Curtis-Hall, Vondie 1956–
Vondie Curtis-Hall 1956–
Actor, screenwriter, director
Highly regarded for his intensity and dedication to his acting roles, Vondie Curtis-Hall has become a fixture on television, playing Dr. Dennis Hancock on the popular Chicago Hope series. This role was preceded by a number of praised performances on stage, in other television series, and in feature films. Recently Curtis-Hall also demonstrated his talent as a writer and director with his first feature film, Gridlock’d, which starred Tim Roth and the late rapper/actor Tupac Shakur.
Born in Detroit, Curtis-Hall grew up wanting to be a rock-and-roll star. He was a big fan of Michigan-bred punk rock idol Iggy Pop as a teenager, and was himself a member of various garage bands during high school. When drugs became part of his life in the early 1970s, it came close to leading him down the wrong road. “We were 16,” he told People magazine. “One of my friends pulled out a bag of heroin and said, ‘This is really cool. We should try this.’ And soon everyone was throwing up, sick as dogs.” Years later Curtis-Hall would borrow heavily from this experience for Gridlock d,’ which chronicled the efforts of two addicted jazz musicians to shake their habit. “I was living at home and I didn’t want [my parents] to know about it,” he told the Los Angeles Times about his own difficulties at a local hospital while trying to get drugs out of his life. “Because of that I had no address to list on the forms. My friend didn’t have a Social Security card. We were like these two homeless kids, running through this maze. You have a small window of time, or you’ll never kick.”
By the time Curtis-Hall got out of high school in 1974, he was through with drugs, according to People. Two years later he was living in New York City and attending the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in hopes of forging a career of music. While still a student there in 1980 he landed a role as a singer and dancer for a musical showcasing the singer Lena Home that was entitled Lena Home: The Lady and Her Music. His commitment to the show forced him to leave Juilliard before completing his studies, and it also jump-started his career on the New York City stage. Before long he was keeping busy as an actor on television and in movies.
At a Glance…
Born September 30, 1956, in Detroit, Ml; oldest of three children of Curtis Hall (retired owner of a construction company), and Angeline Hall (a nurse); married Kasi Lemons, 1995; children; Henry (with Lemons), Che. Education: Juilliard School of Music, New York, NY; Richmond College, London, UK.
Career: Played in various rock and roll bands as teenager, 1970s; moved to NYC, 1976; was recruited as singer/dancer for Lena Home: The Lady and Her Music on Broadway, New York, NY, 1980; began landing roles in movies and television series; became part of regular cast of Cop Rocíe television series, 1990; landed key role in Passion Fish, 1992; received Emmy nomination for guest spot on ER television series, 1992; became part of regular cast of television’s Chicago Hope, 1990s; wrote and directed his first feature film, Gridlock’d, 1997.
Awards and honors: Audelco Award, Best Actor (Williams & Walker), 1987.
Curtis-Hall’s big break came when he was cast by director John Sayles in Passion Fish, which was released in 1992. His performance in the movie as the lover of Alfre Woodard earned him rave notices and increased the number of offers coming his way. Two years later he made a pivotal decision by agreeing to play a suicidal transsexual in a guest spot on the highly popular television series ER. Initially he was reluctant to accept the role, but then was convinced to do so by his girlfriend, Kasi Lemons, according to People. The result was an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. In addition, the performance helped him get a starring role on the other major medical television series airing at the time, Chicago Hope.
On Chicago Hope, Curtis-Hall has demonstrated his ability to convey a quiet intensity and idealism that are very believable. As former co-star Roxanne Hart said in People, “He’s like still water but with something percolating beneath.” In the same article, series executive producer John Tinker added, “It’s stunning what Vondie’s able to do as an actor—a juxtaposition of complete calm and then this storm.” Curtis-Hall has admitted that his role in Chicago Hope is close to typecasting for him. “There are few differences between me and Dr. Hancock,” he told People. “We’re both intensive and hard-headed. Once we go to bat for something, we’re hard to sway.”
Between recent seasons of Chicago Hope, Curtis-Hall began pursuing his goal to both write and direct for the screen. His efforts came to a fruition with the semi-autobiographical Gridlock’d, which hit the theaters in 1997. The film traced two days in the lives of three men, all of them drug addicts, after one of the men has to be rushed to the hospital due to an overdose. Seeing the ultimate horror of addiction presented to them, the other two men (Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur), vow to escape from the clutches of heroin.
A number of favorable reviews for Gridlock’d claimed that Curtis-Hall had avoided the standard formulas of other films dealing with addiction. Owen Gleiberman wrote in Entertainment Weekly that Curtis-Hall “shows a gift for back talk and confrontation, for the hardscrab-ble comedy of urban decay….” In Cineaste, Jesse Rhines said, “Despite the grim subject matter, debut director Vondie Curtis-Hall has made a funny and engaging film, one which encourages audience empathy for the characters not so much through emotional attachment as by an intellectual understanding of the system’s faults.”
