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Jeffrey Wright (born December 7, 1965) is an American film, television, and stage actor and film producer.

Early life

Wright was born in Washington, D.C.marker to a mother who worked as a customs lawyer. He graduated from St Albans Schoolmarker and attended Amherst Collegemarker, receiving a bachelor's degree in political science and planning to continue on to law school; however, he decided to study acting instead. After receiving an acting scholarship from New York Universitymarker and attending the school for two months, he decided to leave and become a full time actor.


Wright began appearing off-Broadway in New York Citymarker and Washington, D.C.marker, and in [1990 appeared in his first major film as an attorney in Presumed Innocent, which starred Harrison Ford. In 1991, Wright joined John Houseman's national touring repertory company The Acting Company with productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Athol Fugard's Blood Knot. Wright continued with his stage performances and in 1994 was cast as Norman 'Belize' Arriaga in Tony Kushner's award-winning play Angels in America. His portrayal of a gay nurse forced to take care of a homophobic Roy Cohn as he lay dying from AIDS won him the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.

In 1996, Wright had another breakthrough performance on the big screen, portraying painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in the film Basquiat. The film depicts the real-life tribulations of a young artist who gained tremendous success in the white-dominated New Yorkmarker art scene until he died of heroin overdose at the age of 27. Wright's performance was again critically acclaimed and the movie gave him the chance to work alongside veterans such as Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Hopper, David Bowie, and Christopher Walken.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s Wright gave memorable performances in both leading and supporting roles. His more mentionable roles were in movies such as Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), Shaft (2000), and Boycott (2001), where he gave another critically acclaimed performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. and was awarded the AFI Award for his portrayal. In 2003 Wright reprised his role as Norman 'Belize' Arriaga in HBO's award-winning adaptation of Angels in America starring alongside screen veterans Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep and directed by Mike Nichols. His performance garnered him an Emmy award as well as a Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries. In 2004, he appeared in Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate opposite Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Liev Schreiber. In February 2005, Wright returned to HBO Films in his friend George C. Wolfe's directorial debut, Lackawanna Blues, which starred many notable African-American actors. He also guest starred on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Homicide: Life on the Street.

Among his most notable film roles was the Washington attorney Bennett Holiday in Stephen Gaghan's Syriana (2005), where he was the co-lead along with George Clooney and Matt Damon. The same year he played Bill Murray's eccentric Ethiopian neighbor Winston in Jim Jarmusch's existential road movie, Broken Flowers. In 2005, he starred in the play This Is How It Goes, alongside Ben Stiller and Amanda Peet. He also appeared as one of the tenants in M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water.

In 2006, Wright featured as Felix Leiter in the 21st James Bond movie, Casino Royale. This makes him the first African-American man to play the character in an official Bond film (Bernie Casey played Leiter in the unofficial Never Say Never Again). He reprised the role in Quantum of Solace, making him only the second actor to appear as Leiter twice since David Hedison played the character in Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill.

In 2007, Wright was reunited with Casino Royale co-star, Daniel Craig, for the alien invasion suspense thriller, The Invasion, with Nicole Kidman. In 2008, Wright portrayed Bush's former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in Oliver Stone's biographical epic W. Also, Wright portrays Muddy Waters in Cadillac Records which is the biopic about the rise and fall of Chess Records .

Personal life

Wright married Carmen Ejogo in August 2000. They have a young son named Elijah and live in Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker. In 2004, Wright received an honorary degree from his alma mater Amherst Collegemarker.

On July 12, 2008, Wright was arrested, along with actor Josh Brolin and five other crew members of W., after an altercation at the Stray Cat Bar in Shreveport, Louisianamarker. Charges against all seven men were later dropped by Shreveport prosecutors.


Year Film Role Notes
1990 Presumed Innocent Prosecuting Attorney
1992 Jumpin' at the Boneyard Derek
1996 Faithful Young Man at Rolls
Basquiat Jean Michel Basquiat Alternative title: Build a Fort, Set It on Fire
1997 Critical Care Bed Two
1998 Too Tired to Die Balzac Man
Celebrity Greg - Off-Off Broadway Director
Meschugge Win Alternative title: The Giraffe
Blossoms and Veils Ben
1999 Cement Ninny
Ride with the Devil Daniel Holt
2000 Hamlet Gravedigger
Crime and Punishment in Suburbia Chris
Shaft Peoples Hernandez
2001 Ali Howard Bingham
2002 D-Tox Jaworski Alternative title: Eye See You
2004 Sin's Kitchen Rex
The Manchurian Candidate Al Melvin
2005 Broken Flowers Winston
Syriana Bennett Holiday
2006 Lady in the Water Mr. Dury
Casino Royale Felix Leiter
2007 The Invasion Dr. Stephen Galeano
Blackout Nelson Producer
2008 W. General Colin Powell
Quantum of Solace Felix Leiter
Cadillac Records Muddy Waters
2009 One Blood Dan Clark Producer
2011 Bond 23 Felix Leiter pre-production
Year Title Role Notes
1991 Separate But Equal William Coleman Television movie
1993 The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles Sidney Bechet 2 episodes
1994 New York Undercover Andre Foreman 1 episode
1997 Homicide: Life on the Street Hal Wilson 3 episodes
2001 Boycott Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Television movie
2003 Angels in America Belize Miniseries
2005 Lackawanna Blues Mr. Paul Television movie
2007 American Experience Narrator 1 episode
2008 Independent Lens Bobby Seale 1 episode


Year Award Category Film
2002 AFI Awards AFI Actor of the Year - Male - Movie or Mini-Series Blackout
2004 Black Reel Awards Television: Best Supporting Actor Angels in America
2006 Best Supporting Actor - Television Lackawanna Blues
2008 Best Supporting Actor Cadillac Records
Best Ensemble Cadillac Records (Shared with cast)
2007 Chicago International Film Festival Career Achievement Award
2004 Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Angels in America
2004 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Angels in America
2005 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actor Broken Flowers
2000 Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Performance, Male Shaft (Tied with Tobey Maguire for Wonder Boys)


  1. Jeffrey Wright Biography (1965?-)
  2. Attorney says charges against Brolin to be dropped Yahoo News, January 6, 2009

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