David, Keith 1956(?)–
DAVID, Keith 1956(?)–
Full name, Keith David Williams; born June 4, 1956 (some sources say May 8, 1954), in New York, NY; son of Lester and Delores (maiden name, Dickenson) Williams; married Margit Edwards, September 22, 1990 (divorced). Education: High School of Performing Arts, graduated, 1973; Juilliard School, B.F.A., 1979; studied acting at the Edith Skinner Institute and with the La Mama Repertory Company.
Agent—Abrams Artists Agency, 9200 Sunset Blvd., 11th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90069; Innovative Artists, 1505 10th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401. Manager—Sneak Preview Entertainment, 6705 Sunset Blvd., 2nd Floor, Hollywood, CA 90028.
Actor and producer. Skinner Institute for Speech, certified instructor, 1982–?; Roar of the Lion, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, president, 1990–?; appeared in television commercials for Wisk Laundry Detergent, 2001, Chevrolet, 2001, U.S. Navy, 2001, UPS, 2002, AT&T, 2002, X–box, 2002—, BMW, 2003, and U.S. Navy Recruiting, 2003–04; provides voice for many commercials for TNT and TBS.
Screen Actors Guild, Actors' Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1982, for The Thing; Sinclair Bayfield Award, Actors' Equity Association, best Shakespearean performance, 1989, for Coriolanus; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best supporting actor in a musical, 1992, for Jelly's Last Jam; NAACP Theatre Award, best actor, 1996, for Seven Guitars; Daytime Emmy Award nomination, outstanding performer in a children's special, 1999, for The Tiger Woods Story; Emmy Award nomination (with others), outstanding nonfiction series, 2001, for Jazz.
(Uncredited) Club patron, Disco Godfather (also known as Avenging Disco Godfather and Avenging Godfather), Active Home Video, 1979.
Childs, The Thing (also known as John Carpenter's "The Thing"), Universal, 1982.
King, Platoon, Orion, 1986.
Alphonso, Hot Pursuit (also known as Perscucion intensa), Paramount, 1987.
Buster Franklin, Bird, Warner Bros., 1988.
Frank, They Live (also known as John Carpenter's "They Live" and They Live!), Universal, 1988.
Embassy gate captain, Braddock: Missing in Action III (also known as Braddock: An American M.I.A., Missing in Action III and Braddock: Missing in Action), Cannon Releasing, 1988.
Maurice, Off Limits (also known as Saigon), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1988.
Teagarden, Stars and Bars, Columbia, 1988.
Ernie Bass, Road House, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists, 1989.
Powerhouse, Always, Universal, 1990.
Will, Hallelujah Anyhow, 1990.
Max, Marked for Death (also known as Screwface), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1990.
Louis Fedders, Men at Work, Triumph Releasing, 1990.
Loach, The Two Jakes, Paramount, 1990.
(English version) Voice of Mama, Sazan aizu (animated; also known as 3x3 Eyes and Sazan Eyes), 1991.
Luther Jerome, Article 99, Orion, 1992.
Detective Huggins, Final Analysis, Warner Bros., 1992.
Tommy Lang, Caged Fear, New Line Home Video, 1992.
Harry Young, Desperate Motive (also known as Distant Cousins), New Line Cinema, 1993.
Roger, Reality Bites, Universal, 1994.
Alex Holland, Robert A. Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters" (also known as The Puppet Masters), Buena Vista, 1994.
Bone Babancourt, Temptation, Live Home Video, 1994.
Mace, Raw Justice, Republic Pictures, 1994.
Jack Parkman, Major League II, Warner Bros., 1994.
Voice of Goliath, Gargoyles: The Heroes Awaken (animated), Buena Vista, 1994.
Kansas, Notes in a Minor Key (short film), Buena Vista, 1994.
Sergeant Cantrell, The Quick and the Dead, TriStar, 1995.
Kirby, Dead Presidents, Buena Vista, 1995.
Jackie, Blue in the Face (also known as Brooklyn Boogie), Miramax, 1995.
Andre the Giant, Clockers, Universal, 1995.