Curtis-Hall was also cited for avoiding the common tendencies of other actors who decide to sit in the director’s chair. “Unlike most of the new breed of actors turned directors, Curtis-Hall has a rare sense of how to make film space come alive,” noted reviewer Amy Taubin in the Village Voice. An eerie real-life epilogue was added to Gridlock’d when star Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas before the movie was released. “Watching Pac’s face every day on-screen while his life was slipping away was a surreal experience,” Curtis-Hall told Essence.
For his role in Chicago Hope, Curtis has viewed numerous real-life operations at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center. His believability on screen, however, masks his discomfort in the presence of actual medical procedures. “I get a little queasy at the sight of blood,” he told People. “Once I went to an appendectomy. Eeeeeww!”
The Cotton Club, 1984.
One Good Cop, 1991.
Passion Fish, 1992.
Selected television series
I’ll Fly Away.
Selected play/musical appearances
Lena Home: The Lady and Her Music.
Williams & Walker.
The War Party.
Cineaste, March 1997, p. 72.
Entertainment Weekly, January 31, 1997, p. 38.
Essence, March 1997, p. 58.
Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1997, p. F1.
New York Times, January 29, 1997, p. C12.
People, November 25, 1996, p. 109; February 10, 1997, p. 21.
Time, February 3, 1997, p. 66.
Village Voice, February 4, 1997, p. 70.
Wall Street Journal, January 30, 1997, p. A14.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from publicity materials of CBS Entertainment and the TV Guide Live Web site on the Internet.
Curtis-Hall, Vondie 1956–
Curtis-Hall, Vondie 1956–
(Vondi Curtis Hall)
Some sources spell the surname without a hyphen; born September 30, 1956, in Detroit, MI; son of Curtis (an owner of a construction company) and Angeline (a nurse) Hall; married Kasi Lemmons (an actress, director, and screenwriter), 1995; children: (from previous relationship) Che; (with Kasi Lemmons) Henry Hunter, Zora. Education: Studied music at Juilliard School and theatre at Richmond College, London, England.
Addresses: Office—Motor City Films, 468 North Camden Dr., Suite 200, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Agent—Gersh Agency, 232 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Manager—Stephanie Davis, 3 Arts Entertainment, 9460 Wilshire Blvd., 7th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Actor, producer, director, singer, musician, and writer. Began career as assistant editor, photography assistant, and assistant director; Motor City Films, Beverly Hills, CA, founder and partner. Black Filmmaker Foundation, member.
Awards, Honors: Audelco Award, Audience Development Committee, best actor, 1987, for Williams and Walker; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actor in a drama series, 1995, for "ER Confidential," ER; Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, outstanding ensemble in a drama series (with others), 1997 and 1998, both for Chicago Hope; Golden Satellite Award, International Press Academy, best supporting actor in a miniseries or television movie, 1998, for Don King: Only in America; Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture, 1998, for Eve's Bayou; Black Reel Award, best director for network or cable television, 2005, for Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story.
Narrator, Fall from Grace, 1987.
Basketball game vendor, Coming to America (also known as Prince of New York), Paramount, 1988.
Speaker voice, Shakedown (also known as Blue Jean Cop), Universal, 1988.
Detective, Black Rain, Paramount, 1989.
Ed, Mystery Train, Orion, 1989.
(As Vondi Curtis Hall) Miller, Die Hard 2: Die Harder (also known as Die Hard 2), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990.
Father Wills, One Good Cop, Buena Vista, 1991.
Miguel Montoya, The Mambo Kings (also known as Les mambo kings), Warner Bros., 1992.
Sugar LeDoux, Passion Fish, Miramax, 1992.
Not Economically Viable Man, Falling Down (also known as Chute libre), Warner Bros., 1993.
Voice-print analyst, Clear and Present Danger, Paramount, 1994.
Uncle Brown, Crooklyn, Universal, 1994.
Rocky Seavers, Drop Squad, Gramercy, 1994.
Mark Doby, Sugar Hill (also known as Harlem), Twentieth-Century Fox, 1994.
Carver, Tuesday Morning Ride, Chanticleer Films, 1995.
Lieutenant Colonel Sam Rhodes, Broken Arrow, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1996.
Minos P. Dautrieve, Heaven's Prisoners, New Line Cinema, 1996.
Captain Prince, William Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet" (also known as Romeo and Juliet, Romeo + Juliet, and Verona Beach), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1996.
D-Reper, Gridlock'd (also known as Gridlock and Gridlocked), Gramercy, 1997.
Julian Grayraven, Eve's Bayou, Trimark Pictures, 1997.
Cliff, Turn It Up, New Line Cinema, 2000.
Producer, 112th and South Central: Through the Eyes of the Children, Vista Entertainment, 1993.
Director, Gridlock'd (also known as Gridlock and Gridlocked), Gramercy, 1997.
Director, Glitter, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2001.
Television Appearances; Series:
Commander Warren Osborne, Cop Rock, ABC, 1990.
Dr. Dennis Hancock, a recurring role, Chicago Hope, CBS, 1995–99.
