Jurnee Smollett

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Jurnee Smollett
Jurnee Smollett Bell cropped.JPG
Smollett at the New York ComicCon, 2015
Jurnee Diana Smollett

(1986-10-01) October 1, 1986 (age 34)
Other namesJurnee Smollett-Bell
  • Actress
Years active1991–present
Josiah Bell
(m. 2010; sep. 2020)
RelativesJussie Smollett (brother)
Jake Smollett (brother)

Jurnee Diana Smollett (born October 1, 1986) is an American actress. Smollett began her career as a child actress appearing on television sitcoms, including On Our Own (1994–1995) and Full House (1992–1994). She received critical acclaim and Critic's Choice Award for playing Eve in the 1997 independent drama film Eve's Bayou.

As an adult, Smollett has starred in the films The Great Debaters (2007), Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013), and Birds of Prey (2020). Her television roles include the NBC sports drama Friday Night Lights (2009–2011), and the HBO vampire drama True Blood (2013–2014), the WGN America period drama Underground, and the HBO supernatural horror drama Lovecraft Country as Letitia Lewis.

Early life[edit]

Jurnee Diana Smollett was born in New York City,[1][1] to Janet Harris and Joel Smollett. Her father was Jewish, with ancestors from Russia and Poland,[2][3][4] while her mother is African American.[5][6][7] She is the fourth of six siblings, all performers:[8] one sister, Jazz, and four brothers, Jussie, JoJo, Jake, and Jocqui. Smollett has discussed experiencing sexual harassment since the age of 12 while working on and off the sets of films she worked.[9]


Early works[edit]

Smollett began her acting career appearing on Martin in the Christmas episode and Out All Night in 1992. She then had recurring roles as Denise Frazer on the ABC family sitcoms Full House and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.[10] From 1994 to 1995, she co-starred with her siblings in the short-lived ABC sitcom On Our Own. In 1996, she appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola film Jack, making her big-screen debut.[10]

Smollett received critical acclaim for her performance as 10-year-old Eve in the 1997 film Eve's Bayou opposite Lynn Whitfield, Samuel L. Jackson and Debbi Morgan.[11][12] 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."[8] She received the Critic's Choice Award and was nominated for a NAACP Image Award.[13] The following year, she joined the cast of the CBS sitcom Cosby, for which she won two NAACP Image Awards.[13] In 1999, Smollett starred in the ABC TV film Selma, Lord, Selma. In 2000, she co-starred with Sharon Stone and Billy Connolly in the film Beautiful Joe. In 2001, she played the daughter of Angela Bassett in the television film Ruby's Bucket of Blood. In 2005, she co-starred with Bow Wow and Brandon T. Jackson in the roller skating film Roll Bounce. In 2006, she appeared in the drama film Gridiron Gang.[14]


In 2007, Smollett portrayed Samantha Booke (loosely based on Henrietta Bell Wells), the sole female debater at Wiley College in the historical film The Great Debaters.[15] The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Harvey Weinstein and starred Denzel Washington, who also directed the feature. For her performance, Smollett received NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. The following year, she returned to television, appearing in two episodes of ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. From 2009 to 2011, she was a regular cast member in the DirecTV drama series Friday Night Lights playing Jess Merriweather. From 2010 to 2011, she also co-starred with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell on the short-lived CBS legal drama The Defenders. From 2013 to 2014, she was regular on HBO series True Blood.[16]

In 2013, Smollett played the leading role in the drama film Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor directed by Tyler Perry. The film received negative reviews from critics, but was a box-office hit, grossing $53,125,354. It is the highest-grossing Tyler Perry film which the writer-director did not star in and the highest-grossing Tyler Perry drama.[17] She later played Juanita Leonard, the wife of boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, in the 2016 biographical sport film Hands of Stone co-starring with Usher and Robert De Niro.[18][19]

In 2015, Smollett was cast as lead character in the WGN America period drama series Underground. Smollett played Rosalee, a shy house slave, working on a plantation in 1857.[20] She portrayed Black Canary in the 2020 film Birds of Prey,[21][22] and Letitia "Leti" Lewis in the 2020 HBO series Lovecraft Country.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Smollett has been active in HIV/AIDS causes since she was 11. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS.[24] She was inspired by the HIV/AIDS survivor Hydeia Broadbent, with whom she eventually worked for HIV/AIDS awareness, including for the Black AIDS Institute and Red Cross. She spoke at the Ryan White Youth Conference, and is on the Board of Directors of Artists for a New South Africa, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS in Africa.[25] Smollett is also on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund.[26]

On October 24, 2010, Smollett married musician Josiah Bell.[27] Their first child, a son named Hunter, was born on October 31, 2016.[28] In March 2020, Smollett filed for divorce.[29]



Year Film Role Notes
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
2012 Captain Planet 4 Gaia Short film
2013 Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor Judith
2016 Hands of Stone Juanita Leonard
2017 One Last Thing Lucy Dillinger
2020 Birds of Prey Dinah Lance / Black Canary


