Aunjanue Ellis

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Aunjanue Ellis
Aunjanue Ellis 2015.jpg
Ellis in 2015.
Born Aunjanue L. Ellis
(1969-02-21) February 21, 1969 (age 46)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, producer
Years active 1995–present

Aunjanue L. Ellis (born February 21, 1969) is an American film, stage, and television actress, and producer. She began her acting career in theater, and made her film debut in Girls Town. She later had leading roles in a number of independent movies, and co-starred in several mainstream films.

Ellis is best known for her roles in films Men of Honor (2000), The Caveman's Valentine (2001), Undercover Brother (2002), Ray (2004), The Express (2008), The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) and The Help (2011). On television, Ellis had regular role in the ABC police drama series High Incident (1996–97), and later co-starred in a number of short-lived dramas. She had recurring roles on The Practice, True Blood, and The Mentalist, and played roles in a number of made for television movies, such as Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009) and Abducted: The Carlina White Story (2013). In 2015, Ellis played the leading role in the miniseries The Book of Negroes based on bestselling novel by Lawrence Hill, for which she received critical acclaim.

Early life[edit]

Ellis was born in San Francisco, California, and raised on her grandmother's farm in Mississippi.[1] She attended Tougaloo College before transferring to Brown University, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in African-American studies, while also studying acting with Jim Barnhill and John Emigh. She went on to study acting in the Graduate Acting Program at New York University.[2] She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.[3]


Ellis at event of The Book of Negroes in Bell Lightbox in 2015

In 1995, Ellis has made her acting debut appearing as Ariel opposite Patrick Stewart's Prospero in a Broadway revival of William Shakespeare's The Tempest.[4] She later made her screen debut in the episode of Fox police drama series, New York Undercover, and had roles in films Girls Town and Ed's Next Move.

Ellis has appeared in a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre productions. In January 2004, she performed in Regina Taylor's play Drowning Crow, at the Manhattan Theatre Club.[5] In the Spring, 2012 Hampton University semester, she taught entertainment industry courses. She was also featured in a Hampton Players and Company production, "Through the Crack."[6]

Ellis starred in the ABC drama series High Incident from 1996 to 1997, and had regular and recurring roles on a number of short-lived series, including MDs, and E-Ring.[7] In film, she had roles of Men of Honor (2000) opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr., The Caveman's Valentine (2004) and Freedomland (2006) with Samuel L. Jackson, and Ray (2004) alongside Jamie Foxx. She also starred in the 2002 comedy Undercover Brother, and was lead actress in the 2007 flop thriller Cover. In 2011, she appeared in The Help as Yule May Davis, one of the maids. In 2014, she played Vicki Anderson in Get on Up. Ellis also had many roles in independent films. On television, she appeared on The Practice, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, True Blood, The Good Wife, and NCIS: Los Angeles. From 2010 to 2013, Ellis had a recurring role in the CBS series The Mentalist, as Madeleine Hightower. She starred in the made for television films, Disappearing Acts (2000), Racing for Time (2008), Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009), and Abducted: The Carlina White Story.[8]

Ellis starred as one of the lead characters in the 2013 AMC pilot The Divide, but later WE tv had decided to pick up pilot to series. She left the show and her role was recast with Nia Long.[9][10] In 2015, Ellis starred in the epic miniseries The Book of Negroes, based on Lawrence Hill’s bestselling 2007 novel.[11][12] She received critical acclaim for her performance.[13][14][15]

On February 25, 2015, it was announced that Ellis was cast as lead character in the ABC drama pilot, Quantico.[16][17]



Year Title Role Notes
1996 Girls Town Nikki
1996 Ed's Next Move Erica
1998 Side Streets Brenda Boyce
1998 Desert Blue Agent Summers
1999 In Too Deep Denise
1999 A Map of the World Dyshett
2000 John John in the Sky Earlene
2000 Men of Honor Jo Brashear Nominated -NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
2000 The Opponent June
2000 Disappearing Acts Pam Television film
2001 The Caveman's Valentine Lulu
2001 Lovely & Amazing Lorraine
2002 Undercover Brother Sistah Girl Nominated -Black Reel Award for Best Actress
2004 Brother to Brother Zora
2004 Ray Mary Ann Fisher Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2005 Perception Vera
2006 Freedomland Felicia
2007 Cover Valerie Mass
2008 Racing for Time Officer Baker Television film
2008 The Express Marie Davis
2009 Notorious Sandy
2009 I Love You Phillip Morris Reba
2009 The Hungry Ghosts Nadia
2009 Motherhood Sample Sale Friend
2009 Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story Candy Television film
Nominated -NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
2009 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Therese
2010 The Tested Darraylynn Warren
2010 Game of Death Rachel
2011 The Resident Sydney
2011 The Help Yule May Davis National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best CastWomen Film Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Satellite Award for Best Cast – Motion Picture
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Women Film Critics Circle Award for Best Female Ensemble
Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated - Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Cast
Nominated - San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble
Nominated - Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
2011 Money Matters Pamela Matters
2012 Abducted: The Carlina White Story Ann Television film
Black Reel Award for Best Actress on Mini-Series or Television Movie
2013 The Volunteer Leigh
2014 Romeo and Juliet in Harlem Lady Capulet
2014 Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind Una Vida Newport Beach Film Festival Award for Best Actress[18][19]
American Black Film Festival Award for Best Actress
2014 Get on Up Vicki Anderson Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble


