Lewis in November 2008
|Born||Jenifer Jeanette Lewis
January 25, 1957
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Education||Kinloch High School
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, singer|
|Spouse(s)||Arnold Byrd (m. 2012)|
Jenifer Jeanette Lewis (born January 25, 1957) is an American actress, comedian, skydiver, puppeteer, and singer. She began her career appearing on Broadway musicals and worked as a back-up singer for Bette Midler, before appearing in films Beaches (1988) and Sister Act (1992).
Lewis is best known for playing roles of mothers in films What's Love Got to Do With It (1993), The Preacher's Wife (1996), The Brothers (2001), Think Like a Man and in the sequel Think Like a Man Too (2014), Baggage Claim (2013), and The Wedding Ringer (2015), as well as in The Temptations TV miniseries (1998). As such, Lewis earned the title, "Black Mother of Hollywood". She also had roles in films include Dead Presidents (1995), Cast Away (2000), and Hereafter (2010).
On television, Lewis starred as Lana Hawkins in the Lifetime medical drama, Strong Medicine from 2000 to 2006. She also had the recurring roles on sitcoms A Different World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Girlfriends. In 2014, Lewis began starring as Ruby Johnson in the ABC comedy series, Black-ish, for which she received Critics' Choice Television Award nomination.
Life and career
Lewis was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a nurse's aide mother and a factory worker father. She attended Kinloch High School and then college at Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri. She has Bipolar disorder.
Soon after, she arrived in New York City, Lewis debuted on Broadway in a small role in Eubie (1979), the musical based on the work of Eubie Blake. She next landed the role of Effie White in the workshop of the Michael Bennett-directed musical Dreamgirls, but when the show moved to Broadway, Bennett chose Jennifer Holliday for the role.
Lewis accepted a position as a Harlette, a back-up singer for Bette Midler which led to Lewis' first TV appearances on Midler's HBO specials. She also landed her first screen role as a result, appearing as one of the buxom chorines in the 'Otto Titsling' production number in the Midler vehicle Beaches (1988). At the same time, Lewis was developing her nightclub act, The Diva Is Dismissed, an autobiographical comedy and music show in New York City cabarets. She performed the show off-Broadway at the Public Theater. In 1987, Lewis was hired as the Pre-Show announcer on the Star Tours ride at Disneyland.
After Lewis relocated to Los Angeles, she began appearing on television sitcoms, include Murphy Brown, Dream On, In Living Color, Roc, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, and Friends. From 1992 to 1993, she played Dean Davenport in the sixth and final season of NBC sitcom A Different World. She also had a recurring role as Will Smith's Aunt Helen on NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1991 to 1996. As regular, Lewis starred alongside Patricia Wettig in her short-lived legal drama Courthouse in 1995, playing Judge Rosetta Reide, the first main African American lesbian character on television.
In 1992, Lewis was cast as one of the back-up singers to Whoopi Goldberg in comedy film Sister Act. The following year, Lewis played the mother of Tupac Shakur's character in drama film Poetic Justice, and as Zelma Bullock, Tina Turner’s mother in the biopic What's Love Got to Do With It starring Angela Bassett. Lewis originally auditioned to play Tina Turner. Lewis is only one year older than Bassett. For her performance, she received her first NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture nomination. In 1994, she followed with other comedic supporting roles, including Mrs. Coleman the Unemployment Office lady in Renaissance Man and as Whoopi Goldberg's sister in Corrina, Corrina. In 1995, she was cast in maternal roles to Kadeem Hardison in Panther and to Larenz Tate in Dead Presidents.
In 1996, Lewis appeared as Theresa Randle's telephone sex line boss in Spike Lee's comedy-drama, Girl 6. Later that year, she went to play Whitney Houston's character's mother in Penny Marshall's romantic comedy-drama, The Preacher's Wife. She received another NAACP Image Award nomination for her role in The Preacher's Wife. She also has had roles in The Mighty (1998), The Temptations TV miniseries (1998), Mystery Men (1999) and Blast from the Past (1999), before landing the leading role on mockumentary comedy Jackie's Back about the struggling comeback of a diva in turmoil.
In 2000, Lewis had supporting role in the adventure drama film Cast Away directed by Robert Zemeckis. Also in 2000, she began starring as Lana Hawkins on the Lifetime television medical drama Strong Medicine. The show ended in February 2006. Lewis also performed the theme song for Strong Medicine. She also had a recurring role as Veretta Childs (Toni's mother) in the UPN sitcom Girlfriends. In film, she appeared as Morris Chestnut's mother in the 2001 romantic comedy The Brothers. In 2006, she had a featured role as the wedding planner in Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, and also appeared in Perry's 2008 comedy-drama Meet the Browns as Vera Brown. She also appeared in Juwanna Mann, The Cookout, Nora's Hair Salon, Dirty Laundry and Not Easily Broken.
