Haysbert, Dennis 1955–
Dennis Haysbert 1955–
Though success came slowly for actor Dennis Haysbert, by the early 2000s he had become a star on both the big and small screens. He has appeared in such popular hits as Waiting to Exhale and Absolute Power, and costarred with Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Field, the story of an interracial marriage. He has also cos-tarred as David Palmer, the first African-American president of the United States, on the cult hit series 24. At a time when film and television studios have faced criticism for providing few opportunities for black actors, Haysbert has emerged as a popular and critically respected artist.
Haysbert was born on June 2, 1955, in San Mateo, California, the eighth of nine children. A congenital heart defect prevented him from enjoying vigorous sports until he was in high school. To compensate, Haysbert acted out games with his siblings. “Dennis was a born actor,” his brother Al told People Weekly contributor Jason Lynch. “When he would play cowboys and Indians, you saw the actor in him.” Finally permitted to play sports as a teenager, Haysbert still felt the pull of the stage. He discovered theater in high school, explaining in Ebony that “with acting there was a calling and I said, ‘I got to do this.’ It was about emotional fulfillment.”
Haysbert enrolled at the College of San Mateo but did not complete his studies, remaining uncertain about what direction his professional life should take. But when his oldest brother, Charles Jr., developed terminal bone cancer in 1974, Haysbert was shaken. On his deathbed, Charles urged his 20-year-old brother to make a choice about his future. Haysbert realized that he still wanted to be an actor, and Charles pushed him to go to Los Angeles and pursue his dream. “Tomorrow’s not promised to you,” he warned, as Kyle Smith reported in People Weekly. The next day Charles died; Haysbert left for Los Angeles two weeks later.
The aspiring actor auditioned at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, and was accepted. He graduated in 1977 and began accepting small roles in local stage productions. He also took supporting roles in television, appearing in such series as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Just the Ten of Us.
At a Glance…
Born on June 2, 1955, in San Mateo, CA; son of Charles and Gladys Haysbert; divorced; two children. Education: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Pasadena, CA.
Career: Actor, mid 1980s-.
Addresses: Agent —Paradigm Talent Agency, 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., 25th floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
In 1990 Haysbert landed his first starring role in a motion picture, opposite Michelle Pfeiffer. He was chosen to play Paul Cater, a black man who becomes romantically involved with an eccentric white woman in the early 1960s, in Jonathan Kaplan’s Love Field after superstar Denzel Washington turned the part down. Thrilled with this major opportunity, Haysbert had high hopes that the film would launch his career. But the studio encountered financial difficulties and delayed the film’s release until 1992. When it did open, Love Field received scant publicity and bombed at the box office.
Haysbert continued steadily building his career with supporting roles in such films as Waiting to Exhale, Heat, and Insomnia. In 1997 he appeared as a Secret Service agent in Clint Eastwood’s Absolute Power, a performance that drew especially favorable notice. Haysbert went on to appear in The Thirteenth Floor, What’s Cookin’, and Love and Basketball.
In 2001 Haysbert landed the part of Senator David Palmer, an African-American presidential candidate stalked by terrorists, in the television series 24. Hailed as one of the most creative series of the season, 24 featured a plot to assassinate Palmer on the day of the California presidential primary. Described as a “real time” story, the series presented 24 hour-long segments that corresponded to the 24 hours of that day. Though much of the action involved the undercover work of special agent Jack Bauer, played by Keifer Sutherland, Haysbert’s performance also lent substance to the drama. Boston Globe critic Matthew Gilbert wrote that the part of Palmer was “beautifully played” by Haysbert. When Palmer took office in the series’ second season, Caryn James of New York Times noted that “the matter-of-fact way 24 has placed him in the White House just hints at how this clever suspense series—one of the most compelling to arrive last season—toys with and enhances reality.”
“I’m gratified to have been chosen to shoulder this responsibility,” Haysbert commented in Jet magazine about playing the role of the first black president of the United States. He explained to Jenelle Riley of Back Stage West that Palmer’s character has “first and foremost, seriously put it in people’s minds that it is possible…. Especially in light of the last couple of years, with things that have happened in this country and around the world, the last thing we should be thinking about is the color of our president’s skin.”
