Jesse Williams (actor)

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Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams in 2008 white shirt.jpg
Williams in New York City, 2008
Born Jesse Wesley Williams[1]
(1981-08-05) August 5, 1981 (age 34)[1]
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Alma mater Temple University
Occupation Actor
Years active 2006–present
Spouse(s) Aryn Drake-Lee (2012-present)
Children 2

Jesse Wesley Williams (born August 5, 1981) is an American actor, model, and activist, best known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC Television series Grey's Anatomy. He also appears in the hit 2013 film Lee Daniels' The Butler as real life civil rights leader Rev. James Lawson. Previous roles include Holden in The Cabin in the Woods (2012), Officer Eddie Quinlan in Brooklyn's Finest (2009) and as Leo, Lena's boyfriend, in the film sequel The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2009).

Early life and education[edit]

Williams was born Jesse Wesley Williams in Chicago, Illinois.[2] His mother, Johanna Chase, is a professional potter.[3] Williams has stated that his mother is Swedish American, while his father Reginald Williams is of African American and some Seminole descent from Georgia.[4][5] He has two younger brothers who specialize in visual arts. Williams graduated from Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island in 1998.[3] After high school, his parents each began teaching in the public school system, while his mother maintained her work in pottery.[3][5]

Williams graduated from Temple University with a double major in African American Studies and Film and Media Arts.[3][6] Following in the footsteps of his parents, he taught high school in the Philadelphia public school for six years, where he used his degree earned at Temple, to teach American Studies, African Studies, and English.[7]


In 2005, Williams began to study acting and was chosen to participate in the New York Actors Showcase presented by ABC Television, one of 14 actors chosen from among over 800 individuals who auditioned.[3] Since 2006, he has appeared in a number of television series, films, and theatre productions. In 2012, he established a production company, known as farWord Inc.[5]

In May 2012, a fan campaign was organized to try to influence film executives to cast him in the role of Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.[8] This news resulted in some Hunger Games fans to protest casting decisions made by the film executives.[9]

In 2013, Williams wrote an article for CNN, which offered an analysis of the award-winning film, Django Unchained.[10] Later that year, Jesse narrated the audiobook for The Bane Chronicles: What Really Happened In Peru by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan.[11]


In 2006, Williams appeared in an episode of Law & Order, portraying the character Kwame. He also appeared in the role of Drew Collins, in two episodes of the ABC Family series Greek. He also had a recurring role in eight episodes of the TV series Beyond the Break as Officer Eric Medina.[12]

On October 15, 2009, Williams began appearing as Jackson Avery in the ABC television series Grey's Anatomy.[13] On June 8, 2010, it was announced that Williams had been officially upgraded to a full-time series regular, starting in season 7.[14] BuddyTV ranked him No. 6 on its "TV's 100 Sexiest Men of 2010" list[15] and No. 11 in 2011.[16]


He appeared in the theatre productions of The American Dream and The Sandbox at Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village in New York City. Both plays were written and directed by playwright Edward Albee. He has also served as a guest director for student productions at the Urban Arts Partnership 24 Hour Plays Off-Broadway, at the request of Rosie Perez and Anna Strout.[7][17]


In 2008, Williams made his film debut in the supporting role of Leo in the sequel to the 2004 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Two years later, he appeared in the film Brooklyn's Finest which stars Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, and Ellen Barkin. The film was released on March 5, 2010. In 2008, Williams signed on for his first leading role, as Holden McCrea, in the MGM/United Artists horror film The Cabin in the Woods. The film was produced by Joss Whedon and directed by Drew Goddard, and was released April 13, 2012.[17]

On June 9, 2015, Variety announced that Jamie Bamber, Kellan Lutz, Jesse Williams, and Jess Weixler had joined the cast of a thriller film titled Money, directed by Martin Rosete and produced by Atit Shah.[18]


Williams is the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights think tank and advocacy group. He is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a multifaceted media project, art exhibition, student and teacher curriculum and website,[19] focused on the black male identity and the diversity within the demographic. He's written articles for CNN[20] and The Huffington Post,[21] and has been a guest on Wolf Blitzer's The Situation Room.

