Woodard, Alfre 1953–
Alfre Woodard 1953–
Alfre Woodard is considered by many to be one of America’s most successful and talented actresses. Stephen Rebello of Movieline magazine echoes what many of his fellow critics believe: “She’s the definition of an actor’s actor— chameleonic, idiosyncratic, true.” Her two Emmy awards, a Cable ACE Award and numerous other accolades, including an Academy Award nomination for her best supporting role in the movie Cross Creek, confirm that she is also respected by her peers.
For Woodard, however, the awards and words of praise are not what motivate her into a project. A character that addresses a moral, social or political issue are the roles she longs to play. But even that is not enough to make her sign onto a project. Her agent, David Eidenber, told Frank Clancy of Mother Jones that Woodard refuses to do a film or television project if they “do not, in an emotional or spiritual sense, seem like what she wants to be doing.”
Spirituality is an aspect of Woodard’s life that was nurtured by her family as she was growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and one she refuses to discard. “My career and life have always been guided by spirit,” she confessed to Clancy. “I always make sure that the things I am desiring and praying for, and moving and working toward, are things that are rightly desirable.” This strong belief in destiny started at a very early age.
Growing up as the youngest of three children, Woodard had always fantasized about becoming a trial lawyer. That is, until she was asked to take part in a high school play when she was 15 years old. After first refusing the opportunity, she relented and found herself pursuing a passion. “It was if I had been doing the breaststroke all my life,” she told Pamela Johnson of Essence, “and then somebody put me in the water and I went, ‘Ahhh! This is it!’”
After graduating from Bishop Kelley High School, Woodard began her quest for an acting career at Boston University. In 1974, with her B.F.A. degree in hand, she set out for Los Angeles with the hopes of strengthening her talents and beginning her career. Almost immediately after arriving in Los Angeles she joined an improvisational troupe at the Mark Taper Forum. Through the nontraditional art of juggling, tap dancing, and mime, Woodard was learning new ways to refine her craft.
It didn’t take long for Woodard’s talent to get noticed. In 1976 she landed a role in the Los Angeles production of Ntozake
Born November 2, 1953, in Tulsa, OK; daughter of Marion, (an interior decorator and oil driller) and Constance (a homemaker) Woodard; married Roderick Spencer (a producer and writer); children: Mavis. Education: Boston University, B.F.A., 1974.
Actress. Began professional acting career in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, CA, 1976. Also appeared in Broadway productions of Precious Blood, 1981; A Map of the World, 1985; and The Winter’s Tale, 1989; other theater performances include Split Second; Bugs Guns; Leander Stillwell; So Nice, They Named it Twice; Me & Bessie; Horatio; Vlast; and A Christmas Carol. Television series appearances include Tucker’s Witch, 1982–83; Sara,1985; and St. Elsewhere, 1985–87; guest appearances on television include Hill Street Blues, 1983; L.A. Law, 1986; Wonderworks: Words by Heart, 1986; and A Mother’s Courage: The Mary Thomas Story, 1989; and An American Tribute to Rosa Louise Parks, 1991. Television movies include The Am-bush Murders, 1982; Sweet Revenge, 1984; Unnatural Causes, 1988; Mandela, 1987; The Child Saver, 1988; and Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad. Motion picture appearances include H.E.A.L.T.H., 1980; Cross Creek, 1983; Extremeties, 1986; Scrooged, 1988; Miss Firecracker, 1989; Grand Canyon, 1991; Hearts and Souls, 1993; Passion Fish, 1993; Bopha, 1993; Rich in Love, 1993; The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag, 1993; Blue Chips, 1994; and Crooklyn, 1994. Cofounder, Artists for a Free South Africa.
Awards: Academy Award nomination for best actress for Cross Creek, 1983; Emmy Award for best supporting actress in a guest role on a television show, in 1984 for a role on Hill Street Blues, and in 1987 for a role on L.A. Law; Cable ACE Award as best actress for Mandela, 1989; Emmy nominations for St. Elsewhere, A Mother’s Courage: The Mary Thomas Story, and Unnatural Causes.
Addresses: Office —8271 Melrose, #202, Los Angeles, CA 90046.
Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. During one performance she drew the attention of film director Robert Altman. Altman was so impressed with what he had seen on stage that he offered her a role in his 1980 movie H.E.A.L.T.H. This was soon followed by a role in the movie Remember My Name.