Indeed, Haysbert’s performance became so popular that, he told Riley, he has frequently been asked to run for office himself. He recounted that, on a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend a panel discussion on how Hollywood portrays politicians, he visited the Senate floor. “And every Secret Service agent, every page, every guard we passed, would say, ‘Hello, Mr. President.’ At one point we were in the president’s waiting room, and even senators came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President may I have your autograph?’”
24’s second season ended with Palmer critically injured by an unidentified biological or chemical substance. Despite some speculation from critics about his character’s fate on the series, Haysbert returned for 24’s third season in 2003.
Haysbert scored another big-screen hit with his performance in Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven. In this film, released in 2003, Haysbert plays Raymond Deagan, a college-educated black gardener who becomes romantically involved with a white housewife (Julianne Moore) in a wealthy Connecticut suburb in the 1950s. The racism and rigid conformity of the era, however, prevent the couple from pursuing a relationship. Haysbert was attracted to the part, he explained to Riley, because of Raymond’s refusal to accept the limitations that society imposed on him. “He made his own world,” said Haysbert. “Most black people didn’t fit into that ’50s Tupperware Leave it to Beaver/Father Knows Best/Donna Reed world because we weren’t invited. What I like to think of Raymond is that he invited himself.”
The film won extravagant praise, and critics noted Haysbert’s nuanced and compassionate performance. Calling Far from Heaven a “flawless” film, Boston Globe critic Wesley Morris hailed its expression of “soul-aching American beauty.” Though Los Angeles Magazine writer Steve Erickson suggested that the film was ultimately superficial, observed that “for all their flaws, [the characters played by] Moore and Haysbert and [Dennis] Quaid are an impulse away from nobility.” In a Boston Globe profile of the actor, Peter Brunette commented that “Amid the stifling conformity and repression of the era, Haysbert’s character stands like a beacon of loving kindness.”
With several solid successes behind him, Haysbert is looking forward to a range of future roles. “I always want to be challenged,” he told Detroit Free Press writer Mike Duffy. “I always want to have something that’s out of the ordinary and something that people can look at and say, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’” Indeed, in 2003 he explored a new direction by providing the voice for Kale, the first mate of mythical pirate Sinbad, in the animated film Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Haysbert’s deep mellow voice, the actor noted to Detroit Free Press writer Terry Lawson, “has always been a great asset.” Lawson reported that, according to the film’s codirector Patrick Gilmore, Kale had originally been written as a lesser character. But Haysbert’s performance brought such “spirit, confidence and nobility” to the role that the part was expanded.
Haysbert, whom Brunette described as “one very cool, utterly centered guy,” has been divorced twice and has two young children. In the prime of his career, he is, as Duffy observed, “a one-man wrecking crew of stereotypes.”
Love Field, Orion, 1992.
Waiting to Exhale, Twentieth-Century Fox, 1995.
Heat, Warner Brothers, 1995.
Absolute Power, Columbia/Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1997.
The Thirteenth Floor, Columbia/Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1999.
What’s Cookin’, 2000.
Love and Basketball, New Line Cinema, 2000.
Far from Heaven, Focus Features, 2002.
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Dreamworks, 2003.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, NBC, 1979.
Just the Ten of Us, ABC, 1988-89.
24, FOX, 2001–.
Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, Volume 26, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Back Stage West, June 19, 2003, p. 1.
Boston Globe, November 6, 2001, p. F1; November 10, 2002, p. N11; November 15, 2002, p. C1.
Detroit Free Press, July 25, 2002; July 2, 2003.
Ebony, June 1993, p. 52.
Entertainment Weekly, November 1, 2002, p. 58.
Jet, May 27, 2002, p. 48.
Los Angeles Magazine, December 2002, p. 120.
National Review, March 29, 1993, p. 70.
New Republic, March 15, 1993, p. 24.
New York Times, October 29, 2002, p. E1.
People Weekly, March 17, 1997, p. 77; March 31, 2003, p. 77.
Time, November 18, 2002, p. 132.
Haysbert, Dennis 1954(?)–
HAYSBERT, Dennis 1954(?)–
Full name, Dennis Dexter Haysbert; born June 2, 1954 (some sources cite 1955), in San Mateo, CA; son of Charles (a sheriff's deputy) and Gladys Haysbert; married an office manager (divorced); married Lynn Griffith (an actress), c. 1990 (divorced); children: (second marriage) Charles Cameron, Katherine Camille. Education: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Pasadena, CA, graduated, 1977; also attended College of San Mateo. Avocational Interests: Golf, cooking.