Roger McGrath, a recurring role, ER, NBC, 2001.
Charles Miller, a recurring role, Soul Food, Showtime, 2004.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Clifford Turpin, Heat Wave (also known as Burn, Baby, Burn), TNT, 1990.
Detective Gary Hopkins,… And Then She Was Gone (also known as In a Stranger's Hand, Lost and Found, and Troubleshooter), NBC, 1991.
C. Vernon Mason, Murder without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story (also known as Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry and Murder Without Motive), NBC, 1992.
Vinnie, What She Doesn't Know (also known as For I Have Sinned and Shades of Gray), NBC, 1992.
Danforth, There Was a Little Boy, CBS, 1993.
Jessup Bush, Dead Man's Revenge (also known as You Only Die Once), USA Network, 1994.
Davis, Zooman (also known as Zooman and the Sign), Showtime, 1995.
Carver, Tuesday Morning Ride, Showtime, 1995.
Lloyd Price, Don King: Only in America, HBO, 1997.
Edward (some sources cite Vincent) Morgan, Sirens, Showtime, 1999.
Daniel Wall, Freedom Song, TNT, 2000.
Drew "Bundini" Brown, Ali: An American Hero, Fox, 2000.
Detective Hal Kazin, Deceit, Lifetime, 2004.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Hanrahan (some sources cite Louche Amarant), Keys to Her Past (also known as Keys), Lifetime, 1994 (some sources cite 1999).
Andre Hayes, Fastlane, Fox, 2002.
Agent Vic Martinsen, 1-800-Missing (also known as Missing), Lifetime, 2003.
Marion, Introducing Lennie Rose, ABC, 2005.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Title role, Dr. Hugo, Lifetime, 1994.
Interviewee, Discovered at Sundance, PBS, 1997.
Ross, Dense, Showtime, 2004.
Soul Decisions, Showtime, 2004.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
David Tracton, "The Master's Mirror," A Man Called Hawk, ABC, 1989.
Bill, "Through and Through," China Beach, 1991.
Train porter, "I'll Fly Away," I'll Fly Away, NBC, 1992.
Thomas, "Sanctuary for a Child," Nightmare Cafe, 1992.
Jack Turrentine, "The Old Man and the 'C'," Civil Wars, 1992.
Joe Clay, "The Third Man," I'll Fly Away, NBC, 1992.
Joe Clay, "Small Wishes," I'll Fly Away, NBC, 1993.
Joe Clay, "State," I'll Fly Away, NBC, 1993.
David O'Connor, "Dead-End for Delia," Fallen Angels, Showtime, 1993.
Henry Colton, "ER Confidential," ER, NBC, 1994.
Attorney Clay, "Three on a Patch," L.A. Law, 1994.
James Mosely, "Dad," South Central, 1994.
Guest, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1997.
Guest, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, ABC, 1997.
Maurice Tiffen, "Watching Too Much Television," The Sopranos, HBO, 2002.
Andre Hayes, "Overkill," Fastlane, Fox, 2003.
Dele Ekoku, "Cease and Assist," LAX, NBC, 2005.
Television Appearances: Awards Presentations:
Presenter, The 2001 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards (also known as (The 16th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards), Independent Film Channel, 2001.
Presenter, The 17th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, Independent Film Channel, 2002.
The 20th IFP Independent Spirit Awards, Independent Film Channel and Bravo, 2005.
Television Director; Episodic:
"Start All Over Again," ER, NBC, 2001.
"It's All in Your Head," ER, NBC, 2002.
"Our Mrs. Reynolds," Firefly (also known as Firefly: The Series), Fox, 2002.
"Cruel and Unusual," MDs, ABC, 2002.
"Insurgents," The Shield, FX Channel, 2005.
Television Director; Other:
Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story (movie; also known as Redemption), ABC, 2004.
Sleeper Cell (pilot), Showtime, 2005.
Member of ensemble, It's So Nice to Be Civilized (musical), Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1980.
(Broadway debut) Singer and dancer, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music (concert performance), Nederlander Theatre, New York City, 1981.
Marty, Dreamgirls (musical), Imperial Theatre, New York City, 1985.
Williams and Walker, American Place Theatre, New York City, 1986.
Joseph Asagai, A Raisin in the Sun, Roundabout Theatre Company, Union Square Theatre, New York City, 1986.
Roosevelt Gwynne, The War Party, Negro Ensemble Company, Theatre Four, New York City, 1986.
Understudy, Stardust (musical revue), Biltmore Theatre, New York City, 1987.
G.I., The Middle of Nowhere, Astor Place Theatre, New York City, 1988.
Also appeared in The War Party.
Songs Featured in Films:
"Life Is a Traffic Jam" and "There's No Hiding," Gridlock'd (also known as Gridlock and Gridlocked), Gramercy, 1997.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 17, Gale, 1998, pp. 63-65.
People Weekly, November 25, 1996, p. 109.
USA Today, March 25, 1996, p. D3.