On April 22, 2008, Lewis replaced Darlene Love as Motormouth Maybelle in Broadway's Hairspray. On television, she guest starred on That's So Raven and Boston Legal. Lewis also had number of voice over roles, include Walt Disney's animated musical The Princess and the Frog (2009), for which she received Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production nomination.
In June 2010, Lewis' distinctive voice was in fine form as she told The Jazz Joy and Roy syndicated radio show, "I just did a production of 'Hello Dolly' at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle and it had to be one of the greatest productions that I have ever done, because I got to just do a character, Dolly Levi, and it was just great." In 2012 Lewis began working with Shangela on the online reality show parody, "Jenifer Lewis and Shangela," where she acts as herself alongside Shangela, a "drag queen living in her basement." She later appeared in Shangela's music video for "Werqin Girl (Professional)."
In 2010, Clint Eastwood cast Lewis in his fantasy film Hereafter. The following year, she starred alongside Rosario Dawson and Tracee Ellis Ross in Five, for which she received another NAACP Image Award nomination. She also co-starred in the short-lived NBC series, The Playboy Club. She played Terrence J's overbearing mother in box-office hit Think Like a Man (2012), and in its sequel Think Like a Man Too (2014). In 2013, she played Paula Patton's mother Baggage Claim. In 2015, she starred in The Wedding Ringer.
In 2014, Lewis was cast as Ruby Johnson, Anthony Anderson's character's mother in the ABC comedy series, Black-ish. She was upped to regular as of second season. In 2016, she received Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series nomination for her performance.
|1988||Red Heat||Judge Jenifer Lewis||Uncredited|
|1993||Meteor Man||Mrs. Williams|
|1993||What's Love Got to Do With It||Zelma Bullock||Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture|
|1993||Undercover Blues||Cab Driver|
|1993||Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit||Michelle|
|1994||Renaissance Man||Mrs. Coleman|
|1994||Deconstructing Sarah||Betty||Television film|
|1994||Corrina, Corrina||Jevina Washington|
|1994||Shake, Rattle and Rock!||Amanda||Television film|
|1995||Dead Presidents||Mrs. Curtis|
|1996||The Preacher's Wife||Marguerite Coleman||Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture|
|1996||Girl 6||Boss #1 — Lil|
|1998||The Temptations||Mama Rose Franklin||Television film|
|1998||The Mighty||Mrs. Addison|
|1998||An Unexpected Life||Camille||Television film|
|1999||Blast From the Past||Dr. Aron|
|1999||Jackie's Back||Jackie Washington||Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actress|
|2000||Cast Away||Becca Twig|
|2000||Dancing in September||Judge Warner|
|2000||Partners||Detective Lancy||Television film|
|2000||Little Richard||Muh Penniman||Television film|
|2001||The Brothers||Louise Smith|
|2001||The Ponder Heart||Narcissa Wingfield||Television film|
|2002||Juwanna Mann||Aunt Ruby|
|2004||The Cookout||Emma "Lady Em" Andersen|
|2004||Shark Tale||Motown Turtle||Voice|
|2004||Nora's Hair Salon||Nora Harper|
|2006||Dirty Laundry||Aunt Lettuce|
|2006||Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion||Milay Jenay Lori|
|2006||The Heart Specialist||Nurse Jackson|
|2007||Who's Your Caddy?||Mrs. Hawkins|
|2008||Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns||Vera Brown|
|2009||The Princess and the Frog||Mama Odie||Voice
Nominated — Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
|2009||Not Easily Broken||Mary 'Mama' Clark|
|2011||Five||Maggie||Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actress in a Television Miniseries or Movie
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Nominated – NAMIC Vision Awards for Best Performance – Drama
|2012||Think Like a Man||Loretta Hanover|
|2013||Baggage Claim||Catherine Moore||Nominated — Acapulco Black Film Festival Award for Best Ensemble Cast|
|2013||Playin' for Love||Alize Gates|
|2014||Think Like a Man Too||Loretta Hanover|
|2014||The Magic City||Aunt Valerie|
|2015||The Wedding Ringer||Doris Jenkins|
|1990–91||Murphy Brown||Sales person||Episodes: "Jingle Hell, Jingle Hell, Jingle All the Way" and "Uh-Oh: Pt. 2"|
|1990–93||A Different World||Dean Dorothy Dandridge Davenport||Recurring role (9 episodes)|
|1991||Stat||Felicia Brown||Episode: "Psychosomatic"|
|1991–96||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Aunt Helen Smith||Recurring role, 8 episodes|
|1992||Dream On||Carolyn||Episode: "To the Moon, Alex!"|
|1993||In Living Color||Various characters||Episodes: "Bunny Clive" and "Calhoun Tubbs"|
|Roc||Charlaine||Episode: "Joey the Bartender"|
|Moon Over Miami||Aurora Tyler||Episode: "If You Only Knew"|
