Michele, Michael 1966–
Michael Michele 1966–
Michael Michele is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful actresses working today. With exotic looks inherited from her interracial parents—flowing honey colored curls, hazel eyes, chiseled cheek bones—she could easily find fulltime work as a model. Instead, she proved herself as an actress on two of the most acclaimed dramas on television, Homicide: Life on the Street and ER. Michele is a major acting talent in the making and people are noticing.
Michael Michele Williams was born on August 30, 1966 in Evansville, Indiana to Theresa and Jerry Williams. The masculine moniker was not a result of a subconscious wish for a boy on her parents’ part. “I’m named after my mother’s best friend, Michael Ann. In high school she agreed with my mother that whoever had a child first would name it after the other,” she told Maxim. Theresa, a pharmaceutical company manager, is African American and Jerry, a shipping executive, is Caucasian. They also have a second child, Michele’s younger sister Erica. The Williams raised their family in Evansville and instilled in their daughters hearty Midwestern values—determination, hard work, and charity. At the age of 15, Michele began a lifelong commitment to disadvantaged youth by becoming a mentor. The Williams girls also enjoyed a healthy competitiveness and spent much of their energy on sports including volleyball and track. However, it was in basketball that Michele excelled.
Michele became a star player on her school team, Indiana’s top-ranked Benjamin Bosse High School’s women’s basketball team. She could have probably pursued a college scholarship in the sport if it hadn’t been for her other love—acting. As a child Michele was fascinated with Broadway and wanted a stage career. By high school she was already experiencing a bit of the limelight when she became a teen model for Seventeen. “My mother submitted my picture without my knowing,” she insisted to Maxim, “I was a tomboy… totally embarrassed by the whole thing.” Tomboy or not, she had stars in her eyes and would soon leave basketball to pursue her acting dreams.
Following her high school graduation in 1984, Michele left Indiana for the Big Apple and stardom. Instead she
At a Glance…
Born Michael Michele Williams on August 30, 1966 in Evansville, Indiana; parents are Theresa Williams, a corporate manager and Jerry Thomas, a shipping executive. Education: graduated from Benjamin Bosse High School in Indiana, 1984.
Career: Actress. Stage appearance: “Purlie Victorious;” “A Raisin in the Sun;” “The Owl and the Pussycat;” Television appearances include: Homicide: The Movie, 2000; ER, 1999-; Creature, 1998; Homicide: Life on the Street 1998-1999; Central Park West, 1995; New York Undercover, 1994-95; Trade Winds, 1993; Dangerous Curves, 1992. Film work includes: Dei by Temptation, 1990; New Jack City, 1991; The Sixth Man, 1997; The Substitute 2: School’s Out, HBO Movie, 1998; Ali, 2001.
Awards: Nominated for an NAACP Image Award, “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series” for ER, 2001; nominated for an NAACP Image Award, “Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series” for Homicide: Life on the Street, 2000.
landed a job at the Gap. It paid the bills and gave her ample time to make the audition rounds. Like many beginning actresses, her first experience in front of the camera was in fast food commercials. “I’d walk in thinking, I’m a serious actress, then have to eat 20 burgers in half an hour,” she told Maxim. Despite this diet, she managed to keep her figure and catch the eye of R&B artist Freddie Jackson who cast her in three of his music videos.
Michele also began her stage career, fulfilling a dream she had since childhood. She studied under acting coaches Wally and Joanna Strauss. She auditioned for many parts for the Negro Ensemble Company. She has appeared in “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Purlie Victorious,” and “The Owl and the Pussycat.”
Michele’s film career got off to a shaky start when rumors of problems with mega-star Eddie Murphy emerged in the late eighties. Considered for roles in the Murphy vehicles, Coming to America and Harlem Nights, Michele saw both of those parts dissolve, one under the veil of sexual harassment and the other for creative differences. Though rumors of a sexual harassment suit filed against Murphy by Michele and settled out of court have surfaced, Michele doesn’t dwell on it, nor has it affected her steady rise to fame.
In 1990, six years after arriving in New York, Michele got a bit part in her first film, Def by Temptation. Barely a year later she appeared opposite Wesley Snipes in New Jack City. From there she moved to television and throughout the nineties Michele zigzagged across the channels with stops at nearly every major network. In 1992 she appeared in the CBS television series Dangerous Curves and a year later landed a leading role in the six-hour NBC miniseries, Trade Winds. From 1994 to 1995 Michele enjoyed a recurring role on the Fox drama New York Undercover. She finally landed her own series as a cast member of CBS’s short-lived primetime soap opera Central Park West.
In 1997 Michele leaped from the small screen back onto the big screen with a starring role in The Sixth Man. She followed that with a role opposite Treat Williams in the 1998 HBO movie, The Substitute 2: School’s Out. Despite these film roles, Michele was not yet a household name or face. That would begin to change with her role on the critically acclaimed, wildly popular NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street.
