Erika Alexander

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Erika Alexander
Erika Alexander.jpg
Alexander at Comic-Con in 2012
Erika Rose Alexander

(1969-11-19) November 19, 1969 (age 50)
EducationPhiladelphia High School for Girls
OccupationActress, writer, producer, activist
Years active1986–present
Home townPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Tony Puryear
m. 1997; div. 2017)
Awards1996 – NAACP Image Award; Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (Living Single)
1998 – NAACP Image Award; Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (Living Single)

Erika Rose Alexander (born November 19, 1969) is an American actress, writer, producer, entrepreneur and activist best known for her roles as Pam Tucker on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (1990–1992), and Maxine Shaw on the FOX sitcom Living Single (1993–1998).[1] She has won numerous awards for her work on Living Single, including two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.[2] Her film credits include The Long Walk Home (1990), 30 Years to Life (2001), Déjà Vu (2006) and Get Out (2017).

Early life[edit]

Alexander was born in Winslow, Arizona and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona until the age of eleven, when she and her family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[3] She is one of six children born to Robert and Sammie Alexander, a school teacher and children's book author. Alexander graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls.[4]

Acting career[edit]

After graduating from high school, Alexander enrolled in a six-week acting class at the New Freedom Theatre.[4] During the fifth week, Alexander got a major role in her first movie.[4] Alexander made her film debut appearing in the independent drama My Little Girl in 1986.[4] In 1989, Alexander played the role of Hidimbi in Peter Brook's miniseries adaptation of The Mahabharata.[4] She got her big break starring opposite Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 civil rights epic drama film The Long Walk Home.

Alexander performed in the play The Forbidden City with Gloria Foster, who then talked about her with her friend, Camille Cosby, wife of Bill Cosby.[4][5] She later was cast as Pam Tucker on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show starring from 1990 to series finale in 1992. Alexander later went to star in the ABC comedy-drama series Going to Extremes, which centered on a group of American students at a medical school on a fictitious Caribbean island named Jantique.[6] The series was canceled after one season in 1993.

In 1993, Alexander began starring as the acid-tongued attorney Maxine Shaw in the Fox sitcom Living Single, a role she played for five years to 1998.[7] For this role, she won two NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series in 1996 and 1998. She appeared in Toni Braxton's music video for "You're Makin' Me High" in 1996. In 1998, she starred opposite Cicely Tyson in the CBS miniseries Mama Flora's Family based on novel by Alex Haley,[8] and well as appeared in the drama film 54. In 2001, she starred in the comedy film 30 Years to Life receiving Black Reel Award for Best Independent Actress for her performance.[9]

In 2002, Alexander returned to television playing probation officer Dee Mulhern in the Showtime drama series Street Time, which ran for two seasons. She had a recurring roles in Judging Amy, In Plain Sight, Low Winter Sun and Let's Stay Together. Alexander also guest-starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Half and Half, ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Minds, House, Suits and Grey's Anatomy. From 2012 to 2015, she had a recurring role as Carol Larabee, Mike and Vanessa's neighbor, in the ABC comedy series Last Man Standing. Tisha Campbell-Martin replaced her in seventh season in this role.[10]

Alexander has appeared in a number of films in 2000s and 2010s. In 2006 she played the role of Shanti, a technical science engineer in the science fiction action film Deja Vu opposite Denzel Washington. She starred opposite Benjamin Bratt and Jeremy Ray Valdez. in the 2009 drama film La Mission, and in 2014 had supporting role in the comedy-drama Elsa & Fred starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer. In 2017 she played Detective Latoya in the critically acclaimed horror film Get Out.[11]

From 2016 to 2017, Alexander starred as Constance Irving in the Amazon original drama, Bosch. She had a recurring roles in the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series Queen Sugar in 2016 and Freeform fantasy drama Beyond from 2017 to 2018. In 2018, she was cast in a recurring role as Perenna in the CW superhero series Black Lightning. In 2019, she received NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy or Drama Series.[12] Later in 2019, she began starring in the Hulu drama series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga.[13][14]

Writing career[edit]

In 2012, she co-created and co-wrote Concrete Park, a science-fiction graphic novel with then-husband Tony Puryear.[15][16][17] In 2018 she penned season eleven of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic Giles alongside Buffy creator Joss Whedon.[18]

Personal life[edit]

She was married to artist/screenwriter Tony Puryear. She actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton and toured college campuses with Chelsea Clinton, during the 2008 Democratic Party primary.[19]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 My Little Girl Joan
1989 The Mahabharata Madri, Hidimbaa
1990 The Long Walk Home Selma Cotter
1991 He Said, She Said Rita
1992 Fathers & Sons Venell
1998 54 Ciel
2001 30 Years to Life Joy Black Reel Award for Best Independent Actress
2002 Love Liza Brenda
Full Frontal Lucy
2004 Tricks Laurel
2006 Déjà Vu Shanti
2009 La Mission Lena
2014 Elsa & Fred Laverne
Secrets of the Magic City Ms. Fletcher
2016 Brave New Jersey Helen Holbrook Phoenix Film Festival Award for Best Ensemble Acting
2017 Get Out Detective Latoya
2019 I See You Lieutenant Moriah Davis