Voice of narrator, Yellowstone: Realm of the Coyote (documentary), 1995.
Stylist #1, Loose Women, 1996.
The priest, The Grave, New City Releasing, 1996.
Martin, An Eye for an Eye, Paramount, 1996.
Hurst, Larger than Life, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists, 1996.
Larry, Never Met Picasso, Turbulent Arts, 1996.
Homeless John, Johns, First Look Pictures Releasing, 1996.
Leo Richards, gang leader, Flipping, Dove International, 1997.
Police Lieutenant Ed Fox, Volcano, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1997.
Voice of Apollo the Sun God, Hercules (animated), Buena Vista, 1997.
(English version) Voice of Okkoto, Mononoke–hime (animated; also known as Princess Mononoke), Miramax, 1997.
Lamar, Executive Target, New City Releasing, 1997.
Voice of Goliath, Gargoyles: The Hunted (animated), 1998.
Voice of Goliath, Gargoyles: The Force of Goliath (animated), 1998.
Voice of Goliath, Gargoyles: Deeds of Deception (animated), 1998.
Voice of Goliath, Gargoyles: Brothers Betrayed (animated), 1998.
Lieutenant General Kimsey, Armageddon, Buena Vista, 1998.
Charlie Jensen, There's Something about Mary (also known as There's Something More about Mary), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1998.
Detective Davis, Dark Summer (also known as Innocents), Deal, 1999.
Voice of Spawn, Spawn 3: Ultimate Battle (animated), 1999.
Abu "Imam" al–Walid, Pitch Black (also known as The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black), USA Films, 2000.
Moses Whitecotten, Where the Heart Is, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2000.
Big Tim, Requiem for a Dream (also known as Delusion Over Addiction), Artisan Entertainment, 2000.
Lindell, The Replacements, Warner Bros., 2000.
The king, G Spots? (short film), 2001.
Voice of council member #1, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (animated; also known as Fainaru fantaji), Columbia, 2001.
Matador, Home Invaders, Castle Hill, 2001.
Detective Lunt, Novocaine, Artisan Entertainment, 2001.
Mervin, Hung–Up (short film), 2002.
The sheriff, 29 Palms, Artisan Entertainment, 2002.
Lester Wallace, Barbershop, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2002.
CIA director, Agent Cody Banks (also known as L'agent Cody Banks), Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2003.
Bernard Cooper, Head of State, DreamWorks Distribution, 2003.
(English version) Voice of Preast, Kaena: La prophetie (animated; also known as Kaena: The Prophecy), Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2003.
Leon, Hollywood Homicide, Columbia, 2003.
CIA director, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2004.
Abu "Imam" al–Walid, The Chronicles of Riddick (also known as The Chronicles of Riddick: The Director's Cut), Universal, 2004.
Voice of Abu "Imam" al–Walid, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (animated short film), Universal Home Video, 2004.
Narrator, Creature Feature: 50 Years of the Gill–Man (documentary), 2004.
Narrator, Beef 2, 2004.
Lieutenant Dixon, Crash, Lions Gate Films, 2004.
Father, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2005.
The Transporter 2, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2005.
Coach, The OH in Ohio, 2005.
Spain, Dirty, 2005.
Minister, The Sensei, 2005.
Black Theater Today: 2005 (documentary), 2005.
Creature Feature: 50 Years of the Gill–Man (documentary), 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
Keith the Southwood carpenter, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, PBS, 1983–85.
Voice of Minos, Aladdin (animated; also known as Disney's "Aladdin"), CBS, 1994.
Voices of Goliath, Officer Morgan, and Thailog, Gargoyles (animated), syndicated, 1994.
Voice of Goliath, Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles (animated), ABC, 1996.
Voice of Spawn, Spawn (animated; also known as Todd McFarlane's "Spawn"), HBO, 1997.
Voice of Mufasa, House of Mouse (animated), ABC, 2001.
Lieutenant Williams, The Job, ABC, 2001.
Voice, PBS Hollywood Presents, PBS, 2001.
Announcer, In the Jury Room, ABC, 2004.
Clarence, The Big House, ABC, 2004.
