 1988.

Jade, Do the Right Thing, Universal, 1989.

Athena, Bail Jumper, Angelika, 1990.

Indigo Downes, Mo' Better Blues, Universal, 1990.

(As Joy Lee) Cathy, A Kiss Before Dying, Universal, 1991.

Lois, Fathers and Sons, Pacific Pictures, 1992.

(As Joie Susannah Lee) Aunt Maxine, Crooklyn, Universal, 1994.

(As Joie Susannah Lee) Marie, Losing Isaiah, Paramount, 1995.

(As Joie Susannah Lee) Switchboard operator, Girl 6, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1996.

Jindal, Get on the Bus, Columbia, 1996.

Joie, Nowhere Fast, 1997.

(As Joie Susannah Lee) Poet woman, Personals (also known as Hook'd Up), Unapix Entertainment, 1998.

"Bed Stuy" woman interviewee, Summer of Sam, Buena Vista, 1999.

Good twin, "Twins," Coffee and Cigarettes, United Artists, 2003.

Gloria Reid, She Hate Me, Sony Pictures Classics, 2004.

Annie, Full Grown Men, 2006.

Also appeared in What Goes Around Comes Around (short).

Film Work:

Associate producer, Crooklyn, Universal, 1994.

Producer, Nowhere Fast, 1997.

(As Joie Susannah Lee) Director and producer, Snapped (short), 2000.

Executive producer, "Jesus Children of America" (short), All the Invisible Children (also known as Les enfants invisibles), 2005.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

"The Lost Weekend," The Cosby Show, NBC, 1989.

Angela Balding, "Zero Tolerance," 100 Centre Street, Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Prison nurse, "Rotten," Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (also known as Law & Order: SVU and Special Victims Unit), 2003.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Making "Do the Right Thing," 1989.

The 19th Annual Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, syndicated, 1992.

Television Work; Movies:

Coach for Zelda Harris, Clover, 1997.

Stage Appearances:

Zora Neale Hurston and Teets, Mulebone, Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, 1991.

(As Joie Susannah Lee) The Hologram Theory, Off-Broadway production, 2000.


Music Videos:

Appeared in the Neville Brothers' "Sister Rosa."



(With Cinque Lee and Spike Lee) Crooklyn, Universal, 1994.

Snapped (short), 2000.

"Jesus Children of America" (short), All the Invisible Children (also known as Les enfants invisibles), 2005.

Television Movies:

Wrote (with Spike Lee) Flight 770 (short), BBC.

Television Pilots:

Cowrote Accidentally on Purpose, Nickelodeon.



Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2007.

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 1, Gale, 1992.