Even though she had begun to get recognized in Hollywood as a film actress, Woodard’s next project put her back on the stage starring in Precious Blood, a one-act play written by Frank South. While Robert Altman was making his debut as a stage director, Woodard was taking on her first Off-Broadway play. The reviews of the play were mixed, though the New Leader called Woodard’s portrayal of a black nurse who is raped, “absolutely flawless.”
The next few years proved to be extremely successful for Woodard especially as she branched out into the world of television. In 1982 she landed her first role in a television series. Unfortunately, Tucker’s Witch lasted only one year. Undaunted by the show’s demise, Woodard moved forward in her career by appearing in several television projects. Her first television movie came in 1982, when she appeared in The Ambush Murders, followed by a role inSweet Revenge a couple of years later.
The year 1983 proved to be one in which Woodard would be catapulted into the limelight. First came her guest appearance on the critically acclaimed television series Hill Street Blues. Her portrayal of a mother whose 7-year-old son is killed by police garnered such praise and recognition from her peers that she was presented an Emmy Award for her performance. Later that year, she appeared in the feature film Cross Creek in which she portrayed Geechee, a young black servant. Though the movie was met with lukewarm reviews by critics, Woodard’s performance earned her a 1984 Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.
Woodard began to feel secure in her career when she landed a role in the 1985 television series, Sara. This time it looked as though the situation comedy that centered around a group of San Franciscan lawyers would have a long run. Woodard was happy to be in a series that not only tested her abilities as an actress, but also started to show women of color in a new light. “It’s great to do a contemporary, educated woman,” she told Essence. “Not only have I been playing period women, but many of them were under the thumb of a man.” Once again, however, the show was canceled after only one season. Fortunately for Woodard, it wouldn’t take long before she was back in the spotlight.
That same year, Woodard had landed a recurring role on another critically acclaimed drama, St. Elsewhere. She was cast as Dr. Roxanne Turner, the head of obstetrics and gynecology at the fictional Boston hospital. Woodard’s portrayal of a compassionate, yet powerful woman forced to confront the ethical, racial, and political issues of an urban hospital, was applauded by critics and fans, alike. Her peers also recognized her abilities by nominating her for two more Emmy awards.
Woodard left the show after only two seasons, though she would return in 1988 for several guest appearances, to concentrate on other projects. Despite leaving St. Elsewhere to star in another Off-Broadway play, A Map of the World, her concentration remained on television and film. Woodard returned to television in 1986, and appeared in the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) production Wonderworks: Words by Heart, as a woman whose husband gets killed shortly after moving to an all-white town. That same year she appeared in the premier episode of L.A. Law. Her portrayal of a rape victim proved so moving that she was awarded her second Emmy Award.
Woodard also appeared in the film Unnatural Causes. Playing the role of Veteran’s Administration counselor Maude DeVictor, Woodard teamed up with John Ritter to expose the health problems Agent Orange—an herbicide heavily used by the United States to kill foliage in Viet Nam during the crisis with that country—was creating for many veterans. Critics not only praised the movie, but singled out Woodard’s part in it. “Had Unnatural Causes been released as a feature film this year, Woodard would deserve an Oscar,” John Stark of People wrote. “She’s tough and likable, giving special care to vets with whom she works.” The performance did earn her another Emmy nomination.
Unnatural Causes’ success as entertainment, overshadowed the message that had become important to Woodard. Her belief in the film and the character that she portrayed never waned, however. According to Clancy, during a press conference shortly before the movie aired, Woodard was asked by a reporter if it had taken courage to portray Maude DeVictor. “No,” she responded. “It took guts to be Maude DeVictor. It was a privilege to portray her.”
Woodard’s dedication to the characters she portrays strengthened when she started work on her next project, Mandela. Though Woodard was honored to have the chance to portray South African activist Winnie Mandela, opposite Danny Glover as Nelson Mandela, she was worried about the reaction that South African people would have to the movie, especially Winnie. Her biggest fear centered on the script which she felt to be too simplistic, and since this was the first major Hollywood project to shed light on apartheid in South Africa, Woodard was desperate to make it an accurate depiction.
Having a chance to speak out against one of the few things that truly makes Woodard angry prompted her to take the role. “Our government has no respect for my existence,” she told Clancy. “I’m an American, a black American, but my heritage, my roots, are African. It seems that we have rallied to every other cause of the ancestral people of all the ethnic groups in this country. They act as if black people sort of materialized out of thin air one day.”