First airing in 1993, Homicide, quickly made a fan out of Michele. She told the Detroit Free Press that before landing the role, she felt as if “Homicide [was] my shining star. ’I gotta get on it,’ I kept telling myself.” In 1998 she got that chance when Homicide started looking for a new character. Of her first meeting with the producer of the show, she told the Detroit Free Press, “The first thing I said to him was, ‘Look, I’ve waited six years to be on the show. I know this show. I know what I would have to deliver to be on this show.’” That season she joined the cast as Detective Rene Sheppard.
Though Michele was thrilled with her role, many seasoned fans of the show were not. Disparaging comments about her acting ability raged across the show’s many fan site chat rooms. Many critics seemed only to be angry because Michele was ’too pretty’ for the gritty police drama. Michele didn’t take this criticism lightly and when a television interviewer brought it up, she exclaimed, “How dare you! Because YOU think I’m attractive, I can’t do the job?” Still, she doesn’t pretend that her looks don’t affect the way she is perceived. “Does she look like a cop? That’s what we thought viewers would wonder when Sheppard was introduced,” Michele told the Detroit Free Press. “So we addressed that issue at the start of the season. We showed how the men in the squad room related to her, what they would say—’Ummmmm, baby!’—and how she would respond to that.”
The show reflected Michele’s own struggles to be taken seriously. She has lost auditions because she looked too much like a model. Still, she doesn’t let this dampen her drive. “I hate, abhor, detest, when celebrities say that being attractive is a burden in show business. Get over it!” she told Maxim. And ’get over it,’ she did. She didn’t cave in to the easy life as a pretty face in a toothless Hollywood sitcom. She went after what she wanted despite the “handicap” of her natural beauty. “The worst thing in the world is to have to live by another person’s idea of who you are,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
With characteristic vigor, Michele dove into her role and proved that she wasn’t at all “too pretty” for “Homicide.” She particularly enjoyed getting to flex a little muscle on the show as she confronted murder suspects and drug dealers. She told Maxim, “I’m very physical, very hands-on. I love to wrestle. You can’t be a wuss with me.” Shot on location on the broken glass-littered streets of inner city Baltimore, Homicide also appealed to Michele’s nature. “Baltimore itself was a very, very important character in Homicide. And it helped me to connect with Sheppard. I love working on the street. It offered a great deal of assistance to me as an actor,” she told The Bergen Record. Sadly, against public protest, NBC cancelled the show at the end of the 1999 season.
The end of life on Homicide led to a beginning of life in the ER. Michele joined the cast of ER in 1999 as pediatric and emergency room doctor, Cleo Finch. Landing a role on such a highly acclaimed series is more proof of Michele’s skill and willingness to challenge herself as an actress. “Playing these kind of characters raises the bar and makes you a better actor. Both Homicide and ER are fast-paced series with large ensemble casts and there’s no time for even a hiccup. You have to be ready to walk on the set and do your job right away,” she was quoted on www.tvschedules/about.com.
Having a role on such a popular show as ER has also raised Michele’s public profile. She was named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1999 and has become a darling of the fashion press. Her presence on the red carpet is heralded with an explosion of flashbulbs as the paparazzi gather to see what she is wearing. Words like “elegant,” “regal,” and “sophisticated” are regularly used to describe her sophisticated, yet fashionable style.
In between filming in Los Angeles, and flights home to New York City, Michele continued to give back by working with underprivileged youth. She is a supporter and volunteer for New York-based Kids ’N Us, an organization that provides speakers to children in need of guidance and inspiration. She is a mentor to a number of children both in New York and in the Midwest. She also takes time to do one of her other first loves— basketball. You are more likely to catch Michele in a pair of gym shorts shooting hoops rather than attending trunk shows. “Being active is so deeply ingrained in me that it’s become an integral part of who I am,” she told www.efit.com. Between takes on the set of “ER” she is known not only for shooting baskets, but also for whipping anyone foolish enough to challenge her to a game. “I was an athlete first, and even though I’m not playing a team sport any longer, I still use that competitive drive,” she explained to www.efit.com.
Michele may have to put away her gym clothes and slip into high fashion a bit more often in the coming years. With starring roles in two major motion pictures due to release in late 2001 and 2002—opposite Will Smith in Ali and Kurt Russell in 4-29-92 aka The Plague Season — Michele is poised to become major movie star. With the skills she has honed on two of the most popular dramas on television and her focused determination, Michele will no doubt have miles of red carpet to traverse.
The Bergen Record, (New Jersey), September 30, 1999.
Detroit Free Press, January 7, 1999.
Ebony, July 2000.
