Toussaint at The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring Orange Is the New Black
|Education||Juilliard School (BFA)|
Toussaint began her career in theatre before supporting performances in films such as Breaking In (1989), Hudson Hawk (1991), and Dangerous Minds (1995). As lead actress, she is best known for her role as Rene Jackson in the critically acclaimed Lifetime television drama series Any Day Now, from 1998 to 2002, and her recurring role as defense attorney Shambala Green in the NBC legal drama Law & Order. Toussaint later appeared as a regular cast member in the NBC police procedural Crossing Jordan (2002–03) and the TNT crime drama Saving Grace (2007–10).
Toussaint received critical acclaim and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her performance in the 2012 drama film Middle of Nowhere, written and directed by Ava DuVernay. In 2014, she played the role of Yvonne "Vee" Parker, the main antagonist in the second season of the Netflix comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black, for which she received critical acclaim and a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She later played the role of Amelia Boynton Robinson in the 2014 historical drama film Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay. Toussaint later co-starred in the ABC fantasy-drama series Forever (2014–15), Fox comedy-drama Rosewood (2015-17) and AMC drama Into the Badlands (2018-19). She starred in the 2019 horror film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and played Florynce Kennedy in the 2020 biographical film The Glorias.
Toussaint was born in Trinidad and Tobago. In an interview she said: "I grew up under the British system, which I think is horrific for children -- very, very strict -- a system that did not recognize children as being individuals. You were small animals earning the right to be human. Childhood for me then felt extraordinarily powerless, and as an artistic child who learned in alternative ways, it was hell. I was beaten regularly... A good child was a fearful child, and I was a very, very, good little girl, which meant I lived in a world of silent, dark terror most of the time." Her mother was a teacher, and brought Toussaint to live in Brooklyn in the late 1960s.
Toussaint graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts in 1978. She then attended the Juilliard School's drama division as a member of Group 11 (1978–1982), where her classmates in 1982 included Megan Gallagher, Penny Johnson Jerald, Jack Kenny, and Jack Stehlin. Toussaint graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She then began her career as Shakespearean actress before tackling screen acting in television and film.
Toussaint made her screen debut in 1983. In 1986 she played the role of widow of a man shot and killed by Boston cops in the television film A Case of Deadly Force based on the book by Lawrence O'Donnell. She later had a recurring role of Vera Williams in the ABC daytime soap opera, One Life to Live, and alongside stage career appeared in guest starring roles in series like 227 and Law & Order (as recurring defense lawyer Shambala Green), and acted in a number of television films in the 1990s.
Toussaint has made her film debut in the female lead role opposite Burt Reynolds in the crime comedy Breaking In (1989). The film received positive reviews from critics, but flopped in box office. In 1991 she appeared opposite Bruce Willis in Hudson Hawk, and later co-starred alongside Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds (1995). She also appeared in films Point of No Return (1993), Mother's Boys (1994), and Black Dog (1998). On television, Toussaint had regular roles in short-lived series Bodies of Evidence (CBS, 1992), Where I Live (ABC, 1993), Amazing Grace (NBC, 1995), and Leaving L.A. (ABC, 1997).
Toussaint had her biggest and leading role alongside Annie Potts in the Lifetime first original television drama series, Any Day Now. She starred in show as Rene Jackson, a successful African-American lawyer. The series has received critical acclaim for Toussaint's and Potts' acting performances and writing, but never had big ratings. In 2001, Toussaint was a promising contender for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category, though she did not receive a nomination. She also was nominated five times for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her role. Any Day Now ended after four-season and 88 episodes.
From 2002 to 2004, Toussaint had regular role of Dr. Elaine Duchamps in the NBC police procedural, Crossing Jordan. In later years she guest-starred on Frasier, Judging Amy, The Closer, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ER, and NCIS. She also was regular opposite Holly Hunter in the TNT crime drama Saving Grace as Capt. Kate Perry from 2007 to 2010. She also had a recurring roles of Amelia 'Yoga' Bluman in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty in 2006, and as Bird Merriweather in the NBC drama Friday Night Lights (2009–11). Toussaint appeared as Jamie Foxx's character's mother in the 2009 drama The Soloist.