Year Film Role Notes
1992 Out All Night Laquita Episode: "The Kid"
1992–1994 Full House Denise Frazer 12 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 Series regular (20 episodes)
1996 NYPD Blue Hanna Episode: "Where's 'Swaldo"
1998–2000 Cosby Jurnee Series regular (8 episodes)
1999 Selma, Lord, Selma Sheyann Webb Television film
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 Television film
2002 Strong Medicine Ruby Episode: "Positive"
2002 ER Romy Episode: "Next of Kin"
2003 Wanda at Large Holly Hawkins Series regular (6 episodes)
2006 House Tracy Episode: "Fools for Love"
2008 Grey's Anatomy Beth 2 episodes
2009–2011 Friday Night Lights Jess Merriweather Series regular (26 episodes)
2010–2011 The Defenders Lisa Tyler Series regular (18 episodes)
2012–2013 The Mob Doctor Traci Coolidge 2 episodes
2013–2014 True Blood Nicole Wright Series regular (19 episodes)
2013 Do No Harm Abby Young 2 episodes
2013 Parenthood Heather Hall 7 episodes
2016–2017 Underground Rosalee Series regular (19 episodes)
2020 The Twilight Zone Jasmine Delancey Episode: "Ovation"
2020–present Lovecraft Country Letitia "Leti" Lewis Series regular

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result
1995 Young Artist Awards Best Performance by an Actress Under Ten in a TV Series On Our Own Nominated
1997 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Young Performer Eve's Bayou Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actress Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Actress Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film Nominated
1998 YoungStar Awards Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film Nominated
1999 Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress: Television Movie/Cable Selma, Lord, Selma Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress Cosby Nominated
2000 Nominated
2001 Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress: Television Movie/Cable Ruby's Bucket of Blood Nominated
2007 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Breakout Female The Great Debaters Nominated
2008 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Won
2010 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Friday Night Lights Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Jurnee Smollett Bio". BET. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  2. ^ Ryzik, Melena (March 9, 2016). "The Smollett Family Business: Acting and Activism". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Shepard, Linda (January 21, 2015). "Actress aims to keep 'Dream' alive". C & G Newspapers. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Bloom, Nate (March 18, 2016). "Celebrity jews". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  5. ^ Garmel, Marion (1994-09-06). "You're never on your own in a big family". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2011-03-20.
  6. ^ "What a nice Girl". Hot Sauce. April 1, 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2015-02-19.
  7. ^ RandomTandem (2010-12-31). "New Artist Alert: Jussie Smollett". Random Tandem. Archived from the original on 2014-05-04. Retrieved 2014-05-03.
  8. ^ a b Lena Williams (November 2, 1997). "Up and Coming - Jurnee Smollett - Calm Child at the Center of an Adult Storm". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  9. ^ "Jazz Smollet, Troy Wharell Marry". Lipstick Alley. Archived from the original on 2013-06-01.
  10. ^ a b "Jurnee Smollett". Hollywood.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Eve's Bayou". 1 June 1996. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  12. ^ Roger Ebert (7 November 1997). "Eve's Bayou". Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Jurnee Smollett". IMDb.
  14. ^ "Gridiron Gang". Sep 15, 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  15. ^ "The Great Debaters". 25 December 2007. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  16. ^ EvanDickson. "Two Ladies Move Into Bon Temps For Some 'True Blood'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  17. ^ "Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Usher & Jurnee Smollett gear up in Panama to film 'Hands of Stone'". MStarsNews. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Hands of Stone trailer: Robert De Niro coaches Edgar Ramirez". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  20. ^ Cynthia Littleton (February 27, 2015). "WGN America Gives Series Order to Slavery Drama 'Underground'". Variety.
  21. ^ Couch, Aaron; McMillan, Graeme (November 20, 2018). "Margot Robbie Reveals Full 'Birds of Prey' Title: 'The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2019-03-02. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 26, 2018). "'Birds Of Prey' Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead Wins Role Of Huntress; Jurnee Smollett-Bell Is Black Canary". Deadline. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  23. ^ Yap, Audrey Cleo; Yap, Audrey Cleo (2020-08-16). "'Lovecraft Country' Star Jurnee Smollett and Creator Misha Green on If They Would Reteam for a Black Canary Project". Variety. Retrieved 2020-08-19.
  24. ^ "Cover Story". Art & Understanding Magazine. August 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. (AIDS-related issues magazine)
  25. ^ "Board of Directors". ANSA. Archived from the original on 2007-08-19.
  26. ^ "Board of Directors". Children's Defense Fund. Archived from the original on 2020-04-13. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  27. ^ Zuckerman, Blaine (December 16, 2010). "See Friday Night Lights's Jurnee Smollett's Wedding Photo". People.
  28. ^ Mizoguchi, Karen. "Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Husband Josiah Welcome First Child, Son Hunter Zion". People.
  29. ^ Hearon, Sarah (March 27, 2020). "Jurnee Smollett Files for Divorce From Josiah Bell After Nearly 10 Years of Marriage". Us Weekly. Retrieved August 17, 2020.

External links[edit]