Jurnee Smollett

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Jurnee Smollett
Born Jurnee Diana Smollett
(1986-10-01) October 1, 1986 (age 29)
New York, New York, U.S.
Other names Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Occupation Actress
Years active 1991–present
Spouse(s) Josiah Bell (2010–present)

Jurnee Diana Smollett-Bell (born October 1, 1986) is an American actress. She is known for the role of Jess Merriweather on the television series Friday Night Lights, as well as roles in the films Eve's Bayou (1997), The Great Debaters (2007), Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013), and the TV series True Blood.

Early life and career[edit]

Smollett was born Jurnee Diana Smollett in New York City, the daughter of Janet and Joel Smollett, a cable splicer.[1] Her father was Jewish (his family immigrated from Russia and Poland), and her mother is African American.[1][2][3][4] The fourth of six performing siblings, she received critical acclaim for her performance as 10-year-old Eve in the independent film Eve's Bayou (1997).[5] In casting the role, writer-director Kasi Lemmons envisioned "a light-skinned black child who could convey the nuances of a Creole child in the 60s."[6]

She co-starred with her siblings in the ABC television comedy On Our Own (1994–1995) and guest appeared in numerous television shows: Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Full House, Martin, Wanda At Large, House, Grey's Anatomy, etc. Smollett co-starred in the last two seasons of Friday Night Lights.

In 1996, Smollett was featured in the Francis Ford Coppola film Jack. In 1999, she starred in the racially charged Disney film Selma, Lord, Selma. In 2000, she co-starred with Sharon Stone (Smollett played the daughter of Stone's Hush) and Billy Connelly in the comedy film Beautiful Joe. In 2001, she co-starred as daughter to another popular actress, Angela Bassett, in the film Ruby's Bucket of Blood. In 2005, Smollett co-starred with actors Bow Wow and Brandon T Jackson in the skater movie Roll Bounce. In 2006, she joined the film Gridiron Gang. In 2007, actor/director Denzel Washington cast Smollett in his starring/directorial vehicle The Great Debaters, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Harvey Weinstein.

On March 17, 2009, Smollett visited eKhaya Multi Arts Centre for Arts and Performance in KwaMashu, north of Durban, South Africa, where she led an exchange youth forum sharing her experiences with KwaMashu youth.

From September 2010 to March 2011, she co-starred with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell in the CBS legal drama The Defenders.

In 2013, Smollett starred with Lance Gross and Brandy Norwood in Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. In January of the same year, it was announced that Smollett would be joining the cast of True Blood when the series' sixth season began on June 16.[7]

In 2015, Smollett began shooting the Sony WGN America TV series Underground in Louisiana, starring opposite Chris Meloni. Smollett plays Rosalee, a "shy house slave, working on a plantation in 1857".[8]

Personal life[edit]

Smollett has one sister, Jazz, and four brothers: Jussie, JoJo, Jake, and Jocqui.[9] The Smollett siblings starred together on ABC-TV's 1994-95 series On Our Own.

Jurnee has been active in HIV/AIDS causes since she was 11.[10] She spoke at the Ryan White Youth Conference, and elsewhere, on this issue. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS.[11] Smollett is on the Board of Directors of Artists for a New South Africa, and organization dedicated to dealing with HIV/AIDS in Africa.[12] She is also on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund.

On October 24, 2010, Smollett married musician Josiah Bell.[13]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Sunday in Paris Alison Chase Short film
1996 Jack Phoebe
1997 Eve's Bayou Eve Batiste Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Child Performance
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Actress
1999 Selma, Lord, Selma Sheyann Webb Television movie
2000 Beautiful Joe Vivien
2001 Ruby's Bucket of Blood Emerald Delacroix Television movie
2005 Roll Bounce Tori Turner
2006 Gridiron Gang Danyelle Rollins
2007 The Great Debaters Samantha Booke NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Breakout: Female
2013 Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor Judith
2015 Hands of Stone Juanita Leonard Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Out All Night Laquita Episode: "The Kid"
1992–94 Full House Denise Frazer 13 episodes
1992 Hangin' with Mr. Cooper Denise Frazer 4 episodes
1992 Martin Little Girl Episode: "I Saw Gina Kissing Santa Claus"
1994–95 On Our Own Jordee Jerrico 20 episodes
1996 NYPD Blue Hanna Episode: "Where's 'Swaldo"
1998–2000 Cosby Jurnee 8 episodes
1999 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Ali Baba Episode: "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"
2002 Strong Medicine Ruby Episode: "Positive"
2002 ER Romy Episode: "Next of Kin"
2003 Wanda at Large Holly Hawkins 4 episodes
2006 House Tracy Episode: "Fools for Love"
2008 Grey's Anatomy Beth 2 episodes
2009–2011 Friday Night Lights Jess Merriweather 25 episodes
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
2010–11 The Defenders Lisa Tyler 18 episodes
2012–13 The Mob Doctor Traci Coolidge 2 episodes
2013–14 True Blood Nicole Wright 17 episodes
2013 Do No Harm Ms. Young's Daughter 2 episodes
2013 Parenthood Heather Hall 7 episodes
2016 Underground Rosalee Upcoming series



  1. ^ a b Garmel, Marion (1994-09-06). "You're never on your own in a big family". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  2. ^ http://www.hotsauce617.com/what-a-nice-girl/
  3. ^ Random Tandem (2010-12-31). "New Artist Alert: Jussie Smollett". Random Tandem. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ UP AND COMING: Jurnee Smollett; Calm Child at the Center of an Adult Storm
  6. ^ Lena Williams (November 2, 1997), "UP AND COMING - Jurnee Smollett - Calm Child at the Center of an Adult Storm", Nytimes.com, retrieved September 17, 2015 
  7. ^ EvanDickson. "Two Ladies Move Into Bon Temps For Some 'True Blood'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Cynthia Littleton (February 27, 2015). "WGN America Gives Series Order to Slavery Drama ‘Underground’". Variety. 
  9. ^ "Jazz Smollet, Troy Wharell Marry". Lipstick Alley. 
  10. ^ "News". Voice of America. 2006. 
  11. ^ "Cover Story". Art & Understanding Magazine. August 2006.  (AIDS-related issues magazine)
  12. ^ "Board of Directors". ANSA. 
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Blaine (December 16, 2010). "See Friday Night Lights's Jurnee Smollett's Wedding Photo". People. 

External links[edit]