Keith David

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Not to be confused with David Keith.
Keith David
Keith David 3rd Annual ICON MANN POWER 50 event - Feb 2015 (cropped).jpg
David in February 2015
Born Keith David Williams
(1956-06-04) June 4, 1956 (age 59)
Harlem, New York City, New York, U.S.
Education Juilliard School (BFA 1979)
Occupation Actor, singer, voice artist, comedian
Years active 1979–present
Spouse(s) Dionne Lea Williams (m. 2001)

Keith David Williams (born June 4, 1956), better known as Keith David, is an American film, television and voice actor and singer. He is best known for his roles as the director of the CIA in Agent Cody Banks and Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog. He has acted in many mainstream films, such as Crash, There's Something About Mary, Barbershop and Men at Work. He has had memorable roles in numerous cult favorites, including John Carpenter's films The Thing (as Childs) and They Live (as Armitage), the Riddick films Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick (as the Imam), the General in Armageddon, King in Oliver Stone's Platoon, and Big Tim in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. David last starred as Elroy Patashnik in the sixth season of the comedy series, Community.[1] He guest starred in episodes 4 and 5 of Season 2 of Rick and Morty.

David is also well known for his voice-over career, primarily his Emmy Award winning work as the narrator of numerous Ken Burns films such as The War. Characters that he has voiced include the Arbiter Thel 'Vadam in Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 5, Goliath on the Disney series Gargoyles, Spawn/Al Simmons on Todd McFarlane's Spawn which aired on HBO, David Anderson in the Mass Effect series, the Decepticon Barricade in Transformers: The Game, Julius Little in Saints Row, Saints Row 2, and Saints Row IV (as well as making a major guest appearance in the last game voicing himself), Sgt. Foley in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog, the Flame King in Adventure Time, and Chaos in the English versions of Dissidia Final Fantasy and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. He is known for his voice-overs on United States Navy commercials and replaced Paul Winfield as the narrator of the City Confidential documentary television crime series.

Early life and education[edit]

David was born in Harlem, New York City, New York, and raised in Corona, Queens, New York. His mother, Dolores (née Dickenson), was a manager at New York Telephone, and his father, Lester Williams, worked as a director of payroll operations.[2][3] He first knew he was going to become an actor after playing the Cowardly Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, and went on to study at Manhattan's School of Performing Arts. He attended the Juilliard School's Drama Division (1975–1979, Group 8)[4] where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1979.[5]

Film and television acting[edit]

In 1980–81, David honed his craft touring the country with John Houseman's The Acting Company in productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Less than two years later, he went on to star as Childs, opposite Kurt Russell in John Carpenter's The Thing, and his lengthy on-screen career had begun. In the 1980s run of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, he portrayed Keith the Southwood Carpenter in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe segments. He also played Keith, the game coin collector in an episode where Rogers and a small child learn to play the arcade game Donkey Kong.

He went on to appear in films such as Oliver Stone's Platoon, The Quick and the Dead, They Live (reuniting with The Thing director, John Carpenter), Men at Work, Marked for Death, and Stars and Bars. He played the character of Kirby, the one legged war veteran, in the acclaimed 1995 Hughes Brothers film Dead Presidents, and he appeared in the 1995 Spike Lee's film Clockers, and followed this up with roles in other films such as Volcano, Armageddon, There's Something About Mary, Pitch Black, Barbershop, Agent Cody Banks, The Chronicles of Riddick, Crash, ATL, Delta Farce and First Sunday. He portrayed "Father" in the romantic comedy action film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. At the same time, he has appeared in numerous independent films including the critically acclaimed Requiem for a Dream, playing the role of Big Tim. He has also appeared extensively in television productions since the 1980s and as a regular character Lieutenant Williams on the short-lived television series The Job. He was a regular on another shoot made for ABC entitled The Big House in 2004. David portrayed Detective Jim Crenshaw in the 2010 horror film Chain Letter.[6]

In 2010, David was cast as Max Malini for the NBC television series The Cape.[7] On April 18, 2011, Keith appeared in the 21st episode of season one of Hawaii Five-0 as criminal tycoon Jimmy Cannon. In 2012, he appeared in the horror film Smiley and the science-fiction drama Cloud Atlas. In 2013, David appeared in the controversial drama Boiling Pot which is based on true events of racism. In 2014 David portrayed Command Sergeant Major Donald Cody in the Fox comedy series Enlisted.[8] Later in 2014 David was cast as series regular Elroy Patashnik in the Yahoo! comedy series Community.[9]

In 2015, David was cast in the leading role alongside Lynn Whitfield in the upcoming Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, Greenleaf.[10]

Voice acting[edit]

Although recognized for his roles in film and television, David remains in great demand for vocal work because of his deep, resonant voice. He was the voice of Goliath from Gargoyles, the title character in the Spawn animated series and Lemuel Kane in Archer. In the English dub of Princess Mononoke, David played the narrator and Okkoto. He played the role of Mama in the English dub of 3x3 Eyes. Additionally, he provided the voice for the character Decker in the role-playing video game Fallout and the voice for the character Vhailor in Planescape: Torment. David provided the voice of the Arbiter for the video game Halo 2, released in 2004; later, he reprised that role in the Xbox 360 follow-up Halo 3. He portrayed the character again in Halo: The Master Chief Collection and also in Halo 5: Guardians, released in 2014 and 2015 respectively. He played the role of Captain David Anderson in BioWare's Mass Effect series. David did voice work in the Xbox 360 title Saints Row playing gang leader Julius, who also appeared at the end of Saints Row 2. David can be heard on the intro of several Ice Cube projects, including Westside Connection's 2003 release Terrorist Threats, Cube's 2008 solo album Raw Footage, Cube's 2010 solo album I Am the West, and he narrated the documentary Beef II, which also featured Ice Cube. The two have worked together in live action films like Barbershop and First Sunday.