Maxim, June 1999.
"Michele, Michael 1966–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/michele-michael-1966
"Michele, Michael 1966–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/michele-michael-1966
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Michele, Michael 1966–
Michele, Michael 1966–
Full name, Michael Michele Williams; born August 30, 1966, in Evansville, IN; daughter of Jerry (an entrepreneur and business consultant) and Thersa (a corporate manager) Williams; children: (with restaurateur Jimmy Rodriguez) J. Brandon. Avocational Interests: Basketball, running, jazz.
Addresses: Agent—Jonathan Perry, United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist—Monique Huey, PMK/HBH Public Relations, 700 San Vicente Blvd., Suite G910, West Hollywood, CA 90069.
Career: Actress. Appeared in commercials for Revlon cosmetics, Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, Old Spice, and other products; worked as a model; also worked at a Gap store.
Awards, Honors: Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a drama series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2000, for Homicide: Life on the Street; Screen Actors Guild Award nominations (with others), outstanding ensemble in a drama series, 2000, 2001, and Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, 2001, all for ER; Teen Choice Award nomination, choice movie villain, 2003, for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; Black Reel Award nomination, best supporting actress in a film, 2004, for Dark Blue.
Television Appearances; Series:
Holly Williams, Dangerous Curves, CBS, 1992–93.
Nikki Sheridan, Central Park West (also known as CPW), CBS, 1995–96.
Detective Rene Sheppard, Homicide: Life on the Street (also known as Homicide), NBC, 1998–99.
Dr. Cleo Finch, ER, NBC, 1999–2002.
Jessie Grey, Kevin Hill, UPN, 2004.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Maxine Phillips, Trade Winds, NBC, 1993.
Tauna, Creature (also known as Peter Benchley's "Creature"), 1998.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Kara Lavelle, The Substitute 2: School's Out (also known as The Substitute II and The Substitute: Out of Siberia), HBO, 1998.
Detective Rene Sheppard, Homicide: The Movie, NBC, 2000.
Detective Ellen Baines, The Hunt for the BTK Killer, CBS, 2005.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
"Saturday, Bloody Saturday," 1st & Ten (also known as 1st & Ten: Do It Again, 1st & Ten: Going for Broke, 1st & Ten: In Your Face!, 1st & Ten: The Championship, and 1st & Ten, Training Camp: The Bulls Are Back), 1988.
Sandra "Sandy" Gill, "After Shakespeare," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1994.
Sandra "Sandy" Gill, "Private Enemy No. 1," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1995.
Sandra "Sandy" Gill, "Downtown Girl," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1995.
Sylvie, "Con-tinental," Players, NBC, 1998.
Detective Rene Sheppard, "Sideshow," Law & Order (also known as Law & Order Prime), NBC, 1999.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 2000.
"Ali," HBO First Look, HBO, 2001.
Herself, Mad TV, Fox, 2001.
The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), syndicated, 2003.
The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn (also known as The Last Late Show), CBS, 2003, 2004.
Dennis Miller, CNBC, 2004.
Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2004.
Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2004.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Bridget Wilson, Company Town, CBS, 2006.
Television Appearances; Specials:
New York anchor, The All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade, CBS, 1995.
The Making of "Ali," 2001.
Christmas in Rockefeller Center, CBS, 2001.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Golden Hanger Awards, E! Entertainment Television, 1999.
The 31st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2000.
The 2000 Essence Awards, Fox, 2000.
Presenter, My VH1 Music Awards, VH1, 2001.
Presenter, The 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, CBS, 2001.
The 32nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
The 2001 TV Guide Awards, Fox, 2001.
Lady number six, Def by Temptation, 1990.
Selina, New Jack City, Warner Bros., 1991.
R. C. St. John, The Sixth Man, Buena Vista, 1997.
Veronica Porche, Ali, Columbia, 2001.
Herself, Won't Anybody Listen? (music documentary), 2001.
Beth Williamson, Dark Blue, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2002.
Judy Spears, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (also known as Wie werde ich ihn los—in 10 tagen?), Paramount, 2003.
Appeared in music videos by Freddie Jackson.
Cosmopolitan, July, 2000, p. 166.
Ebony, May, 2005, p. 156.
Entertainment Weekly, February 19, 1999, p. 116.
Esquire, March, 1999, p. 118.
Movieline, December, 2001, pp. 74-75.
People Weekly, May 10, 1999, p. 133; April 10, 2000, p. 193.
Premiere, March, 2003, pp. 84-85.
Redbook, May, 2005, p. 128.
TV Guide, December 23, 2000, pp. 30-31; September 28, 2002, p. 44.
"Michele, Michael 1966–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/michele-michael-1966-0
"Michele, Michael 1966–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/michele-michael-1966-0