Smollett at the New York ComicCon, 2015
Jurnee Diana Smollett
October 1, 1986
New York City, U.S.
|Other names||Jurnee Smollett-Bell|
(m. 2010; sep. 2020)
|Relatives||Jussie 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.
Jurnee Diana Smollett was born in New York City, to Janet Harris and Joel Smollett. Her father was Jewish, with ancestors from Russia and Poland, while her mother is African American. She is the fourth of six siblings, all performers: 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.
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. 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.
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. 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." She received the Critic's Choice Award and was nominated for a NAACP Image Award. The following year, she joined the cast of the CBS sitcom Cosby, for which she won two NAACP Image Awards. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. She portrayed Black Canary in the 2020 film Birds of Prey, and Letitia "Leti" Lewis in the 2020 HBO series Lovecraft Country.
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. 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. Smollett is also on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund.
|1997||Eve's Bayou||Eve Batiste|
|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|
|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
|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|
|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|
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- Cynthia Littleton (February 27, 2015). "WGN America Gives Series Order to Slavery Drama 'Underground'". Variety.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Cover Story". Art & Understanding Magazine. August 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. (AIDS-related issues magazine)
- "Board of Directors". ANSA. Archived from the original on 2007-08-19.
- "Board of Directors". Children's Defense Fund. Archived from the original on 2020-04-13. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
- Zuckerman, Blaine (December 16, 2010). "See Friday Night Lights's Jurnee Smollett's Wedding Photo". People.
- Mizoguchi, Karen. "Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Husband Josiah Welcome First Child, Son Hunter Zion". People.
- 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.