Narrator, City Confidential, Arts and Entertainment, 2004—.
Judge, Ultimate Film Fanatic, Independent Film Channel, 2005.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Roots: The Next Generations, ABC, 1979.
Voice, Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony (documentary), PBS, 1999.
Voice, New York: A Documentary Film (documentary; also known as American Experience: New York—A Documentary Film), PBS, 1999.
Narrator, Jazz (documentary), PBS, 2001.
Himself, I Love the '90s (documentary), VH1, 2004.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Chorus, The Pirates of Penzance, 1980.
Abe Nicholson, Ladykillers, ABC, 1988.
Martin Stover, Murder in Black and White (also known as Janek: Cause of Death), CBS, 1990.
Noah Owens, Nails, Showtime, 1992.
Lovecraft, The Last Outlaw, HBO, 1993.
John Paul Rivers, "There Are No Children Here," ABC Theater, ABC, 1993.
Warren Taft, Vanishing Point, Fox, 1997.
Algric Bartles, Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest, CBS, 1997.
Herbet Muhammad, Don King: Only in America, HBO, 1997.
Earl Woods, The Tiger Woods Story, Showtime, 1998.
FBI Director Richard Long, A.T.F., ABC, 1999.
Gunnery Sargent Brinkloff, Semper Fi, NBC, 2001.
Detective Charles Desett, Pretty When You Cry, HBO, 2001.
Also appeared in Christmas in Tattertown.
Television Appearances; Specials:
"Jammin': Jelly Roll Morton on Broadway," Great Performances, PBS, 1992.
Big Willie Thornton, "Hallelujah," American Playhouse, PBS, 1993.
Narrator, "Jewels of the Caribbean Sea," National Geographic Specials, PBS, 1994.
Narrator, "Lions of Darkness," Into Africa (documentary), TBS, 1994.
Narrator, Wildlife Warriors (documentary), NBC, 1996.
Narrator, Discovery Channel Eco–Challenge (documentary), The Discovery Channel, 1998.
Narrator, Walking with Giants: The Grizzlies of Siberia (documentary), PBS, 1999.
Voice, Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony (documentary), PBS, 1999.
Narrator, Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hollywood Hero (documentary), The Learning Channel, 1999.
Narrator, Jackals of the African Crater (documentary), PBS, 2000.
Narrator, Silent Service (documentary), History Channel, 2001.
Narrator, Golden Seals of the Skeleton Closet (documentary), PBS, 2001.
Narrator, Boxing: In and Out of the Ring (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2001.
Narrator, Mark Twain (documentary), PBS, 2001.
Narrator, Mole People: Life in the World Below (documentary), The Discovery Channel, 2002.
Narrator, Egypt's Golden Empire (documentary), PBS, 2002.
Narrator, Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked (documentary), History Channel, 2003.
Narrator, Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (documentary), PBS, 2003.
Narrator, Tomb Raider: Robbing the Dead (documentary), History Channel, 2004.
Narrator, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (documentary), PBS, 2004.
Narrator, The Last Stand of the Great Bear (documentary), 2004.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
U.S. attorney, The Adversaries, NBC, 1998.
Miss Miami, NBC, 2002.
Dope, NBC, 2002.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Roman Criston, "Sea of Fire," The Equalizer, CBS, 1988.
Jesse Turner, "Vendetta," A Man Called Hawk, ABC, 1989.
King Oliver, "Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues," The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, ABC, 1993.
Voice of himself, "Following the Drinking Gourd," Rainbow Reading, PBS, 1993.
Narrator, "Lions of Darkness," a segment of "Into Africa," National Geographic Explorer, TBS, 1994.
Voice of Black Panther and T'Challa, "Prey of the Black Panther," The Fantastic Four (animated), syndicated, 1995.
Reverend Harris, "A Time of Faith: Parts 1 & 2," New York Undercover, Fox, 1996.
Voice of Apollo, "Hercules and the Apollo Mission," Hercules (animated), syndicated, 1998.
Ian Merit, "Abandon," The Outer Limits, Showtime and syndicated, 2000.
Robertson, "Bronx Cheer," Law & Order, NBC, 2001.