In October 2014, also known as Ferguson October, Williams joined thousands in Ferguson, Missouri to protest the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.[22]


Williams occasionally worked as a model during college, but never considered pursuing it as a career. He modeled for Kenneth Cole Productions, L. L. Bean, and Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.[2][23] He can be seen as the love interest of R&B singer Rihanna in the music video for her single "Russian Roulette" from her 2009 album Rated R. He also appears in the official music video for Estelle's song, "Fall In Love", from the album All of Me.[17]

Personal life[edit]

On September 1, 2012, Williams married Aryn Drake-Lee, a real estate broker (b. Nov 1979). They welcomed daughter Sadie in December 2013. The couple welcomed their second child, a son named Maceo, in October 2015. [24]


Year Title Role Notes
2008 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Leo
2009 Brooklyn's Finest Eddie Quinlain March 5, 2010
2012 The Cabin in the Woods Holden McCrea April 13, 2012
2012 Question Bridge: Black Males Executive Producer 2012
2013 The Butler James Lawson August 16, 2013
2013 Snake and Mongoose Don 'The Snake' Prudomme
2013 They Die By Dawn John Taylor
2016 Money Sean Post-production
Year Title Role Notes
2006 Law & Order Kwame 1 episode
2006 Beyond the Break Eric Medina 8 episodes
2008 Greek Drew "The Hotness Monster" Collins 2 episodes
2009 The Washingtonienne Keya HBO (not picked up)
2010 Seattle Grace: Message of Hope Dr. Jackson Avery 1 Season; 6 episodes
2009–present Grey's Anatomy Dr. Jackson Avery Recurring (Season 6)
Main Cast (Season 7–present)
2013 Sesame Street himself Guest Cast


  1. ^ a b "Jesse Williams News, Jesse Williams Bio and Photos". Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  2. ^ a b "The Betty Interview: Jesse Williams". 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e David B. Boyce, Standard-Times correspondent (2005-11-13). "Dartmouth native wins spot in ABC acting showcase". SouthCoastTod Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  4. ^ "Jesse Williams learns and plays history - Daily Press". 2010-09-18. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  5. ^ a b c "Jesse Williams Is Not Just a Pretty Face". Global Grind. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  6. ^ "Django, in chains -". CNN. 2013-02-21. 
  7. ^ a b "Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) Bio - Grey's Anatomy -". Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  8. ^ "Catching Fire Casting Scoop: Fan Fave Jesse Williams Talks Finnick!". E! Online. 2012-05-02. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  9. ^ Anna Breslaw (2012-05-05). "Another Racist Shitstorm Brews Over Casting Hunger Games' Finnick". Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  10. ^ "Django, in chains". 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  11. ^ Rosenfield, Kat (April 17, 2013). "Jesse Williams Spills The Beans On His 'Bane Chronicles' Voice Gig". MTV. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  12. ^ Jesse Williams' Official Website: Filmography at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Jesse Williams cast in 'Grey's Anatomy' - Live Feed". 2009-08-28. Archived from the original on January 14, 2010. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  14. ^ Fowler, Tara. "'Grey's Anatomy' exclusive: Jesse Williams gets full-time upgrade | Inside TV |". Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  15. ^ "TV's 100 Sexiest Men of 2010". Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  16. ^ "TV's 100 Sexiest Men of 2011". Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  17. ^ a b c Jesse Williams' Official Website: Bio at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Hopewell, John; Mayorga, Emilio (2015-06-09). "Bamber, Lutz, Williams, Weixler Set For ‘Money’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.  C1 control character in |title= at position 42 (help)
  19. ^ "Question Bridge". 
  20. ^ Jesse Williams, Special to CNN (19 February 2013). "Django, in chains". CNN. 
  21. ^ "Too Many American Students Are Experiencing Hunger". The Huffington Post. 11 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "Actor Jesse Williams Joins Ferguson October: This is a Basic Desire Not to Be Killed with Impunity". 2014-10-13. 
  23. ^ "Jesse Williams". RTÉ News. November 24, 2011. 
  24. ^ Chi, Paul (2013-01-14). "Jesse Williams, of Grey's Anatomy, Gets Married - Weddings, Grey's Anatomy, Jesse Williams". Retrieved 2013-03-13. 

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