Year Title Role Notes
1995 New York Undercover Claudia Episode: "Buster and Claudia"
1996-1997 High Incident Off. Leslie Joyner Series regular, 24 episodes
1999 The Practice Sharon Young Recurring role, 4 episodes
2000 Third Watch Gail Moore Episodes: "Journey to the Himalayas" and "32 Bullets and a Broken Heart"
2001 100 Centre Street Amanda Davis Recurring role, 3 episodes
2002 MDs Quinn Joyner Series regular, 10 episodes
2004 The D.A. Ellen Baker Episode: "The People vs. Sergius Kovinsky"
2005 Jonny Zero Gloria Recurring role, 6 episodes
2005-2006 E-Ring Jocelyn Pierce Series regular, 23 episodes
2007 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Carmen Rivera Episode: "Flipped"
2006-2007 Justice Miranda Lee Recurring role, 9 episodes
2008 Numb3rs Ivy Kirk Episode: "Power"
2008 The Border Amira Episode: "Family Values"
2008 True Blood Diane Recurring role, 3 episodes
2008 The Prince of Motor City Cora Neel TV pilot
2009 The Good Wife Linda Underwood Episode: "Crash"
2012 Blue Bloods Sylvia Marshall Episode: "Reagan V. Reagan"
2012 Missing Mary Dresden Recurring role, 3 episodes
2012-2014 NCIS: Los Angeles Michelle Hanna Recurring role, 5 episodes
2010-2013 The Mentalist Madeleine Hightower Recurring role, 17 episodes
2014 Sleepy Hollow Lori Mills Episode: "Mama"
2015 The Book of Negroes Aminata Diallo Miniseries, 6 episodes
2015 Quantico Miranda TV pilot


  1. ^ "Up and Coming: Aunjanue Ellis and Carrie Preston;Two Young Performers Ride 'The Tempest'". 17 December 1995. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "NYU Graduate Acting Alumni". 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  3. ^ Robert Brauchle (January 13, 2012). "Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters to meet this month". Daily Press. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  4. ^ The Broadway League. "The Tempest | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  5. ^ Ben Brantley (February 20, 2004). "THEATER REVIEW; Chekhov Shows He Can Rap". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ "'The Help' actress to teach courses at HU". WAVY-TV. January 17, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Aunjanue Ellis movies, photos, movie reviews, filmography, and biography". AllMovie. 1969-02-21. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  8. ^ "Lifetime Greenlights Movie 'Abducted,' Starring Aunjanue Ellis, Keke Palmer, Sherri Shepherd | Shadow and Act". Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  9. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "WE TV Eyes Expansion Into Scripted Programming With Series Order To AMC's LaGravenese/Goldwyn Drama Pilot". Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  10. ^ "WE TV Announces First Scripted Program 'The Divide,' 3 More to Follow | Filmmakers, Film Industry, Film Festivals, Awards & Movie Reviews". Indiewire. 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  11. ^ "Louis Gossett Jr, Cuba Gooding Jr, Aunjanue Ellis & Lyriq Bent Set For 'Book Of Negroes' Miniseries". Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  12. ^ "Aunjanue Ellis, Louis Gossett Jr., Cuba Gooding Jr. Board 'The Book of Negroes' Adaptation | Shadow and Act". Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  13. ^ "The Book of Negroes". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Bustle". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  15. ^ Whitney Matheson. "'The Book of Negroes': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Lesley Goldberg. "Aunjanue Ellis Nabs Female Lead in ABC's 'Quantico' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Nellie Andreeva. "James Earl Joins ‘Cooper Barrett’s Guide'; Aunjanue Ellis In ‘Quantico’". Deadline. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  18. ^ Rhea Mahbubani; Michael Miller (2014-05-02). "Film festival winners - Daily Pilot". Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  19. ^ Coker, Matt (2014-05-05). "The Sublime and Beautiful, Kickstarted Drama, is Big Newport Beach Film Fest Award Winner | OC Weekly". Retrieved 2014-05-24. 

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