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Jurnee Diana Smollett (born October 1, 1986) is an American actress.


Smollett was born in New York Citymarker, the daughter of Janet and Joel Smollett.The fourth of six performing siblings, she received critical acclaim for her title role in the finely crafted independent drama Eve's Bayou (1997). The performance earned her a Young Star Award nomination. The young thespian pulled ahead of her brothers and sisters with her bracing portrayal of a ten-year-old who finds her father (Samuel L. Jackson) in a compromising position. She was just what writer-director Kasi Lemmons had envisioned for the lead in her film: "a light-skinned black child … who could convey the nuances of a Creole child in the 60s."

She co-starred with her siblings in the television comedy On Our Own (1994-1995) and appeared in numerous television shows such as Hangin' with Mr. Cooper and Full House in which she played Michelle Tanner's young friend Denise. From 1998 to 2000, she appeared as a regular cast member of the Bill Cosby series titled Cosby. She also played as a regular in Wanda at Large as Wanda Sykes' niece Holly in 2003, in the episode "Fools for Love" as the character "Tracey" on House, in The Great Debaters, and most recently as Beth, a terminally ill girl who undergoes a clinical trial to successful results in the episode "Freedom" on the popular ABC drama Grey's Anatomy.

Smollett starred with Bow Wow in the 2005 film Roll Bounce. She played the role of Danyelle Rollins in the 2006 film Gridiron Gang, and also played leading roles in the racial drama Selma, Lord, Selma as well as Beautiful Joe (alongside Sharon Stone and Billy Connolly) and Ruby's Bucket of Blood. In 2007, she played the role of Samantha Booke in The Great Debaters (which was directed by Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey).

On the 17th March 2009 she visited Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre, Kwa Mashu Township, north of Durban, South Africa where she led an inspiring exchange youth forum sharing her experiences with Kwa Mashu youth.

Also in late 2009 she announced that she will have a role on the upcoming season of Friday Night Lights

Personal life

Smollett has four brothers and one sister, all of whom are actors:

  • Jazz Smollett
  • Jocqui Smollett
  • Jake Smollett
  • Jojo Smollett
  • Jussie Smollett

Smollett has been active in HIV/AIDS involved causes since she was twelve. She has spoken at the Ryan White Youth Conference, and elsewhere, on this issue. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS. She is also on the Board of Directors of the group Artists for a New South Africa, dedicated to dealing with HIV/AIDS in Africa



Year Title Role Other notes
1991 Sunday in Paris Alison Chase
1996 Jack Phoebe
1997 Eve's Bayou Eve Batiste
1999 Selma, Lord, Selma Sheyann Webb
2000 Beautiful Joe Vivien
2001 Ruby's Bucket of Blood Emerald Delacroix Made for television movie
2005 Roll Bounce Tori
2006 Gridiron Gang Danyelle Rollins
2007 The Great Debators Samantha Booke


Year Series Role Other notes
1992 Hangin' with Mr. Cooper Denise Frazer 3 episodes
Martin Little Girl
1992-1994 Full House Denise Frazer 11 episodes
1995 On Our Own Jordee Jerrico 7 episodes
1996 NYPD Blue Hanna
1998-2000 Cosby Jurnee 8 episodes
2002 Strong Medicine
ER Romy Next of Kin
2003 Wanda at Large Holly Hawkins 4 episodes
2006 House M.D. Tracy Fools for Love
2008 Grey's Anatomy Beth Freedom
2009 Friday Night Lights Jess Merriweather 5 episodes


  • Image Awards
    • 2008, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture- (The Great Debaters) Winner
    • 2000, Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress- (Cosby) Winner
    • 1999, Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress- (Cosby) Winner
    • 1998, Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress- (Eve's Bayou) Nominated

  • Young Artist Awards
    • 1998, Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actress- (Eve's Bayou) Nominated
    • 1995, Best Performance by an Actress Under Ten in a TV Series- "On Our Own" Nominated


  1. UP AND COMING: Jurnee Smollett; Calm Child at the Center of an Adult Storm
  2. Voice of America
  3. Art & Understanding Magazine (AIDS-related issues magazine)
  4. ANSA site

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