Almost immediately after accepting the role, Woodard researched her character by reading everything the two Mandelas had ever written, watching news clips, and listening to tapes of their impassioned pleas. She even met with expatriates to get a realistic feeling for South African women. However, when the Home Box Office (HBO) film—shot on location in Zimbabwe—premiered, critics were not enthusiastic about the final outcome.
“Director Philip Saville brings a total lack of storytelling skills and subtlety to a project that deserves better,” Andy Klein wrote in Los Angeles. “The script poses more questions with its first ten minutes than it ever attempts to answer. The performances of Danny Glover and Alfre Woodard in the title roles are the only possible elements to praise in this production; but even their attempts to breathe some life into the characters are thwarted by wooden, cliched dialogue.”
Critics were not the only ones to speak out against the movie. Winnie Mandela, through her attorney, tried to stop any future broadcasts of the movie because she believed that it was an invasion of her privacy, though Woodard later learned that Mandela did not have a problem with Woodard’s characterization. Regardless of what the critics thought, however, Woodard’s peers recognized her performance in the film with a Cable ACE Award.
If Woodard seemed to be dedicating herself to the small screen during the first half of the 1980s, the second half of the decade was devoted to feature films. Besides appearing in Extremeties, opposite Farrah Fawcett, in 1986, she starred with Bill Murray in 1988’s Scrooged and had a feature role in the next year’s Earth Girls Are Easy.
The best role for Woodard came during this time. In Miss Firecracker, Woodard was delighted to play the role of Popeye, a seamstress who has the dubious honor of making a costume for her friend to wear during her participation in the Miss Firecracker Beauty Pageant. Pauline Kael raved about Woodard’s performance in her review in the New Yorker. “I wouldn’t have guessed that Woodard—who has played so many put-upon, suffering women—had the kind of lightness in her. The role is a caricature, but so, of course, are most of the other roles. What makes Woodard’s Popeye stand out is that with a black actress playing the part—it was written in the play as white—Popeye becomes a black caricature. There’s naughtiness in the performance: Woodard’s rapt gaze evokes memories of [critically acclaimed actress] Butterfly McQueen at her dizziest.”
Though Woodard was appreciative of the praise cast upon her and for the chance to give what she considers one of her finest performances, she believes that more chances like this need to come to actresses of color. “People haven’t gotten past the idea of black women playing anything but black women,” she told Monika Guttman of USA Weekend. “I would love to find a director or producer who doesn’t say how great they think I am, but they wish this character could be black, but she’s really white.”
Woodard’s success in feature films has been attributed to her ability to interpret characters in a realistic, nonstereotypic manner. “I have never, ever done a character that could be a stereotype,” she told Jet. “If it was, I’d never take it. I don’t see people that way. My job is to think past the obvious.” Concentrating on her talent landed her in a number of highly successful films in the early years of the 1990s, including Grand Canyon, Hearts and Souls, and Passion Fish.
In 1993 Woodard starred in Bopha, another film highlighting the plight of blacks in South Africa. Though the film was not distributed widely, it did receive support from those who saw the film. For Woodard, the film helped fulfill some of the goals of Artists for a Free South Africa. As one of the cofounders of the group, Woodard was determined to keep the issues of apartheid alive through television and film. The group expanded their role when they took their message to South Africa later that year in an attempt to register blacks to vote in that country’s first open election.
As much as Woodard loves acting, she is clear to point out that her family comes first. Along with her husband of more than 10 years, Rod Spencer, and daughter Mavis, they spend a great deal of time traveling, visiting the slew of relatives that she has all around the country. She brought that familial/maternal sense to the screen in 1994, when she starred in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. The movie was not a box office hit, and Woodard’s performance got mixed reviews. Joanne Kaufman of People wrote “Woodard does her usual fine, fine work,” while David Denby of New York was a little less gratified. “Alfre Woodard has a few soft moments in which she’s very lovely, but the screenplay doesn’t give her enough to work with, and she’s not particularly convincing as a workhorse mom.”
Regardless of the reviews, Woodard will continue to make movies. “I’m always on the lookout for that story that will make me run, fly, leap, and jump all in the same character,” she told Deborah Gregory of Essence. Her goal, however is to find projects that will allow her to not only stimulate herself, but bring the audience some pleasure. Without that sense of accomplishment, Woodard may not be able to fulfill her destiny in life. “Everyone must earn her right to be on earth. Mine is acting. What I hope to do with my work is to give people a sense of being nurtured, even if it’s just a laugh. That’s my service.”
