Alfre Woodard is an American actress, producer, and political activist. Woodard has been named one of the most versatile and accomplished actors of her generation. She has been nominated once for an Academy Award and Grammy Award and 18 times for an Emmy Award (winning four) and has also won a Golden Globe Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Woodard began her acting career in theater. After her breakthrough role in the Off-Broadway play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1977), she made her film debut in Remember My Name (1978). In 1983, she won major critical praise and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Cross Creek. In the same year, Woodard won her first Primetime Emmy Award for her performance in the NBC drama series Hill Street Blues. Later in the 1980s, Woodard had leading Emmy Award-nominated performances in a number of made for television movies, and another Emmy-winning role as a woman dying of leukemia in the pilot episode of L.A. Law. She also starred as Dr. Roxanne Turner in the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1986, and for Guest Actress in 1988.
In the 1990s, Woodard starred in films such as Grand Canyon (1991), Heart and Souls (1993), Crooklyn (1994), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Primal Fear (1996) and Star Trek: First Contact (1996). She also drew critical praise for her performances in the independent dramas Passion Fish (1992), for which she won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as Down in the Delta (1998). For her lead role in the HBO film Miss Evers' Boys (1997), Woodard won Golden Globe, Emmy, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and several another awards. In later years she has appeared in several blockbusters, like K-PAX (2001), The Core (2003), and The Forgotten (2004), starred in independent films, and won her fourth Emmy Award for The Practice in 2003. From 2005 to 2006, Woodard starred as Betty Applewhite in the ABC comedy-drama series Desperate Housewives, and later starred in several short-lived series. She appeared in the films The Family That Preys (2008), 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Annabelle (2014), and has also worked as a political activist and producer. Woodard is a founder of Artists for a New South Africa, an organization devoted to advancing democracy and equality in that country. She is a board member of AMPAS.
From 2010 to 2011, Woodard starred as Lt. Tanya Rice in the TNT comedy-drama series, Memphis Beat, for which she won Gracie Allen Awards. One critic said: "I originally tuned in for Jason Lee, who plays a police detective named Dwight who likes to croon the blues. But I was won over by Alfre Woodard, who plays Dwight's by-the-book boss." Memphis Beat was canceled after two seasons. In 2010, she also was cast in the third season of HBO's True Blood as Ruby Jean Reynolds. She was nominated for another Primetime Emmy in 2011 for her recurring role. Woodard also guest-starred in Shonda Rhimes' dramas Grey's Anatomy in 2011 and Private Practice in 2012. Also in 2012, Woodard was cast as Ouiser (played by Shirley MacLaine in the 1989 film) in the remake of classic comedy-drama film, Steel Magnolias. The Lifetime television remake premiered on October 7, 2012 and earned 6.5 million viewers, making history as 3rd highest viewed Lifetime Original film. Woodard received critical acclaim for her comedic performance and anothers Primetime Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations. In 2013, Woodard makes Emmy history with 17 nods for 16 different roles. Also in 2013 she had a recurring role in the BBC America period drama, Copper.
In 2013, Woodard appeared in Steve McQueen's historical drama film 12 Years a Slave as Mistress Harriet Shaw, a formerly enslaved woman who has risen in the Southern caste system. Though her appearance was brief, her performance was praised as powerful. Along with cast she was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and well for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for single scene appearance. In 2013, she also appeared in Ava DuVernay's short film The Door, a part of Miu Miu's Women's Tales series. In 2014, Woodard was cast in horror-thriller Annabelle, and comedy-drama Mississippi Grind. She also starred in the independent drama film Knucklehead as an abusive mother.
On March 21, 2014 it was announced that Woodard will be playing the role of the first female President of the United States in the NBC political drama pilot, State of Affairs opposite Katherine Heigl. The pilot was ordered to series in May 2014. About her role Woodard said "It's fun to play the president, rather than to be the president. But what drew me was how smart the script was, and this world we hadn't seen before – this world most Americans didn't know existed before we went after Bin Laden. And that it was being done by people who knew the world. So we're not stepping too outside the boundaries; it's based in realism. And I love politics. I have worked in politics for several decades, so it was a chance to live in a world that was important to me." The series premiered with generally negative reviews from critics, but most reviewers praising Woodard' performance. Amy Amatangelo of Boston Herald gave the premiere grade "C", stating that "Alfre Woodard isn't given a lot to do as President Constance Payton in the premiere, but, unlike Heigl, she does have the gravitas for the role, and the show would be wise to use her more. The series sets up some interesting reveals in the hour's final moments. They potentially could make the show more interesting. But for now the state of affairs is rather mediocre." The series was canceled after single season.
In November 2014, Woodard was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She said in her acceptance speech that she believes it is her responsibility to use her fame to help others less fortunate. Also in November 2014, Woodard narrated "Women in Politics", an episode of season 2 of Makers: Women Who Make America.
In 2015, Woodard was cast as a lead in the film adaptation of Sarah Weeks' young adult novel So B. It directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. The film was released in April 2017 by Good Deed Acquires. In 2016, she also had a small role in Marvel's film Captain America: Civil War, playing Miriam Sharpe, the mother of an American citizen killed in the battle of Sokovia. Later that year, she played Mariah Dillard in the Netflix series Marvel's Luke Cage, marking her second character portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That same year she was cast in DreamWorks' film Haunted based on Henry James' novell Turn of the Screw and directing by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.
In 2017, Woodard was cast as a title character in the independent drama Juanita based on Sheila Williams' book Dancing on the Edge of the Roof. She also co-starred opposite Michelle Monaghan in Saint Judy. In August 2017, Woodard was cast to play as Sarabi in the 2019 CGI live action remake of The Lion King directed by Jon Favreau. Woodard also appeared as Josephine Anwhistle in Netflix's adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which premiered in 2017. In 2018, she take a recurring role in the Fox prime time soap opera Empire, playing Renee, Cookie Lyon's mother.
In 2019, Woodard played in a leading role in the prison drama film Clemency which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The film centers on a prison warden (Woodard) who confronts her own psychological demons as she develops an emotional connection to the death row inmate (played by Aldis Hodge) she is scheduled to execute. For her performance, Woodard has received wide critical acclaim.She listed as a contender for a 2020 Academy Award for Best Actress nomination.
Woodard will star opposite Jason Momoa in the upcoming Apple original drama series See, the series set in the future when the human race has lost the sense of sight.
Woodard has announced that she is producing an upcoming 4-hour television miniseries about Fannie Lou Hamer, a voting rights activist and civil rights leader.
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