Alfre Woodard

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Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard 2012.jpg
Woodard at Congressional Black Caucus in Johnson C. Smith University in 2012.
Born Alfre Woodard
(1952-11-08) November 8, 1952 (age 61)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Occupation Actress, producer
Years active 1978–present
Spouse(s) Roderick Spencer (m. 1983)
Children 2

Alfre Woodard (born November 8, 1952) is an American film, stage, and television actress, producer, and political activist. Woodard has been called one of the most versatile and accomplished actors of her generation.[1] She has been nominated once for an Academy Award and Grammy Award, 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 theatre. 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 1980 she starred in Robert Altman's Health and in 1983 won major critical praise and was nominated for a Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for role in Cross Creek.[1] In 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[2] 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 an 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 wells 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 (2001), 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 films The Family That Preys (2008) and 12 Years a Slave (2013), and has also worked as a political activist and producer. Woodard is a founder of Artists for a New South Africa, organization devoted to advancing democracy and equality in that country.[3] She is a board member of AMPAS.[4]

Early life[edit]

Woodard was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Constance, a homemaker, and Marion H. Woodard, an entrepreneur and interior designer.[5] Woodard attended Bishop Kelley High School, a private Catholic school in Tulsa. She studied drama at Boston University, from which she graduated.[3]


Woodard has made numerous appearances in television and motion pictures. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1983 film Cross Creek. In 1993, she starred in the film Passion Fish for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She also appeared in the films Heart and Souls, Crooklyn, How to Make an American Quilt, Primal Fear, in Down in the Delta as a single alcoholic mother from Chicago forced to spend a summer with her uncle in Mississippi, and as Lily Sloane, Zefram Cochrane's assistant in Star Trek: First Contact, a performance in the franchise which garnered wide critical acclaim.

Woodard at the premiere of 12 Years a Slave at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

In 1997, she starred in the HBO film Miss Evers' Boys, for which she won an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a CableACE Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Satellite Awards.

Woodard's television credits include Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Faerie Tale Theatre (in "Puss in Boots"), L.A. Law, and Homicide: Life on the Street. Woodard has won four Primetime Emmy Awards for her performances in the series Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and The Practice, as well as the television movie Miss Evers' Boys. Woodard has received Emmy nominations for Words by Heart, St. Elsewhere, Unnatural Causes, a second nomination for St. Elsewhere, A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story, The Piano Lesson, Gulliver's Travels, Homicide: Life on the Street and The Water Is Wide.[6]

In 2003, Woodard, took part in the HBO film Unchained Memories, a dramatization of WPA slave narratives. From 2005 to 2006, Woodard starred in the ABC series Desperate Housewives, and received another Emmy nomination for her role as Betty Applewhite. Woodard has appeared on stage in such plays as Map of the World, Drowning Crow, Me & Bessie and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. She starred in Tyler Perry's latest film The Family That Preys. In 2009, she appeared in American Violet, playing the mother of a 24-year-old African-American woman wrongfully swept up in a drug raid.

In 2010, she was a guest star in the third season of HBO's True Blood as Ruby Jean Reynolds.[7] and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011 for her role.[8][9]

She was most recently seen starring as Lt. Tanya Rice in TNT's original series Memphis Beat, for which she won Gracie Allen Awards for performance in a series. 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."[10] In 2013, she appeared in Ava DuVernay's short film The Door, a part of Miu Miu's Women's Tales series.[11]

Woodard with her husband Roderick Spencer at the 1987 Emmy Awards

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.[12][13]

Personal life[edit]

Woodard lives in Santa Monica, California, with her husband, writer Roderick Spencer, and their two children, Mavis and Duncan. Woodard follows Christian Science.[14] She is a founder and board member of Artists for a New South Africa and is also active in the Democratic Party. Woodard has also expressed support for same sex marriage.[15] In February 2009, she joined a group of American film directors and actors on a cultural trip to Iran at the invitation of the "House of Cinema" forum in Tehran.[16] Her daughter, Mavis, served as Miss Golden Globe for the 2010 Golden Globe Awards.[17]

Awards and nominations[edit]