|1993–94||Hangin' With Mr. Cooper||Georgia Rodman||Episodes: "Father Fairest" and "Double Cheeseburger, Hold the Diploma"|
|1994||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Mystique||Episode: "All Shook Up"|
|Friends||Paula||Episode: "The One With the Thumb"|
|1995||New York Undercover||Medina||Episode: "Private Enemy No. 1"|
|Living Single||Delia Deveaux||Episode: "Talk Showdown"|
|Courthouse||Judge Rosetta Reide||Series regular, 11 episodes|
|1996||Cosby||Bernice||Episode: "Basketball Story"|
|1997||Touched by an Angel||Queenie||Episode: "Amazing Grace: Part 1"|
|Promised Land||Episode: "Amazing Grace: Part 2"|
|1997–99||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Hazel / Black Widow Spider||Episodes: "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and "The Bremen Town Musicians"|
|1998||The Parent 'Hood||Linda||Episode: "Hurricane Linda"|
|1998-00||For Your Love||Sylvia Ellis / Mel and Reggie's Mother||Episodes: "The Brother's Day" and "Father Fixture"|
|1999||The Jamie Foxx Show||Josie||Episode: "Always Follow Your Heart"|
|Moesha||Mrs. Biggs||Episode: "A Den Is a Terrible Thing to Waste"|
|Grown Ups||Melissa's mother||Episode: "Family Circus" (|
|Time of Your Life||Joss's mother||Episode: "The Time They Had Not"|
|1999–2008||The PJs||Bebe Ho (voice)||Series regular, 35 episodes|
|2000||Bette||Inez||Episode: "The Grammy Pre-Show"|
|2000–06||Strong Medicine||Receptionist Lana Hawkins||Series regular, 131 episodes
Nominated – NAMIC Vision Awards for Best Performance – Drama (2006)
|2002||Family Affair||Mrs. Summers||Episode: "Pilot: Part 1"|
|2002–06||Girlfriends||Veretta Childs||Recurring role, 7 episodes|
|2003||The Proud Family||Aunt Spice||Episode: "Penny Potter"|
|2004||That's So Raven||Vivian Baxter||Episode: "To See or Not to See"|
|2007||Day Break||Elizabeth Hopper||Episode: "What If She's Lying?"|
|Shark||Ellie Broussard||Episode: "Backfire"|
|2007–08||Boston Legal||Judge Isabel Fisher||Episodes: "No Brains Left Behind" and "Mad About You"|
|2009–10||Meet the Browns||Vera Brown||Recurring role, 4 episodes|
|2011||The Cleveland Show||Woman / Kevin Garnett's Mom / Receptionist / Middle-Aged Woman||Episodes: "A Short Story and a Tall Tale" and "The Way the Cookie Crumbles"|
|American Dad!||Lessie||Episode: "School Lies"|
|State of Georgia||Patrice||Episode: "Best Friends For-Never"|
|The Playboy Club||Pearl||Recurring role, 7 episodes|
|2014||The Boondocks||Boss Willona / Geraldine||Episodes: "Breaking Grandad" and "Early Bird Special"|
|2014–present||Black-ish||Ruby Johnson||Recurring (Season 1), Series regular (Season 2-)
Nominated – Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series (2016)
|2015||The Exes||Caren Dupree||Episode: "Requiem for a Dream"|
|Instant Mom||Delois||Episode: "Not Full House"|
|2007||Cars Mater-National Championship|
- "Jenifer Lewis Talks About Love, Happiness and the Hereafter". News4usonline. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Jenifer Lewis: 'They Call Me the Black Mother of Hollywood'". Black America Web. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Stephanie Stephens. "Mega Diva Jenifer Lewis on 'The Wedding Ringer' and Seeing Yourself". Parade. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Weinraub, Bernard (1993-07-01). "JENIFER LEWIS: FROM `DIVA' TO `STAR'". Chicago Tribune (New York Times News Service). Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- "Jenifer Lewis Opens Up About Battle With Bipolar Disorder". BET.com. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Derrick Lane (25 January 2014). "Jenifer Lewis Bipolar Disorder – News One". News One. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Jenifer Lewis". Hollywood.com. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Lesbians on series TV.". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Lane, Clay (January 7, 2009). "Jenifer Lewis: That's my mama!". BET.com. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
- "Cast Away". 22 December 2000. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Jenifer Lewis". IMDb. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- The Broadway League. "Jenifer Lewis – IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Annie Awards :: 37th Annie Awards". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Jenifer Lewis". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Jenifer Lewis on "Hereafter"". BET.com. 19 December 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Jenifer Lewis Talks: 'Playboy Club,' New Lifetime Film And Broadway Comeback". The Huffington Post. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Michael Slezak. "'black-ish' Season 1 Cast: Jenifer Lewis to Recur as Anthony Anderson's Mom – TVLine". TVLine. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Tim Gray. "2016 Critics' Choice Award Nominations: Full List of Nominees – Variety". Variety. Retrieved 25 January 2016.