Cosmopolitan, March 1989, p. 168.
Detroit Free Press, April 4, 1989, p. 16D; April 25, 1989, p. 8B; December 1,1989, p. 11D; June 26, 1991, p. 4E; January 12, 1992, p. 8G.
Essence, July 1985, p. 46; April 1988, p. 56; May 1994, p. 70.
Jet, March 5, 1984, p. 55; September 23, 1985, p. 62; September 6, 1993, p. 58; January 31, 1994, p. 13.
Library Journal, November 1, 1991, p. 146.
Los Angeles, September 1987, p. 214.
Maclean’s, September 1, 1986, p. 54; December 19,1988, p. 50.
McCall’s, September 1990, p. 113.
Mother Jones, October 1987, p. 35.
Movieline, May 1994, p. 42.
Nation, October 24,1987, p. 462; May 1,1989, p. 604.
New Leader, November 16, 1981, p. 20.
New Republic, June 12, 1989, p. 26.
Newsweek, October 26, 1981, p. 72; September 1,1986, p. 86; January 11, 1993, p. 52; May 23,1994, p. 60.
New York, November 17, 1986, p. 83; April 3, 1989 p.79; May 15, 1989, p. 101; March 7,1994, p. 65; May 16, 1994, p. 88.
New Yorker, October 26, 1981, p. 160; October 3,1983, p. 104; October 14, 1985, p.118; April 3,1989, p. 101; May 29, 1989, p. 103.
People, January 28, 1985, p. 9; November 10, 1986, p. 9; November 28, 1988, p. 21; May 16, 1994, p. 27.
Time, May 18, 1994, p. 81.
TV Guide, March 23, 1985, p. 2.
Upscale, September/October 1993, p. 114.
USA Weekend, December 13–15, 1991, p. 14.
Woodard, Alfre 1952–
WOODARD, Alfre 1952–
Born November 8, 1952, in Tulsa, OK; daughter of Marion H. (an interior designer and entrepreneur) and Constance (a homemaker) Woodard; married Roderick Spencer (a comedian, writer, and producer); children: Duncan Spencer, Mavis Spencer. Education: Boston University, B.F.A. (cum laude), 1974.
Addresses: Agent—Steve Dontanville, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist—Melody Korenbrot, Bloch/Korenbrot Public Relations, 8271 Melrose Ave., Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90046.
Career: Actress and producer. Appeared with Arena Stage, Washington, DC, 1973–74; Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, CA, appeared with Improvisational Theatre Project, Center Theatre Group, 1977–78. Artists to Free South Africa, founding member, 1989.
Awards, Honors: Emmy Award, outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, 1984, for "Doris in Wonderland," Hill Street Blues; Golden Apple Award, Hollywood Women's Press Association, best newcomer, 1984; Academy Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1984, for Cross Creek; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or special, 1985, for "Words by Heart," Wonderworks; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a drama series, 1986, for St. Elsewhere; Emmy Award, outstanding guest performance in a drama series, 1987, for L.A. Law; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or special, 1987, and Image Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, outstanding lead actress in a drama series, miniseries, or television movie, 1989, both for Unnatural Causes; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest performer in a drama series, 1988, for "The Abby Singer Show," St. Elsewhere; Annual CableACE Award, National Cable Television Association, best actress in a movie or miniseries, 1989, and Image Award, outstanding lead actress in a drama series, miniseries, or television movie, 1990, both for Mandela; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or special, 1990, and Image Award, outstanding lead actress in a drama series, miniseries, or television movie, 1992, both for "A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story," The Magical World of Disney; Independent Spirit Award, Independent Features Project/West, best supporting female, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture, both 1993, for Passion Fish; Crystal Award, Women in Film, 1995; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or special, 1995, Image Award, outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries or drama special, 1996, and Screen Actors Guild Award, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, 1996, all for "The Piano Lesson," Hallmark Hall of Fame; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, 1996, for How to Make an American Quilt; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or a special, 1996, and Golden Satellite Award nomination, International Press Academy, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, miniseries, or motion picture made for television, 1997, both for Gulliver's Travels; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, 1997, for Star Trek: First Contact; Annual CableACE Award nomination, best supporting actress in a movie or miniseries, 1997, for The Member of the Wedding; Emmy Award, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or special, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, Annual CableACE Award, best actress in a miniseries or movie, and Image Award, outstanding lead actress in television movie, miniseries or drama special, all 1997, and Screen Actors Guild Award, outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries, 1998, all for Miss Evers' Boys; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actress in a drama series, 1998, for "Mercy," Homicide: Life on the Street; Independent Spirit Award nomination, best female lead, Image Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a motion picture, and Black Film Award nomination, Acapulco Black Film Festival, best actress, all 1999, for Down in the Delta; Black Reel Award nomination, best network or cable actress, 2000, for Funny Valentines; Image Award, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, 2001, for Love & Basketball; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries, or dramatic special, and Black Reel Award nomination, best network or cable actress, both 2001, for Holiday Heart; Black Reel Award nomination, best theatrical actress, 2001, for What's Cooking?; Daytime Emmy Award nomination, outstanding performer in a children's special, and Image Award nomination, outstanding performance in a children's series, movie, or special, both 2001, for The Wishing Tree; Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a motion picture, 2002, for K–PAX; Emmy Award, outstanding guest actress in a drama series, 2003, for The Practice; Image Award, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, 2004, for Radio.