Film and Television
Year Title Role Notes
1978 Remember My Name Rita
1979 Freedom Road Katie
1980 HealtH Sally Benbow
1981 Sophisticated Gents, TheThe Sophisticated Gents Evelyn Evers
1982 The Ambush Murders Kariha Ellsworth
1982–83 Tucker's Witch Marcia Fulbright 12 episodes
1983 Hill Street Blues Doris Robson 3 episodes
1983 Cross Creek Geechee
1985 Sara Rozalyn Dupree 13 episodes
1985, 1988 St. Elsewhere Dr. Roxanne Turner 13 episodes
1986 Extremities Patricia
1987 Mandela Winnie Mandela
1987 The Life Saver Andrea Crawford
1988 Scrooged Grace Cooley
1989 Miss Firecracker Popeye Jackson
1989 A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story Mary Thomas
1990 Blue Bayou Jessica Filley
1991 Grand Canyon Jane
1991 Pretty Hattie's Baby Hattie Unreleased
1992 Passion Fish Chantelle
1992 Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, TheThe Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag Attorney Ann Orkin
1993 Rich in Love Rhody Poole
1993 Heart and Souls Penny Washington
1993 Bopha! Rosie Mangena
1994 Frasier Edna Episode: "The Botched Language of Cranes"
1994 Blue Chips Lavada McRae
1994 Crooklyn Carolyn Carmichael
1995 How to Make an American Quilt Marianna
1995 Piano Lesson, TheThe Piano Lesson Berniece
1996 Star Trek: First Contact Lily Sloane
1996 Gulliver's Travels Queen of Brobdingnag
1996 Primal Fear Judge Miriam Shoat
1996 Follow Me Home Evey
1996 A Step Toward Tomorrow Dr. Sandlin
1997 Cadillac Desert Narrator
1997 Miss Evers' Boys Eunice Evers
1997 Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, TheThe Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue Maisie the Cat Voice role
1997 Member of the Wedding, TheThe Member of the Wedding Berenice Sadie Brown
1998 Down in the Delta Loretta Sinclair
1998 Homicide: Life on the Street Dr. Roxanne Turner Episode: "Mercy"
1999 Funny Valentines Joyce May
1999 The Wishing Tree Clara Collier
1999 Mumford Lily
2000 What's Cooking? Audrey Williams
2000 Holiday Heart Wanda
2000 Love & Basketball Camille Wright
2000 Innovators Herself as Host
2000 Dinosaur Plio Voice role
2001 K-PAX Claudia Villars
2002 Searching for Debra Winger Herself
2002 Wild Thornberrys Movie, TheThe Wild Thornberrys Movie Akela Voice role
2003 Singing Detective, TheThe Singing Detective Chief of Staff
2003 Core, TheThe Core Talma Stickley
2003 Practice, TheThe Practice Denise Freeman Episodes: "Final Judgement" and "Down the Hatch"
2003 Unchained Memories a reader of a WPA slave narrative.
2003 Radio Principal Daniels
2003 Wrinkle in Time, AA Wrinkle in Time Mrs. Whatsit
2004 Forgotten, TheThe Forgotten Detective Anne Pope
2005 Beauty Shop Miss Josephine
2006 Something New Joyce McQueen
2006 Take the Lead Principal Augustine James
2005–06 Desperate Housewives Betty Applewhite 26 episodes, Season 2, series regular
2007 Pictures of Hollis Woods Edna Reilly
2008 American Violet Alma Roberts
2008 Family That Preys, TheThe Family That Preys Alice Pratt
2008 AmericanEast Angela Jensen
2008 My Own Worst Enemy Mavis Heller 9 episodes
2009–10 Three Rivers Dr. Sophia Jordan 12 episodes
2009 Reach for Me Evelyn
2010, 2012 True Blood Ruby Jean Reynolds 4 episodes
2010 Black Panther Dondi Reese, Queen Mother
2010–2011 Memphis Beat Lt. Tanya Rice 20 episodes
2011 Grey's Anatomy Justine Campbell Episode: "Heart Shaped Box"
2012 Steel Magnolias Ouiser
2012 Private Practice Dee Bennett Episode: "The Next Episode"
2013 Copper Hattie Lemaster[18] 6 episodes
2013 12 Years a Slave Mistress Harriet Shaw
2014 Annabelle
2014 State of Affairs President of the United States Roberta Payton Main cast
Upcoming television series
2015 Mississippi Grind
2015 Knucklehead Sheila


  1. ^ a b What time do the ACM Awards start? (2013-07-26). "Alfre Woodard makes history with 17 Emmy nods for 16 roles". Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  2. ^ Jarvis, Jeff (1986-09-15). "Picks and Pans Review: L.A. Law". Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  3. ^ a b "Alfre Woodard Biography". Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  4. ^ "East Africa | Global Outreach | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". 2012-08-24. Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  5. ^ Alfre Woodard Biography (1952–)
  6. ^ Alfre Woodard 2006 Interview on Sidewalks Entertainment
  7. ^ TV: 'True Blood' Returns This June
  8. ^ And the 2011 Emmy Award Nominees Are...
  9. ^ Announcing the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards Nominees!
  10. ^ Paige Wiser (June 2, 2011). "7 summer TV shows that you’ll want to skip the beach for". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  11. ^ "Miu Miu". Miu Miu. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  12. ^ 7 HRS (2014-01-17). "Alfre Woodard to Play President in NBC's Katherine Heigl Drama". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  13. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (1970-01-01). "Alfre Woodard To Play US President In NBC Pilot 'State Of Affair'". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  14. ^ The religion of Alfre Woodard, actress
  15. ^ (2012-5-9)!
  16. ^ Iranians newspaper, Ashburn, Virginia, March 6, 2009.
  17. ^ http://www.justjared.c o m/2009/12/09/mavis-spencer-is-miss-golden-globe-2010/
  18. ^ Nellie Andreeva (April 11, 2013). "Alfre Woodard Joins ‘Copper’, ‘Under The Dome’ & ‘Switched At Birth’ Add Recurring". Retrieved 2013-04-11. 

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