Paradise, "I Know Why the Caged Rhino Sings," Going to California, Showtime, 2001.
Voice, "Tarzan and the Enemy Within," The Legend of Tarzan (animated), UPN and syndicated, 2001.
Voice, "Tarzan and the Caged Fury," The Legend of Tarzan (animated), UPN and syndicated, 2001.
Voice, "Tarzan and Tublat's Revenge," The Legend of Tarzan (animated), UPN and syndicated, 2001.
Himself, "Charlie Sheen," Revealed with Jules Asner, E! Entertainment Television, 2002.
Cecil Pickett, "Standards and Practices," Arli$$, HBO, 2002.
Matt Phelps, "Random Acts of Violence," CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as C.S.I.), CBS, 2003.
Voice of Despero, "Hearts and Minds: Parts 1 & 2," Justice League (animated), Cartoon Network, 2003.
Voice of Atlas, "Only Human," Teen Titans (animated), Cartoon Network, 2004.
Himself, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2004.
Himself, The Sharon Osbourne Show, syndicated, 2004.
Voice of Guardian of the Trees, "The Quest," Teen Titans (animated), Cartoon Network, 2005.
Lloyd Mackie, "Winning a Battle, Losing the War," Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 2005.
Also appeared as Lou, "Honor," Tribeca, Fox; voice of Black Panther, Marvel Action Hour: Iron Man (animated); voice of Agent Mosely, Spider–Man: The Animated Series (animated).
(Stage debut) Understudy for title role, Othello, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre, New York City, 1979.
Coriolanus, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre, 1979.
Mother Courage and Her Children, Center Stage, Baltimore, MD, 1979.
The Haggadah: A Passover Cantata, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, New York City, 1980.
Pirate, policeman, and understudy for Pirate King, The Pirates of Penzance, Delacorte Theatre, 1980–81.
Pozzo, Waiting for Godot, Public Theatre, New York City, 1981.
Theseus and Oberon, A Midsummer Night's Dream, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1981.
Mahalia, Hartman Theatre, Stamford, CT, 1981.
Alec Wilder: Clues to a Life, Vineyard Theatre, New York City, 1982.
Earl Dancer and narrator, Miss Waters, to You, AMAS Repertory Theatre, New York City, 1982.
The Fantasticks, Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester, MI, 1983.
Macbeth, The Threepenny Opera, Alliance Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA, 1984.
Colline, La Boheme, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1984.
A Map of the World, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1985.
Blue Heaven, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, Ford's Theatre, Washington, DC, then Negro Ensemble Company, New York City, both 1985.
Dr. Mo, The Tale of Madame Zora, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York City, 1986.
Ben, Africanis Instructus, St. Clement's Church Theatre, New York City, 1986.
Shakespeare on Broadway for the Schools, New York Shakespeare Festival, Belasco Theatre, New York City, 1986.
Fragments of a Greek Trilogy, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, New York City, 1987.
Tullus Aufidius, Coriolanus, New York Shakespeare Festival, Anspacher Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 1988.
Aaron, the Moor, Titus Andronicus, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre, 1989.
Chimney man, Jelly's Last Jam, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles, 1990–91, then Virginia Theatre, New York City, 1992.
Morton, With Salt, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Music Center, 1991.
Boesman, Boesman and Lena, Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I, New York City, 1992.
Judge Brack, Hedda Gabler, Roundabout Theatre, New York City, 1994.
Cole, Henry Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, 1994.
Royd Barton, Seven Guitars, Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City, 1996.
Leontes, The Winter's Tale, Delacorte Theatre, 2000.
Macbeth, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ, 2000.
Kit Marlowe, Joseph Papp Public Theatre, New York City, 2000.
Title role, Othello, Joseph Papp Public Theatre, 2001.
Nativity: A Life Story, United Palace Theatre, New York City, 2002, 2003.
Master Harold … and the boys, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, 2004.
Michael, The Fourposter, Contemporary Theatre Company, Wilmington, DE, 2005.
Desire Under the Elms, The Vineyard Theatre, New York City, 2005.
The Rage of Achilles, 92nd Street Y, New York City, 2005.