In 2012, Toussaint received critical acclaim and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female for her performance as a hardworking mother who struggles to support her daughter's (Emayatzy Corinealdi) decision to put her life on hold to support her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick), of Middle of Nowhere, a drama film written and directed by Ava DuVernay. Toussaint was a promising contender for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress category in 2013, but she did not receive a nomination. In 2012, she also guest-starred in Shonda Rhimes' dramas Grey's Anatomy as doctor, and on Scandal, as a bereaved and betrayed pastor's wife. In 2013, she had a recurring role in season 3 of Dana Delany's series Body of Proof as Angela Martin, the new police chief and main villain. Later in 2013, she joined the cast of ABC Family drama series, The Fosters, as Sherri Saum's character mother. In show she reunited on-screen with Annie Potts in first time as of Any Day Now finale in 2002.
Toussaint starred in the second season of Netflix's original comedy-drama series, Orange Is the New Black in 2014. She played the role of Yvonne "Vee" Parker, the main antagonist of season two, described as a street-tough inmate who returns to jail after a long stint as a drug dealer. Her performance earned massive critical acclaim. In the series Toussaint, in her 50s, appeared nude on-screen for the first time in her career. For her performance, she won Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. In February 2016, Vee was ranked 28th on Rolling Stone's list of "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time".
In 2014, Toussaint co-starred in Ava DuVernay's historical drama film Selma, playing Amelia Boynton Robinson, a leading civil rights activist who had a key role in efforts that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, and who was the first African-American woman in Alabama to run for Congress. That same year, she was cast in the ABC fantasy-drama series Forever opposite Ioan Gruffudd and Alana de la Garza. The series was canceled after a single season. Toussaint co-starred in the comedy film Xmas, directed and written by Jonathan Levine, which was released on November 25, 2015. In 2015, she co-starred in Runaway Island and Sophie and the Rising Sun. Later that year, Toussaint was cast in Coco, a drama produced by Lionsgate, alongside rapper Azealia Banks. In June 2015, she joined the cast of the Fox comedy-drama Rosewood in the series regular role of the titular character's mother.
In March 2016, Toussaint was cast in her role as defense attorney Shambala Green, a role she originated on Law & Order in 1990, on the NBC legal drama Chicago Justice, that aired a backdoor pilot in Chicago P.D.. On August 14, 2017, it was announced that Toussaint will join as a series regular in the third season of Into the Badlands. She played the role of Cressida, a self-styled Prophetess in season 3.
In 2019, Toussaint went to star in the NBC limited drama series The Village. The series was canceled after one season. She later starred in the superhero film Fast Color opposite Gugu Mbatha-Raw and played the role of Louise "Lou Lou" Baptiste in the horror film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark produced by Guillermo del Toro. The following year, she played feminist, civil rights advocate and activist Florynce Kennedy in the biographical film The Glorias directed by Julie Taymor. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020. Later, she was cast opposite Idris Elba in the drama film Concrete Cowboys. Also in 2020, Toussaint was cast as Frieda “Aunty Fry” Lascombe in the CBS reboot for The Equalizer starring Queen Latifah.