Addresses: Agent —Gersh Agency, 232 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Manager —Michael Levine, Levine Management, 9028 West Sunset Blvd., Penthouse 1, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Publicist —Brit Reece, PMK/HBH, 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Career: Actor. Appeared in commercials for AllState Insurance. Member of NETDAY.
Awards, Honors: Saturn Award, best genre television supporting actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, 2000, and Golden Satellite Award nomination, best actor in a drama series, International Press Academy, 2001, both for Now and Again; Washington Film Critics Award, best supporting actor, 2002, Golden Satellite Award, best supporting actor in a drama, 2003, and Black Reel Award, best theatrical supporting actor, 2003, all for Far from Heaven; Golden Globe Award nomination, best supporting actor in a series, miniseries, or television movie, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best supporting actor in a drama series, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series (with others), all 2003, and Image Award nominations, outstanding actor in a drama series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2003 and 2004, all for 24.
Pedro Cerrano, Major League, 1989.
Chief Billy Graham, Navy SEALS, Orion, 1990.
Max "Hammer" Dubois, Mr. Baseball, Universal, 1992.
Paul Cater, Love Field, Orion, 1992.
Clay Arlington, Suture, Samuel Goldwyn, 1993.
Pedro Cerrano, Major League II, Warner Bros., 1994.
Kenneth Dawkins, Waiting to Exhale, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1995.
Donald Breedan, Heat, Warner Bros., 1995.
Arthur, Insomnia, 1996.
Amanda, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1996.
Tim Collin, Absolute Power, Columbia, 1997.
Manhattan Parks, How to Make the Cruelest Month, Fugue State/Magnet Productions, 1998.
Ty "Bama" Jones, Standoff, Trimark Pictures, 1998.
Pedro Cerrano, Major League: Back to the Minors (also known as Major League III ), Warner Bros., 1998.
Detective Graves, The Minus Man, Artisan Entertainment, 1999.
Detective Larry McBain, The Thirteenth Floor (also known as Abwaerts in die Zukunft ), Columbia, 1999.
Detective "Big George" Beaufort, Random Hearts, Columbia, 1999.
Ronald Williams, What's Cooking?, Trimark Pictures, 2000.
Zeke McCall, Love & Basketball, New Line Cinema, 2000.
Raymond Deagan, Far from Heaven (also known as Loin du paradis ), Focus Features, 2002.
FBI agent, The Hire: Ticker, BMW Films, 2002.
Voice of Kale, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (animated), DreamWorks, 2003.
Television Appearances; Series:
"Stuff" Wade, Code Red, ABC, 1981.
Cletus Maxwell, Off the Rack, ABC, 1985.
Coach Duane Johnson, Just the Ten of Us, ABC, 1988–1989.
Dr. Theodore Morris, Now and Again, CBS, 1999.
David Palmer, 24, Fox, beginning 2001.
Television Appearances; Movies:
James "Shack" Harris, Grambling's White Tiger, NBC, 1981.
Dr. Hoover Beaumont, The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D., ABC, 1984.
Sheriff Pierce, A Summer to Remember, CBS, 1985.
Nick Sanrio, K–9000, Fox, 1991.
Sullivan, The Writing on the Wall (also known as Operation Schmetterling ), BBC (England), 1994.
Eddie Costello, Widow's Kiss, HBO, 1994.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Davis, Alex Haley's Queen (also known as Queen ), CBS, 1993.
"Cherokee Jack" Jackson, Return to Lonesome Dove, CBS, 1993.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Basketball player, "Wanna Bet?", The White Shadow, 1979.
Shore patrol officer, "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?", Laverne & Shirley, 1979.
Guard, "A Dream of Jennifer", Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, NBC, 1980.
Fred, "New Blood", Quincy (also known as Quincy, M.E. ), 1980.
Guard, "Nine Hours", The Incredible Hulk, 1980.
Voice of imperious leader, "Space Croppers", Galactica 1980, 1980.
Communication probe officer, "Time of the Hawk: Part 1", Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, NBC, 1981.