Along Came a Spider, 1993.
Voice of Decker, Fallout: A Post–Nuclear Role–Playing Game (also known as Fallout), Interplay Productions, 1997.
Voice of Vhailor, Planescape: Torment, 1999.
Voice of Lord Vekk, Lords of Everquest, Sony Online Entertainment, 2003.
Voice of Arbiter, Halo 2, 2004.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 27, Gale Group, 2001.
Essence, May, 1992, p. 52.
"David, Keith 1956(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/david-keith-1956
"David, Keith 1956(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/david-keith-1956
Modern Language Association
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American Psychological Association
David, Keith 1954–
Keith David 1954–
Keith David is a versatile actor whose wide-ranging list of credits includes the films There’s Something About Mary;, Armageddon, and Platoon, the Broadway musical Jelly’s Last Jam, and numerous Shakespearean parts in Off-Broadway productions. “I’m an actor with a real hunger for the theater, but I also enjoy moving from one genre to another,” David told D. Thigpen of Essence. Ann Brown of Black Elegance called David “really more of an actor’s actor than a want-to-be-superstar.”
Keith David was born Keith David Williams in Harlem in 1954, and was brought up in the Elmhurst section of Queens. David was inspired to become an actor by the programs he saw on television, especially older material such as the Little Rascals comedy serial and the James Cagney movie Angels with Dirty Faces. Another significant experience leading David to acting came at age nine when he played the Cowardly Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz.
As a teenager David attended New York’s prestigious High School for the Performing Arts and sang in a city-wide boys’ choir. After finishing high school he moved on to the Juilliard School, a music and drama conservatory in Manhattan, where he received rigorous training in classical acting. “I love classic plays, the kind of stuff you don’t get to say every day,” David told Thigpen.
In 1979, soon after earning his bachelor’s of fine arts degree, David, who had dropped his last name Williams because there was already another Keith Williams on the Actor’s Equity list, landed his first professional role when he was cast as the understudy to actor Robert Christian in the role of Tullus Aufidius in Coriolanus at the New York Shakespeare Festival. The production starred Morgan Freeman and Gloria Foster. Over the next decade, David was a mainstay at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Founded by the legendary producer Joseph Papp and operating out of the open-air Delacorte Theatre in Central Park and the Public Theater in Lower Manhattan, the Festival is one of New York’s most powerful producing organizations and offers wide array of plays in addition to Shakespearean works. Festival productions in which David appeared include The Haggadah: A Passover Cantata, The Pirates of Penzance, a highly publicized mounting of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta starring
At a Glance…
Born Keith David Williams on June 4, 1954 in New York City; son of Lester and Delores (Dickenson) Williams; married Margit Edwards (an actress), 1990. Education: High School of the Performing Arts, New York City, class of 1973; Juilliard School of Music and Drama, New York City, B.F.A., 1979; also studied acting at the Edith Skinner Institute and the La Mama Repertory Company, New York City.
Career: Stage appearances include Pirates of Penzance, 1980; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1981; Map of the World, 1985; Coriolanus, 1988; Titus Andronicus, 1989; Jelly’s Last Jam, Los Angeles, 1990-91, NYC, 1992; Boesman and Lena, NYC, 1992; Hedda Gabler, NYC, 1994; Kit Marlowe, NYC, 2000. Films include The Thing, 1982; Platoon, 1986; They Live, 1988; Road House, 1989; Always, 1990; Men at Work, 1990; The Two Jakes, 1990; Article 99, 1992; Final Analysis, 1992; Reality Bites, 1994; Major League II, 1994; The Quick and the Dead, 1995; Dead Presidents, 1995; Clockers, 1995; High Incident (TV), 1996; Flipping, 1997; Armageddon, 1998; There’s Something About Mary, 1999; The Tiger Woods Story, (TV) 2000; Pitch Black, 2000; Where the Heart Is, 2000; The Replacements, 2000. TVroles include: Roots II: The Next Generation, 1979; “There Are No Children Hete,” ABC, 1993; The Equalizer, A Man Called Hawk Narration work includes Spawn, HBO; Gargoyles, Disney.