Television Appearances; Series:
Marsha Fulbright, Tucker's Witch (also known as The Good Witch of Laurel Canyon), CBS, 1982–1983.
Rozalyn Dupree, Sara, NBC, 1985.
Dr. Roxanne Turner, St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1985–1987.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Katie, Freedom Road, NBC, 1979.
Evelyn Evers, The Sophisticated Gents, NBC, 1981.
Voice of C. J. Walker, A Century of Women (also known as A Family of Women), TBS, 1994.
Queen of Brobdingnag, Gulliver's Travels, NBC, 1996.
Narrator, Cadillac Desert, PBS, 1997.
Mrs. Whatsit, A Wrinkle in Time (also known as Un raccourci dans le temps), ABC, 2003.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Kariha Ellsworth, The Ambush Murders, CBS, 1982.
Precious Blood (also known as Two by South), 1982.
Esther, Go Tell It on the Mountain, 1984.
Vickie Teague, Sweet Revenge (also known as Bittersweet Revenge, Code of Honor, and Her Revenge), CBS, 1984.
Maude DeVictor, Unnatural Causes, NBC, 1986.
Winnie Mandela, Mandela, PBS, 1986.
Winnie Mandela, Mandela, HBO, 1987.
Andrea Crawford, The Child Saver (also known as The Fierce Dreams of Jackie Watson), NBC, 1988.
Jessica Filley, Blue Bayou (also known as Orleans), NBC, 1990.
Dr. Sandlin, A Step toward Tomorrow, 1996.
Tamara O'Neil, Special Report: Journey to Mars, CBS, 1996.
Berenice Sadie Brown, The Member of the Wedding, USA Network, 1997.
Miss Eunice Evers, Miss Evers' Boys, HBO, 1997.
Clara, The Wishing Tree, Showtime, 1999.
Joyce May, Funny Valentines, Black Entertainment Television and Starz!, 1999.
Wanda, Holiday Heart, Showtime, 2000.
Mattie White, Tulia, Texas, CBS, c. 2005.
Television Appearances; Specials:
"The Trial of the Moke," Great Performances, PBS, 1978.
for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, PBS, 1982.
Mattie Custer, "The Killing Floor," American Playhouse, PBS, 1984.
Denise Powell, The Line, NBC, 1987.
Mary Thomas, "A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story" (also known as "The Long Shot"), The Magical World of Disney, NBC, 1989.
Narrator, "The Facts of Life," People Count, TBS, 1994.
Narrator, Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History, PBS, 1994.
Narrator, "Malcolm X: Make It Plain," The American Experience, PBS, 1994.
Berniece Charles, "The Piano Lesson," Hallmark Hall of Fame, CBS, 1995.
Mrs. Marks, "Aliens for Breakfast," McDonald's Family Theatre, ABC, 1995.
Narrator, "Mandela's Fight for Freedom," Discovery Journal Special, The Discovery Channel, 1995.
Narrator, Slave Ship, The Discovery Channel, 1997.
Herself, An African American Salute to the Academy Awards, syndicated, 1998.
Host, An Evening of Stars: A Celebration of Educational Excellence Benefiting the United Negro College Fund, Black Entertainment Television and syndicated, 1998.