Helmsman, "The Guardians", Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, NBC, 1981.
Driver, "Head Hunter", Quincy (also known as Quincy, M.E. ), 1981.
Lieutenant Parsons, "The Hand of the Goral", Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, NBC, 1981.
Ensign, "The Dorian Secret", Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, NBC, 1981.
Burrows, "One More Time", The A–Team, NBC, 1983.
Dr. Forbes, "Killer at Large", Dallas, 1984.
Odell, "Father's Day", Riptide, 1984.
Police officer, "Weekend Fantasy", Growing Pains, 1985.
Lieutenant Jameson, "Blood and Honor", Magnum, P.I., 1986.
Jeremy Wolf, "Trial by Fire", The Fall Guy, ABC, 1986.
Sergeant Banks (some sources cite Sergeant Hall), "Redecorating Blues", 227, 1986.
Kimambo, "Billy's Lost Weekend", Scarecrow and Mrs. King, 1986.
Dr. Ervin, "Oedipus Wrecks", Valerie (also known as The Hogans ), 1987.
"Sounds from a Silent Clock: Part 2", Our House, 1987.
Sergeant Evans, "Before the Fall", The Facts of Life, 1987.
Officer Wright, "Gone But Not Forgotten", Growing Pains, 1987.
Police officer, "The Unraveling", Knots Landing, 1987.
Franklin Himes, "Moulin Rouge", Crime Story, 1988.
Frank, "State of the Union", Growing Pains, 1988.
Franklin Himes, "Seize the Time", Crime Story, 1988.
James Morgan, "Pen Pals", Night Court, NBC, 1989.
Voice, "Grandma–ma's Flatulent Adventure", Duckman (animated), USA Network, 1996.
Voice of Barkley James, "Mean Seasons", The New Batman/Superman Adventures (animated; also known as Batman Gotham Knights and Batman: The Animated Series ), The WB, 1998.
Voice of first agent, "Where There's Smoke", Superman (animated), 1998.
Voice of first doctor, "Unity", Superman (animated), 1999.
"Monster Wars", Godzilla: The Series, 1999.
Rick Grant, "Little Girl Blue", Soul Food, Showtime, 2001.
Rick Grant, "Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose", Soul Food, Showtime, 2001.
Judge Joshua Finch, "Rule of Law", The Outer Limits, Showtime and syndicated, 2001.
Voice of Kilowog, "In Blackest Night: Part 2", Justice League (animated), Cartoon Network, 2001.
Guest, The View, 2002.
Chief Barnsdale, "Brother–Sister Act", Static Shock, 2002.
Guest, Liquid News, BBC (England), 2002.
Police chief, "The Parent Trap", Static Shock, 2003.
Guest, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, 2003.
Guest, Pure 24, BBC3 (England), 2003.
Voice of Kilowog, "Hearts and Minds:Parts 1&2, " Justice League (animated), Cartoon Network, 2003.
Appeared in an episode of Lou Grant, CBS, c. 1979.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
"Stuff" Wade, Code Red, ABC, 1981.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Reverend Oliver Crawford, Hallelujah, PBS, 1993.
24 Heaven, BBC (England), 2002.
24: The Postmortem, BBC, 2002.
The Making of "Far from Heaven ", 2002.
Interviewee, 100 Years of Hope and Humor, NBC, 2003.
24: Access All Areas, BBC, 2003.
Also appeared in the special The Upper Room.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Presenter, The Sixth Annual Trumpet Awards, TBS, 1998.
Presenter, The 1999 Trumpet Awards, TBS, 1999.
Host, The 2000 Trumpet Awards, TBS, 2000.
The 15th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, syndicated, 2000.
Presenter, The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, NBC, 2002.
The 34th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2003.
Presenter, The 2003 ESPY Awards, ESPN, 2003.
Appeared in All Over Town; Blood Knot; Diplomacy; Jimmy Shine; No Place to Be Somebody; On the Death Of; Othello; Ten Little Indians; The Time of Your Life; Wedding Band; and Yanks–3, Detroit–0, Top of the Seventh.
Hollywood Reporter, June 3, 1996, p. 3.
People Weekly, March 17, 1997, p. 77.
TV Guide, December 25, 1999, p. 23; November 30, 2002, p. 12.