Year Title Role Notes
1986 George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation Oney TV film
1989 The Mahabharata Madri / Hidimbi TV miniseries
1990 Common Ground Cassandra Twymon TV film
The Last Best Year Amy TV film
Law & Order Doris Carver Episode: "Poison Ivy"
1990–1992 The Cosby Show Pam Tucker Main role (21 episodes)
1992–1993 Going to Extremes Cheryl Carter Main role (17 episodes)
1993–1998 Living Single Maxine "Max" Felice Shaw Main role (118 episodes)
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (1996, 1998)
Nomination — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (1997)
1998 Mama Flora's Family Young Flora TV miniseries
1999 KnitWits Revisited Amina TV film
2001 Judging Amy Fran Winston Recurring role (7 episodes)
The Zeta Project Agent Rush (voice) Episodes: "Ro's Reunion", "Absolute Zero"
2002–2003 Street Time Dee Mulhern Main role (20 episodes)
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Kema Mabuda Episode: "Ritual"
LAX Allison Episode: "Thanksgiving"
2005 Half & Half Maxine Shaw Episode: "The Big Performance Anxiety Episode"
7th Heaven Lynn Miles Episode: "Leaps of Faith"
2006 Sixty Minute Man Jane TV film
In Justice Alyssa Hill Episode: "The Ten Percenter"
Heist Saundra Johnson Recurring role (4 episodes)
ER Vatima Abika Episode: "No Place to Hide"
2007 Side Order of Life Colette Episode: "Pilot"
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation A.D.A. Kirkson Episode: "The Case of the Cross-Dressing Carp"
Numb3rs U.S. Marshal Tricia Yaegger Episode: "In Security"
CSI: Miami Tanya Thorpe Episode: "Guerillas in the Mist"
2009 Criminal Minds Det. Lynne Henderson Episode: "The Big Wheel"
2010 In Plain Sight Theresa Simmons Recurring role (4 episodes)
2011 House Ms. Fields Episode: "Two Stories"
2012 Suburgatory Gloria Episode: "The Motherload"
Suits Sarah Leighton Episode: "Discovery"
2012–2015 Last Man Standing Carol Larabee Recurring role (10 episodes)
2013 Low Winter Sun Louise "LC" Cullen Recurring role (4 episodes)
2014 Let's Stay Together Blanche Recurring role (3 episodes)
NCIS: New Orleans Navy Commander Louanne Bates Episode: "Carrier"
2015 Grey's Anatomy Johanna McKay Episode: "Crazy Love"
2016–2017 Bosch Connie Irving Recurring Role (10 episodes)
2016 Recovery Road Trish's Mother 1 episode
Queen Sugar LeAnne Guest Role (2 episodes)
2017-2018 Beyond Tess Shoemaker Recurring Role (12 episodes)
2018 Insecure Yolanda Recurring role (3 episodes)
2018–present Black Lightning Perenna Recurring Role, 8 episodes
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy or Drama Series (2019)
2019 Wu-Tang: An American Saga Linda Diggs Series regular


  1. ^ Shaw-King, Crystal (April 3, 2017). "Erika Alexander on 'Get Out' and Whether or Not a 'Living Single' Reunion Is Really Happening". EBONY. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  2. ^ Means, Coleman R. R. African American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humor. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014. p. 134.
  3. ^ Berry, Torriano, and Venise T. Berry, eds. Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema, 2015. p. 24.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Hughes, Mike (August 17, 1995). "'Living Single' Cast Faces New Shot". Gannett News Service. Courier-Post (Camden, New Jersey).
  5. ^ Gussow, Mel (April 7, 1989). "A Mother Only a Son Could Love".
  6. ^ Marin, Rick; Marin, Rick (September 1, 1992). "Going to Extremes".
  7. ^ McCann, Bob. Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co, 2010.
  8. ^ "Boca Raton News - Google News Archive Search".
  9. ^ "Erika Alexander". IMDb.
  10. ^ "Who plays the new Carol Larabee on Last Man Standing? Actress Tisha Campbell-Martin recurs as Chuck's wife". Monsters and Critics. January 17, 2020.
  11. ^ Shaw-King, Crystal. "Erika Alexander on 'Get Out' and Whether or Not a 'Living Single' Reunion Is Really Happening - EBONY".
  12. ^ Obenson, Tambay; Obenson, Tambay (March 31, 2019). "50th NAACP Image Awards: 'Black Panther,' 'black-ish' Dominate".
  13. ^ "'Wu-Tang: An American Saga': Erica Alexander shares "deep" challenges Wu-Tang faced during their early days - Music News - ABC News Radio".
  14. ^ "'Wu-Tang: An American Saga': Ashton Sanders, Shameik Moore And Erika Alexander Among 6 Cast In Scripted Hulu Drama".
  15. ^ Brown, Stacia. Clutch Magazine. "Erika Alexander Co-Writes Graphic with Black Heroine"
  16. ^ "Tony Puryear And Erika Alexander's Concrete Park Returns With Hardcover And New Series!".
  17. ^ "Erika Alexander Develops Graphic Novel with Black Female Characters". Essence.
  18. ^ Commandeur, Jordan (January 9, 2018). "Joss Whedon & Erika Alexander Send Buffy's Giles Back to School". CBR.
  19. ^ Panzar, Javier. “Democrats Counting on Celebrities to Introduce Heavy Subject Matter.” Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2016. Accessed 30 July 2017.

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