|1989||Breaking In||Delphine the Hooker|
|1991||Hudson Hawk||Almond Joy|
|1993||Point of No Return||Beth|
|1994||Mother's Boys||Robert's Associate|
|1994||Bleeding Hearts||Enid Sheperd|
|1995||Dangerous Minds||Irene Roberts|
|1996||Psalms from the Underground||Short film|
|1997||The Spittin' Image||Short film|
|2001||The Sky Is Falling||Janie|
|2007||Rwanda Rising||Berne Mukaniwisi||Voice|
|2008||The Gold Lunch||Judge||Short film|
|2009||The Soloist||Flo Ayers|
|2012||Knife Fight||Brenda Davis|
|2012||Middle of Nowhere||Ruth|
|2014||Ask Me Anything||Dr. Sherman|
|2014||Selma||Amelia Boynton Robinson|
|2015||Runaway Island||Naomi Holloway|
|2015||The Night Before||Mrs. Roberts|
|2016||Sophie and the Rising Sun||Salome Whitmore|
|2017||Love Beats Rhymes||Nichelle|
|2019||Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark||Louise "Lou Lou" Baptiste|
|2020||The Glorias||Florynce Kennedy|
|1983||The Face of Rage||Stendah||Television film|
|1986||A Case of Deadly Force||Pat Bowden||Television film|
|1988||One Life to Live||Vera Williams||Recurring role|
|1989||A Man Called Hawk||Emily Howell||Episode: "Hear No Evil"|
|1990||Common Ground||Alva||Television film|
|1990||227||Monica Patton||Episode: "Nightmare on 227"|
|1990||Nasty Boys||Dr. Chanel Cory||Episode: "Kill or Be Killed: Part 1"|
|1990–1994, 2003||Law & Order||Shambala Green||Recurring role, 7 episodes|
|1991||Daddy||Judge (uncredited)||Television film|
|1992||Red Dwarf||Captain Tau||Television film|
|1992||Tequila and Bonetti||Big Marie||Episode: "The Rose Cadillac"|
|1992||Trial: The Price of Passion||Nancy Goodpaster||Television film|
|1992||Bodies of Evidence||Dr. Mary Rocket||Series regular (season 1), 8 episodes|
|1993||Lies and Lullabies||Florence Crawford||Television film|
|1993||Class of '61||Sarah||Television film|
|1993||The Sinbad Show||Mrs. Payton||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1993||Where I Live||Marie St. Martin||Series regular, 21 episodes|
|1994||A Time to Heal||Zelda||Television film|
|1994||M.A.N.T.I.S.||Denise Copeland||Episode: "Fire in the Heart"|
|1995||Bless This House||Lorraine||Episode: "A Woman's Work Is Never Done"|
|1995||Amazing Grace||Yvonne Price||Series regular, 5 episodes|
|1995||Murder One||Margaret Stratton||Episode: "Chapter 6"|
Episode: "Chapter 8"
|1995||It Was Him or Us||Lt. Washington||Television film|
|1996||America's Dream||Philomena||Television film|
|1996||If These Walls Could Talk||Shameeka Webb||Television film|
|1996||Mr. & Mrs. Smith||Dr. Cotter||Episode: "The Coma Episode"|
|1996||Dark Skies||Eda Mae Tillman||Episode: "We Shall Overcome"|
|1996||The Cherokee Kid||Mama Turner||Television film|
|1997||Promised Land||Linda Paxton||Episode: "Running Scared"|
|1997||Leaving L.A.||Dr. Claudia Chan||Series regular, 6 episodes|
|1998||Blackout Effect||Kim Garfield||Television film|
|1998||Nothing Sacred||Lorraine Hamilton||Episode: "Signs and Words"|
|1998||Cracker: Mind Over Murder||Tisha Watlington||Episode: "If: Part 1"|
Episode: "If: Part 2"
|1998||C-16: FBI||Marsha Fontaine||Episode: "My Brother's Keeper"|
|1998–2002||Any Day Now||Rene Jackson||Series regular, 88 episodes|
|2002–2003||Crossing Jordan||Dr. Elaine Duchamps||Series regular, 12 episodes|
|2003–2004||Threat Matrix||Carina Wright||Recurring role, 5 episodes|
|2005||Their Eyes Were Watching God||Pearl Stone||Television film|
|2005||Judging Amy||Eileen Stayman||Episode: "The New Normal"|
|2005||The Closer||Deputy D.A. Powell||Episode: "Fatal Retraction"|
Episode: "Standards and Practices"
|2005||Numb3rs||Medical Examiner||Episode: "Bones of Contention"|
|2006||3 lbs||Della||Episode: "Unaired Pilot"|
|2006–2007||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Cynthia James / Marla James||Episodes: "Fannysmackin'", "Post Mortem" and "Big Shots"|
|2006||Ugly Betty||Amelia 'Yoga' Bluman||Recurring role, 6 episodes|