David provides the voice for the UPS "What Can Brown Do for You" commercials. His voice can be heard in the Justice League cartoons. He has done voice work for early Adult Swim commercials for Inuyasha.[11]

He has worked with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns several times, narrating Burns' Jazz, Mark Twain, The War and Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. David won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his work in the latter two films. He performs the narration duties in the BBC documentary, World War II: Behind Closed Doors.[12] The 2004 PBS documentary Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land [13] and the 2005 History Channel documentary Crusades: Crescent & the Cross focusing on the medieval Crusades were both narrated by him. David parodied his documentary work by narrating the 2012 episode of the NBC sitcom Community "Pillows and Blankets", a mockumentary revolving around a pillow fight between rival blanket forts.

David has done voice-over work for many other documentaries including several for National Geographic and the documentary Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked for the History Channel. He replaced Paul Winfield as narrator for the A&E show City Confidential, taking over after Winfield's death in 2004. He voiced the trailer for the movie Primeval, which was released in the United States on January 12, 2007.

Additionally, David provided the voice of police detective Alex Cross for the audiobook versions of three novels by James Patterson: Cat and Mouse (1997), Pop Goes the Weasel (1999) and Roses are Red (2000).

Other voice roles include Bebe Proud Clone from The Proud Family Movie, Atlas from the Teen Titans animated series, the lone renegade male gorilla Tublat in The Legend of Tarzan, and the Decepticon Barricade in Transformers: The Game.

He recorded a public service announcement for Deejay Ra's "Hip-Hop Literacy" campaign. David has done voiceovers for promos on the Versus Network, particularly for college football. He recorded the narration for the opening of the World Wrestling Federation's (now Entertainment) WrestleMania 2000 pay-per-view.

Recently, David did the voices of the Black Cat in Coraline, Sergeant Foley in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog, and the Big Man for The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Survival of the Fittest".

David in June 2010

On May 25, 2008, David narrated Kansas City's Celebration at the Station, a Memorial Day service held annually at the World War I Memorial across from Union Station. During the ceremony, he announced the attendance of Frank W. Buckles, the last living veteran of World War I.

He was the voice of Frederick Douglass in the third episode of the PBS documentary God in America: How Religious Liberty Shaped America in 2010.

On April 1, 2012, David performed the voiceover for the intro to WWE Wrestlemania XXVIII.

Keith David returned in the Saints Row series' newest title Saints Row IV, and voices himself and Julius as well. It is mentioned repeatedly during SR4, however, that he and Julius share more than a passing resemblance, much to the chagrin of Keith (the character).

He is the narrator of the History Channel series The Bible which premiered on March 3, 2013.[14]

He is the narrator for the original WWE Network program The Monday Night War: WWE vs. WCW in 2014.

Stage acting[edit]

In 1992, David received a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance in Jelly's Last Jam. David received raves for his Shakespeare work on stage in Central Park, New York City.

In 1995, David played the lead as Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton in August Wilson's Seven Guitars on Broadway.

In May 2006, he appeared in the musical Hot Feet on Broadway in New York.

David appeared in the 2013 revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone at the Mark Taper Theater in Los Angeles. Directed by Phylicia Rashad, David played the part of innkeeper Seth Holly.

His performance in Ebony Repertory Theatre's 2014 “Paul Robeson" by Phillip Hayes Dean[15] previewed Wednesday, March 12, 2014[16] and opened Friday, March 21.


Films and television[edit]

Voice work[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Voisin, Scott. Character Kings: Hollywood's Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59393-342-5


  1. ^ "'Community' Adds Paget Brewster, Keith David to Season 6 Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. November 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Keith David Biography (1956?-)". Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  3. ^ "Keith Williams Weds Margit Edwards". New York Times. September 23, 1990. 
  4. ^ "Alumni News". Juilliard School. September 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. 
  5. ^ "Keith David biography". All Movie Guide (The New York Times). Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ "At Last a Poster for Deon Taylor's Chain Letter". 2010-08-06. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "'Community' Adds Paget Brewster, Keith David to Season 6 Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. November 10, 2014. 
  10. ^ Nellie Andreeva. "Keith David To Star In OWN Drama Series ‘Greenleaf’". Deadline. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Adult Swim Inuyasha First Promo: Retro". YouTube. 2002-08-31. Retrieved 2011-01-25. 
  12. ^ "''World War II: Behind Closed Doors''". 2008-11-10. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  13. ^ "'“Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land'”". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  14. ^ "Massive miniseries takes a look at The Bible". East Valley Tribune. 10/13 Communications. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  15. ^ Boehm, Mike (December 9, 2013). "Paul Robeson is the subject of dueling 2014 L.A. stage productions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  16. ^ David Ng (March 13, 2014). "Ebony Repertory to resume 'Paul Robeson' play with Keith David". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  17. ^

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