Narrator, People's Century: 1900–1999 (also known as People's Century), PBS, 1998.
Host and narrator, The Underground Railroad, History Channel, 1999.
Narrator, Different Moms, Lifetime, 1999.
Olivia, Secrets, Showtime, 1999.
NetAid, VH1, 1999.
Host, Innovators: A Musical Odyssey, PBS, 2000.
Polly and narrator, John Henry, The Disney Channel, 2000.
Narrator, Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks, HBO, 2000.
Voice of Mary Parrish, The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story, Cinemax, 2000.
An Evening of Stars: A Celebration of Educational Excellence, syndicated, 2000.
Speak Truth to Power, PBS, 2000.
Herself, John Ritter Remembered, VH1, 2003.
Presenter, Lifetime's Fourth Annual Women Rock!Songs from the Movies, Lifetime, 2003.
Reader, Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, HBO, 2003.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Presenter, The 20th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1988.
The Ninth Annual ACE Awards, HBO, 1988.
The 10th Annual ACE Awards, multiple networks, 1989.
Presenter, The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentations, ABC, 1993.
Presenter, The Essence Awards, Fox, 1994.
Presenter, The 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1994.
Presenter, The Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, CBS, 1995.
Presenter, The 52nd Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1995.
Presenter, The 47th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 1995.
Presenter, The 1996 Emmy Awards, ABC, 1996.
Presenter, The Second Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, NBC, 1996.
Host, Caribbean Music Awards, syndicated, 1997.
Presenter, The 49th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1997.
Presenter, The 1998 Creative Arts Emmy Awards, TV Land, 1998.
ALMA Awards, ABC, 1998.
Presenter, The 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 1999.
Presenter, The 30th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1999.
The 14th Independent Spirit Awards, Bravo and Independent Film Channel, 1999.
Presenter, The 15th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, Bravo and Independent Film Channel, 2000.
Presenter, The 2000 Essence Awards, 2000.
Presenter, The 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Sandra Wilcox, "Reunion: Part 1," The White Shadow, CBS, 1980.
Enos, CBS, c. 1980.
Palmerstown, U.S.A., CBS, c. 1981.
Doris Robson, "Doris in Wonderland," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1983.
Doris Robson, "Goodbye Mr. Scripps," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1983.
Doris Robson, "Praise Dilaudid," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1983.
Claudie, "Words by Heart," Wonderworks, PBS, c. 1984.
Princess Lovinia, "Puss in Boats," Faerie Tale Theater (also known as Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater), Showtime, 1985.
Dr. Roxanne Turner, "The Abby Singer Show," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1988.
Voice of Edna, "The Botched Language of Cranes," Frasier, NBC, 1994.
Storytime, PBS, c. 1994.
Voice of Winoome Bear, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (animated), HBO, 1995.
Storyteller, Genesis: A Living Conversation (also known as Bill Moyers Genesis: A Living Conversation), PBS, c. 1996.
Voice of Harriet Tubman, "Faith," Adventures from the Book of Virtues (animated), PBS, 1997.
Dr. Roxanne Turner, "Mercy," Homicide: Life on the Street (also known as Homicide and H: LOTS), NBC, 1998.
Herself, Celebrity Profile: Danny Glover, 1998.
Guest, "Al Gore," Dennis Miller Live, HBO, 2001.
"Spike Lee," The Directors, Encore, c. 2002.
Denise Freeman, "Down the Hatch," The Practice, ABC, 2003.
Denise Freeman, "Final Judgement," The Practice, ABC, 2003.
Jean Hawkins, "Flashback," Static Shock (animated), The WB, 2003.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Adrienne Moore, L.A. Law, NBC, 1986.
(Uncredited) Grace, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, CBS, 1993.
Television Work; Movies:
Executive producer, Funny Valentines, Black Entertainment Television and Starz!, 1999.
Rita, Remember My Name, Columbia, 1978.
Sally Benbow, Health (also known as H.E.A.L.T.H.), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1980.
Geechee, Cross Creek, Universal, 1983.
Patricia, Extremities, Atlantic, 1986.
Grace Cooley, Scrooged, Paramount, 1988.
Popeye Jackson, Miss Firecracker, Corsair, 1989.
Jane, Grand Canyon, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1991.
Pretty Hattie's Baby, 1991.