Awards: Actor’s Equity’s Sinclair Bayfield Award for Coriolanus, 1989; Tony Award nominee, Jelly’s Last Jam, 1992; Daytime Emmy Award nominee, The Tiger Woods Story, 2000.
Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline, Waiting for Godot, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Boheme, and A Map of the World. To supplement his acting income, David studied Shiatsu massage and offered his services to fellow performers, charging them whatever they could afford to pay.
David’s first film appearance came in The Thing, a remake of the 1950s Sci-Fi classic about scientists at an Arctic outpost terrorized by an alien creature dug out of the ice. Directed by horror-specialist John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell, The Thing was released in the summer of 1982 but failed at the box office. “It was not a summer film,” David explained to Ian Spelling of Starlog. “I believe that if they had brought The Thing out in October, November or even Christmas, it would have done well. But it ended up competing with Poltergeist and E. T. . .It was a question of timing. I thought John [Carpenter] did a fantastic job, and it was a fantastic experience for me.” In 1988, David had a featured role in Carpenter’s They Live, a horror/social satire about aliens taking control of the Earth through television advertising. The Motion Picture Guide Annual called They Live “a whole lot of fun and well worth seeing” adding that the “supporting cast, headed up by the always-impressive Keith David, is excellent.”
The most critically acclaimed film in which David has so far appeared is the 1986 Vietnam War drama Platoon, director Oliver Stone’s harrowing look at a young enlisted man’s tour of duty in Vietnam. David played a cynical soldier who sneers at the lofty attitudes of the lead character, played by Charlie Sheen. Platoon won the Academy Award for Best Picture. David told Brown that his work in Platoon “was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. It altered my opinion about the Vietnam War. To me, the challenge of playing the part was living as that person. In high school, I was one of the guys protesting the war. The experience of the film made me look at the situation from a different point of view, and that changed how I thought about that war and it actually made me a bit ashamed of my past actions.”
Platoon also marked a change in David’s career. “In Hollywood I was suddenly taken more seriously as an actor. When I came back to New York it was almost as if I were a different person,” David told Thigpen. In 1988, when the New York Shakespeare Festival again produced Coriolanus, David played Tullus Aufidius (the part which he had understudied nine years earlier) opposite Christopher Walken in the title role.
Most of David’s stage work has been done Off-Broadway and in regional theatres, yet he is not without a Broadway smash on his resume. In 1992 David had a principal role in the musical Jelly’s Last Jam, a fanciful look at the life of jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton. David played a Mephistophelian character named Chimney Man who accuses a dying Morton with betraying his race by helping to tear jazz away from its roots in the Black community. Morton, played as an adult by Gregory Hines and as a youth by Savion Glover, defends himself against Chimney Man’s charges by going through his complicated life story. Robert Brustein of The New Republic called Jelly’s Last Jam “a succulent musical spread of acting, dancing, and singing that represents a genuine advance in Black theatrical expression” and called David’s portrayal of Chimney Man “mesmerizing...with menacing intensity and virility.” David earned a Tony Award nomination for best supporting actor in a musical for Jelly’s Last Jam.
The list of David’s lead roles includes a revival of South African playwright Athol Fugard’s drama Boesman and Lena at the Manhattan Theatre Club in the spring of 1992. Directed by Fugard and co-starring Lynne Thigpen as Lena, the play presents one night in the life of a black South African couple left homeless by the government-ordered bulldozing of their shanty town. “I know of no other play that depicts the horror of homelessness and vagrancy so tellingly...Boesman and Lena’s straits are presented as emblematic of the human condition...Keith David as Boesman has the more difficult role, since he must somehow win our sympathy while glowering through most of Act 1. He does, and when his glower finally explodes into speech he is tremendous,” wrote Thomas M. Disch in The Nation. Edith Oliver of The New Yorker wrote that “Miss Thigpen and Mr. David and their play are spellbinding.”
