Jurnee Smollett-Bell

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

Jurnee Diana Smollett-Bell (born October 1, 1986)[citation needed] 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. She also portrayed Michelle Tanner's friend Denise on the sitcom Full House.

Early life[edit]

Smollett-Bell 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] She is the fourth of six performing siblings,[4] one sister, Jazz, and four brothers: Jussie, JoJo, Jake, and Jocqui.[5]


Smollett-Bell co-starred with her siblings on the ABC sitcom On Our Own (1994–95), and made appearances on shows, such as Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Full House, Martin, Wanda At Large, House, and Grey's Anatomy.

In 1996, appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola film Jack. She received critical acclaim for her performance as 10-year-old Eve in the independent film Eve's Bayou (1997). 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."[4]

In 1999, she starred in the racially charged Disney film Selma, Lord, Selma. In 2000, she co-starred with Sharon Stone and Billy Connelly in the film Beautiful Joe. In 2001, she was the daughter of Angela Bassett in the film Ruby's Bucket of Blood. In 2005, she co-starred with actors Bow Wow and Brandon T. Jackson in the roller skating movie Roll Bounce. In 2006, she appeared in the film Gridiron Gang. In 2007, Smollett-Bell portrayed the character Samantha Booke, the sole female debater at Wiley College in the historical film The Great Debaters. The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Harvey Weinstein and starred Denzel Washington, who also directed the feature.

On March 17, 2009, she 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 on the CBS legal drama The Defenders. She co-starred on the last two seasons of Friday Night Lights.

In 2013, she 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 she would be joining the cast of True Blood when the series' sixth season began on June 16.[6]

In 2015, she began shooting the Sony WGN America TV series Underground in Louisiana, starring opposite Chris Meloni. Smollett-Bell plays Rosalee, a "shy house slave, working on a plantation in 1857".[7]

Personal life[edit]

Smollett-Bell has been active in HIV/AIDS causes since she was 11.[8] She spoke at the Ryan White Youth Conference. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS.[9] Smollett-Bell is on the Board of Directors of Artists for a New South Africa, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS in Africa.[10] She is also on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund.

On October 24, 2010, she married musician Josiah Bell.[11]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Sunday in Paris Alison Chase Short film
1996 Jack Phoebe
1997 Eve's Bayou Eve Batiste
2000 Beautiful Joe Vivien
2005 Roll Bounce Tori Turner
2006 Gridiron Gang Danyelle Rollins
2007 The Great Debaters Samantha Booke
2013 Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor Judith
2015 Hands of Stone Juanita Leonard


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Out All Night Laquita Episode: "The Kid"
1992–1994 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"
1994–1995 On Our Own Jordee Jerrico 20 episodes
1996 NYPD Blue Hanna Episode: "Where's 'Swaldo"
1998–2000 Cosby Jurnee 8 episodes
1999 Selma, Lord, Selma Sheyann Webb TV movie
1999 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Ali Baba Episode: "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"
2001 Ruby's Bucket of Blood Emerald Delacroix Movie
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
2010–2011 The Defenders Lisa Tyler 18 episodes
2012, 2013 The Mob Doctor Traci Coolidge 2 episodes
2013–2014 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; episode 1: "The Macon 7"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result
1995 Young Artist Awards Best Performance by an Actress Under 10 in a TV Series On Our Own Nominated
1997 Critics' Choice Awards Best Young Performance Eve's Bayou Won
1997 San Diego Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actress Eve's Bayou Won
1997 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film: Leading Young Actress Eve's Bayou Nominated
2008 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture The Great Debaters Won
2008 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Breakout Female The Great Debaters Nominated
2010 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Friday Night Lights Nominated


  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. ^ a b 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. 
  5. ^ "Jazz Smollet, Troy Wharell Marry". Lipstick Alley. 
  6. ^ EvanDickson. "Two Ladies Move Into Bon Temps For Some 'True Blood'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Cynthia Littleton (February 27, 2015). "WGN America Gives Series Order to Slavery Drama ‘Underground’". Variety. 
  8. ^ "News". Voice of America. 2006. 
  9. ^ "Cover Story". Art & Understanding Magazine. August 2006.  (AIDS-related issues magazine)
  10. ^ "Board of Directors". ANSA. 
  11. ^ Zuckerman, Blaine (December 16, 2010). "See Friday Night Lights's Jurnee Smollett's Wedding Photo". People. 

External links[edit]