James Earl Jones is an American actor. His career has spanned more than six decades, and he has been described as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors and "one of the greatest actors in American history". Since his Broadway debut in 1957, Jones has won many awards, including a Tony Award for his role in The Great White Hope, which also earned him a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film version of the play. Jones has won three Emmy Awards, including two in the same year in 1990. He is also known for his voice roles as Darth Vader in the Star Wars film series and Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King, as well as many other film, stage and television roles.
Jones has been said to possess "one of the best-known voices in show business, a stirring basso profondo that has lent gravel and gravitas" to his projects, including live-action acting, voice acting, and commercial voice-overs. In 1970, he won a Grammy Award for Great American Documents. As a child, Jones had a stutter. In his episode of Biography, he said he overcame the affliction through poetry, public speaking, and acting, although it lasted for several years. A pre-med major in college, he went on to serve in the United States Army during the Korean War before pursuing a career in acting. On November 12, 2011, he received an Honorary Academy Award. On November 9, 2015, Jones received the Voice Arts Icon Award. On May 25, 2017, he received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Harvard University and concluded the event's benediction with "May the Force be with you".
In 1967, Jones appeared in The Comedians alongside Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Alec Guinness. Jones portrayed a surgeon and Haitian rebel leader.
In 1970, Jones starred in his first leading role The Great White Hope co-starring Jane Alexander. Jones portrayed boxer Jack Jefferson, a role he had previously originated on stage. His performance was met with great critical acclaim, earning him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor. He was the second African-American male performer (following Sidney Poitier) to be nominated for this award.
In The Man (1972), Jones starred as a senator who unexpectedly becomes the first African-American president of the United States. The film also starred Martin Balsam, and Burgess Meredith.
In 1974, Jones co-starred with Diahann Carroll in the film Claudine, the story of a woman who raises her six children alone after two failed and two "almost" marriages. They each were nominated for Golden Globe awards for their performances. Carroll later was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as well.
Jones is known as the voice of Darth Vader in the 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope and its sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Darth Vader was portrayed in costume by David Prowse in the film trilogy, with Jones dubbing Vader's dialogue in postproduction because Prowse's strong West Country accent was deemed unsuitable for the role by George Lucas. At his own request, Jones was uncredited for the original releases of the first two Star Wars films, though he later would be credited for the first film in its 1997 "Special Edition" re-release. As he explained in a 2008 interview:
When Linda Blair did the girl in The Exorcist, they hired Mercedes McCambridge to do the voice of the devil coming out of her. And there was controversy as to whether Mercedes should get credit. I was one who thought no, she was just special effects. So when it came to Darth Vader, I said, no, I'm just special effects. But it became so identified that by the third one, I thought, OK I'll let them put my name on it.
Although uncredited, Jones' voice is possibly heard as Vader at the conclusion of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). When specifically asked whether he had supplied the voice, possibly from a previous recording, Jones told Newsday: "You'd have to ask Lucas about that. I don't know." Jones reprised his voice role of Vader for the character's appearances in the animated TV series Star Wars Rebels, and the live-action film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).
His other voice roles include Mufasa in the 1994 Disney film The Lion King and its direct-to-video sequel, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. In February 2017, it was announced that Jones would again voice the character in the 2019 remake of The Lion King, which will be directed by Jon Favreau. According to Favreau, Jones' lines remain mostly the same from the original film. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Scar in the film, said that "the comfort of [Jones reprising his role] is going to be very rewarding in taking [the audience] on this journey again. It's a once-in-a-generation vocal quality".
In 1990, Jones performed voice work for The Simpsons first "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween special, in which he was the narrator for the Simpsons' version of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven". He also voiced the Emperor of the Night in Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night and Ommadon in Flight of Dragons. Accompanied by the Morgan State University choir, Jones spoke the U.S. National Anthem before the 1993 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Baltimore. In 1996, he recited the classic baseball poem "Casey at the Bat" with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and in 2007 before a Philadelphia Phillies home game on June 1, 2007.
He also has done the CNN tagline, "This is CNN", as well as "This is CNN International", and the opening for CNN's morning show New Day. Jones was also a longtime spokesman for Bell Atlantic and later Verizon. He also lent his voice to the opening for NBC's coverage of the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics; "the Big PI in the Sky" (God) in the computer game Under a Killing Moon; a Claymation film, The Creation; and several other guest spots on The Simpsons. Jones also lent his voice for a narrative part in the Adam Sandler comedy Click, released in June 2006. Jones narrated all 27 books of the New Testament in the audiobook James Earl Jones Reads the Bible.
Jones has the distinction of being the only actor to win two Emmys in the same year, in 1991 as Best Actor for his role in Gabriel's Fire and as Best Supporting Actor for his work in Heat Wave.
Jones starred in the critically acclaimed the television mini-series Roots: The Next Generations as the older version of author Alex Haley; and widowed police officer Neb Langston in the television program Under One Roof, for which he received an Emmy nomination. He also appeared in television and radio advertising for Verizon Business DSL and Verizon Online DSL from Verizon Communications. He appeared on the soap opera Guiding Light. He portrayed Thad Green on "Mathnet," a parody of Dragnet that appeared in the PBS program Square One Television.
In 1969, Jones participated in making test films for the children's education series Sesame Street; these shorts, combined with animated segments, were shown to groups of children to gauge the effectiveness of the then-groundbreaking Sesame Street format. As cited by production notes included in the DVD release Sesame Street: Old School 1969–1974, the short that had the greatest impact with test audiences was one showing bald-headed Jones counting slowly to ten. This and other segments featuring Jones were eventually aired as part of the Sesame Street series itself when it debuted later in 1969 and Jones is often cited as the first celebrity guest on that series, although a segment with Carol Burnett was the first to actually be broadcast.
He has played lead characters on television in three series. First, he appeared on the short-lived CBS police drama Paris, which aired during autumn 1979. That show was notable as the first program on which Steven Bochco served as executive producer. The second show aired on ABC between 1990 and 1992, the first season being titled Gabriel's Fire and the second (after a format revision) Pros and Cons. In both formats of that show, Jones played a former policeman wrongly convicted of murder who, upon his release from prison, became a private eye. In 1995, Jones starred in Under One Roof as Neb Langston, a widowed African-American police officer sharing his home in Seattle with his daughter, his married son with his children, and Neb's newly adopted son. The show was a mid-season replacement and lasted only six weeks. From 1989 to 1993, Jones served as the host of the children's TV series Long Ago and Far Away. In 1998, Jones starred in the widely acclaimed syndicated program An American Moment (created by James R. Kirk and Ninth Wave Productions). Jones took over the role left by Charles Kuralt, upon Kuralt's death.
James has guest starred in many television shows over the years including for NBC's Frasier and Will & Grace, CBS's Two and a Half Men, and the WB drama Everwood, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Fox's medical drama House, M.D., and most recently CBS's The Big Bang Theory
In 2013-14, he appeared alongside Malcolm McDowell in a series of commercials for Sprint in which the two recited mundane phone and text-message conversations in a dramatic way. In 2015, Jones starred as the Chief Justice Caleb Thorne in the American drama series Agent X alongside actress Sharon Stone, Jeff Hephner, Jamey Sheridan, and others. The television series was aired by TNT from November 8 to December 27, 2015, running only one season and 10 episodes.
In 2015, Jones reprised his role as Mufasa in the television film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar which served as a sequel to the original film, and a prequel and pilot to the animated series.
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