Ann Orkin, The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, Buena Vista, 1992.
Chantelle, Passion Fish, Miramax, 1992.
The Colors of Love, 1992.
Penny Washington, Heart and Souls, Universal, 1993.
Rhody Poole, Rich in Love, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1993.
Rosie Mangena, Bopha!, Paramount, 1993.
Carolyn Carmichael, Crooklyn (also known as Crooklyn, N.Y.), Universal, 1994.
Lavada McRae, Blue Chips, Paramount, 1994.
Narrator, Countdown to Freedom: Ten Days that Changed South Africa (documentary; also known as Countdown to Freedom), Videovision Enterprises, 1994.
Marianna, How to Make an American Quilt (also known as An American Quilt), Universal, 1995.
Statistically Speaking, 1995.
Evey, Follow Me Home, 1996.
Judge Miriam Shoat, Primal Fear, Paramount, 1996.
Lily Sloane, Star Trek: First Contact (also known as Star Trek 8), Paramount, 1996.
Loretta Sinclair, Down in the Delta, Miramax, 1998.
Brown Sugar, 1998.
Lily, Mumford, Buena Vista, 1999.
Audrey Williams, What's Cooking?, Trimark Pictures, 2000.
Camille Wright, Love & Basketball, New Line Cinema, 2000.
(Uncredited) Dr. Allen, Lost Souls, New Line Cinema, 2000.
Voice of Plio, Dinosaur (animated), Buena Vista, 2000.
Claudia Villars, K–PAX, MCA/Universal, 2001.
Narrator, American Exile, 2001.
Herself, Searching for Debra Winger, Lions Gate Films, 2002.
Rachel, Baby of the Family, DownSouth Filmworks, 2002.
Voice of Akela (cheetah mother), The Wild Thornberrys Movie (animated), Paramount, 2002.
Chief of staff, The Singing Detective, Airborne Productions/Paramount, 2003.
Narrator, Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, California Newsreel, 2003.
Principal Daniels, Radio, Columbia, 2003.
Talma Stickley, The Core (also known as Core), Paramount, 2003.
Detective Anne Pope, The Forgotten, Columbia, 2004.
Miss Josephine, Beauty Shop, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists, 2005. Mrs. Liston, Night Train, 2005.
Associate producer, The Colors of Love, 1992.
(With others) Down in the Delta, Miramax, 1998.
Executive producer, Brown Sugar, 1998.
Terry, So Nice, They Named It Twice, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, Other Stage, New York City, 1976.
for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum, and Huntington Theatre, both Los Angeles, 1977.
"Precious Blood," Two by South, Los Angeles Actors Theatre, Los Angeles, 1981, then at St. Clement's Theatre, New York City, 1981.
Elaine Le Fanu, A Map of the World, Public Theatre, Estelle R. Newman Theatre, New York City, 1985.
Paulina, A Winter's Tale, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, Anspacher Theatre, New York City, 1989.
Josephine Nicholas Ark Trip, Drowning Crow, Manhattan Theatre Club, Biltmore Theatre, New York City, 2004.
Made stage debut in Horatio and Saved, Arena Stage, Washington, DC; appeared as Melissa Gardner in a production of Love Letters; also appeared in Bugs Guns, A Christmas Carol, Leander Stillwell, Split Second, and Vlast.
Toured in for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, Australian cities.
Executive producer, East Texas Hot Links, Los Angeles production, early 1990s.
Internet Appearances; Miniseries:
Dana Franklin, "Kindred," Seeing Ear Theatre, Sci–Fi Channel, 2001.
Narrator, Rama II, by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee, Bantam, 1990.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 9, Gale, 1995.
Entertainment Weekly, February 1, 1999, p. 128.
Essence, May, 1994, p. 70.
Harper's Bazaar, May, 1994, p. 82.
Jet, September 6, 1993, p. 58; February 24, 1997, p. 58; September 29, 1997, p. 63; December 8, 1997, p. 62; February 9, 1998, p. 36; January 11, 1999, p. 62; May 24, 1999, p. 41.
Movieline, May, 1994.
People Weekly, February 17, 1997, p. 16.
Starlog, January, 1997.
Star Trek Communicator, May, 1997, pp. 20–22.
Variety, February 17, 1997, p. 49.
Playbill Online,http://www.playbill.com, February 26, 2004.
Theatermania.com,http://www.theatermania.com, February 17, 2004.