|2007–2010||Saving Grace||Capt. Kate Perry||Series regular, 43 episodes|
|2008||ER||Yolanda||Episode: "Believe the Unseen"|
|2009||Numb3rs||Agent Terri Green||Episode: "Cover Me"|
|2009–2011||Friday Night Lights||Bird Merriweather||Recurring role, 6 episodes|
|2010||The Line||Josephine Johnson||TV pilot|
|2010||Three Rivers||Yolanda Moss||Episode: "Every Breath You Take"|
|2010||The Glades||Carol Watkins||Episode: "A Perfect Storm"|
|2011||The Doctor||Ayanna||TV pilot|
|2011||NCIS||Deputy Director Donna Wolfson||Episode: "Defiance"|
|2011||Against the Wall||Officer Edie||Episode: "Obsessed and Unwanted"|
|2012||Grey's Anatomy||Dr. Fincher||Episode: "The Girl with No Name"|
|2012||The Finder||La Bruja||Episode: "Voodoo Undo"|
|2012||Drop Dead Diva||Prof. Ellen Daily||Episode: "Road Trip"|
|2012||The Secret Life of the American Teenager||Episode: "Holy Rollers"|
|2012||Scandal||Nancy Drake||Episode: "The Other Woman"|
|2013||Body of Proof||Angela Martin||Recurring role, 4 episodes|
|2013–2017||The Fosters||Dana Adams||Recurring role, 9 episodes|
|2014||Being Mary Jane||Aunt Toni||Episode: "The Huxtables Have Fallen"|
|2014||Orange Is the New Black||Yvonne "Vee" Parker||Recurring (season 2) 13 episodes|
|2014–2015||Forever||Lt. Joanna Reece||Series regular, 21 episodes|
|2015–2017||Rosewood||Donna Rosewood||Series regular, 44 episodes|
|2016||Chicago P.D.||Shambala Green||Episode: "Justice"|
|2018||Grace and Frankie||Rebecca||Episode: "The Death Stick"|
|2018–2019||Into the Badlands||Cressida||Series regular, 16 episodes|
|2018–2020||Big City Greens||Rashida Remington (voice)||Animated series, 4 episodes|
|2018–2020||She-Ra and the Princesses of Power||Shadow Weaver / Light Spinner (voice)||Animated series, 28 episodes|
|2019||The Village||Patricia||Series regular, 10 episodes|
|2020||The Equalizer||Frieda "Aunty Fry" Lascombe||Pilot episode|
|2004||World of Warcraft||High Sage Viryx|
|2014||World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor||High Sage Viryx|
Awards and nominations
|1999||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|1999||TV Guide Award||Best Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|1999||Viewers for Quality Television Award||Viewers for Quality Television Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|2000||National Bar Association Award||Wiley A. Branton Award||Any Day Now||Won|
|2000||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|2001||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|2002||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|2003||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Any Day Now||Nominated|
|2008||LA Femme Filmmaker Award||Visionary Award||Won|
|2013||Film Independent Spirit Awards||Best Supporting Female||Middle of Nowhere||Nominated|
|2013||Black Reel Award||Best Supporting Actress||Middle of Nowhere||Nominated|
|2013||Black Reel Award||Best Ensemble||Middle of Nowhere||Nominated|
|2014||NewNowNext Award||Best New Television Actress||Orange Is the New Black||Nominated|
|2014||Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award||Best Ensemble||Selma||Nominated|
|2014||Black Film Critics Circle Award||Best Ensemble||Selma||Won|
|2015||Critics' Choice Movie Award||Best Ensemble||Selma||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Orange is the New Black||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Orange is the New Black||Won|
|Essence Black Women in Hollywood Award||Vanguard Award||Orange is the New Black||Won|
|Black Reel Award||Best Ensemble||Selma||Won|
|Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series||Orange is the New Black||Won|
|EWwy Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a Drama||Orange is the New Black||Nominated|
|2020||Chlotrudis Award||Best Supporting Actress||Fast Color||Won|
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