Another lead role came in the 1996 Broadway production of Seven Guitars, the sixth installment in playwright August Wilson’s saga of African-American life. David played Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, a blues guitarist in 1940s Pittsburgh who meets an untimely death when on the brink of stardom. “I’ve trained my entire life for such an opportunity in the theater, and Wilson is one of my greatest heroes,” David told D.G. in Essence, adding that “Floyd is a man I identify with. He’s an artist who wants the big time.” John Simon of New York Seven Guitars praised David’s portrayal of Floyd as “splendid.”
Having begun his film career in a horror movie, David has continued to work frequently in genre pictures. He especially enjoys science fiction. “I feel that in one of my previous lives, I was a philosopher, so I like the philosophy of science fiction...You start out with a premise and then you take these wonderful, imaginative quantum leaps into different realms, into different realities, and you must fashion a philosophical foundation for the world you create,” David explained to Spelling. “The measure of success is to be more than just adequate. You have to be able to let the art inside of you ring.”
In the 1998 blockbuster Armageddon, in which a huge asteroid is hurtling directly towards Earth, David portrayed the fictitious General Kimsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To prepare for the part, David studied the life of General Colin Powell. He watched videotapes of Powell to get a sense of military bearing and read Powell’s autobiography to better understand how a high-ranking officer looks at problems. David said of the Kimsey character to Anna Varnon-Grier of New York Voice/Harlem USA, “[He’s] basically a level headed guy. But he’s not absent of emotion...When the safety of the planet is threatened, we’re the guys who must do something about it. Kimsey’s job is to keep a clear distinction between his feelings and what needs to be done...As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kimsey deals directly with the President of the United States. At a crucial point he gets an order from the President that he must obey; regardless of his personal feelings. It is his duty.” Veronica Mixon of the Philadelphia Tribune called Armageddon, which starred Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Billy Bob Thornton, a “high action, riveting adventure that keeps you nailed to the edge of your seats.”
The 2000 sci-fi/horror hybrid film Pitch Black gave David the meaty part of a Moslem cleric, Imam, who is among a group of disparate people stranded on a remote and dangerous planet after their spaceship crashes. “What attracted me to Pitch Black is that Imam is a man of spirit and he refuses to give up his faith, even though it is shaken and, at some points, shattered. He continues to believe that there is a God and that He will find a way to bring us out of this,” David told Spelling. David delved into Islam in order to better understand Imam’s thinking. “I’ve always had my curiosities, and I’ve studied various religions. It’s all about spirit and getting in touch with the source. The sense of spiritual oneness is shared with every philosophy, whether you get that through meditation or prayer,” David explained to Brown. Directed by David Twohy Pitch Black featured Radha Mitchell, Vin Diesel, Claudia Black, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, and Rhianna Griffith.
David’s smooth, expressive voice is much in demand for animation and narration work. He has provided speech for the animated science fiction television series The Fantastic Four, Gargoyles, and Spawn. He also narrated Ken Burns’ twenty-hour documentary on jazz. “I love voice work. First of all, I love animation...Also, you don’t have to dress up,” David told Spelling.
A resident of Brooklyn, David has been married since 1990 to actress Margit Edwards, whom he met during the run of Coriolanus in 1988. Ambitious and energetic, David would like to play more lead roles. Despite his desire for greater fame, David is quick to point out that a performer’s skill does not necessarily correspond to his level of celebrity. He explained to Brown, “The measure of success is to be more than just adequate. You have to be able to let the art inside of you ring.”
Motion Picture Guide Annual 1989, Chicago: Cine-Books, 1990.
Black Elegance, March/April 200, p. 67.
Essence, May 1992, p. 52; June 1996, p. 38.
Nation, March 2, 1992, p. 283.
New Republic, June 8, 1992, 33-34.
New York Amsterdam News, May 3, 2000, p. 26.
New York Beacon, October 6, 1999, p. 30.
New York Voice, Inc./Harlem USA, July 8, 1998, p. 17.
New Yorker, February 10, 1992, p. 76.
Philadelphia Tribune, July 7, 1998, p. 4B.
Sacramento Observer, February 16, 2000.
Starlog, May 2000, p. 76.
Additional information also provided by Abrams Artists Agency.
"David, Keith 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/david-keith-1954
"David, Keith 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/david-keith-1954