Lorraine Toussaint

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Lorraine Toussaint
Toussaint at The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring Orange Is the New Black
Born (1960-04-04) April 4, 1960 (age 63)[1]
EducationJuilliard School (BFA)
Years active1981–present
Michael Tomlinson
(m. 2017; div. 2019)

Lorraine Toussaint (/tˈsɑːnt/[2][3] born April 4, 1960) is a Trinidadian-American actress. She is the recipient of various accolades, including a Black Reel Award, a Critics' Choice Television Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

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. She 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 also 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), the Fox comedy-drama Rosewood (2015–17), the AMC drama Into the Badlands (2018–19), NBC drama The Village (2019) and CBS crime drama The Equalizer (2021–present). Additionally, she appeared in films Fast Color (2018), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), The Glorias (2020) and Concrete Cowboy (2020).

Early life[edit]

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.[4]

Her mother was a teacher, and she brought Toussaint to live in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, in the late 1960s.[citation needed]

Toussaint graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts in 1978.[5] She then attended the Juilliard School's drama division as a member of Group 11 (1978–1982),[6] where her classmates in 1982 included Megan Gallagher, Penny Johnson Jerald, Jack Kenny, and Jack Stehlin.[7] Toussaint graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.[5]


Early career[edit]

After graduating, Toussaint began her career as a Shakespearean actress before tackling screen acting in television and film.[8] Notable stage roles include Hippolyta in Liviu Ciulei's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Guthrie Theater, Tamara in the world premiere of Toni Morrison's Dreaming Emmett at Capital Repertory Theatre, the American premiere of Two Fish in the Sky at the Phoenix Theatre, and an appearance at Tadashi Suzuki's Toga Festival in Japan.[9][10]

Toussaint made her screen debut in 1983. In 1986, she portrayed the widow of a man shot and killed by Boston police in the television film A Case of Deadly Force, based on the book by Lawrence O'Donnell.[11] She later had a recurring role of Vera Williams in the ABC daytime soap opera, One Life to Live. While maintaining her stage career, she appeared in guest starring roles in series such as 227 and Law & Order (in a recurring role as defense lawyer Shambala Green). She also acted in a number of television films in the 1990s.

Toussaint 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,[12] but flopped in box office.[13] 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).[14]


Toussaint had her biggest and leading role alongside Annie Potts in the Lifetime first original television drama series, Any Day Now,[8] starring as Rene Jackson, a successful African-American lawyer. The series received critical acclaim for both lead actresses' performances as well as the show's script writing[15][16][17] but never attained standout ratings.[18] 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.[19] She was nominated five times for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her role.[8] Any Day Now ended after four seasons and 88 episodes.

Toussaint with Emayatzy Corinealdi and Sharon Lawrence at a promotional event for Middle of Nowhere in 2012

From 2002 to 2004, Toussaint had a regular role playing 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 a regular, opposite Holly Hunter, in the TNT crime drama Saving Grace as Capt. Kate Perry from 2007 to 2010. She had a recurring role as 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 also appeared as Jamie Foxx's character's mother in the 2009 drama The Soloist.[20]


Toussaint in 2012

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.[21][22] Toussaint was a promising contender for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress category in 2013, but she did not receive a nomination.[23][24][25]

In 2012, she guest-starred in Shonda Rhimes' dramas Grey's Anatomy (as a doctor) and Scandal (as a bereaved and betrayed pastor's wife).[23] In 2013, she had a recurring role in season 3 of Dana Delany's series Body of Proof as villainous police chief Angela Martin.[26] Later in 2013, she joined the cast of ABC Family drama series, The Fosters, as Sherri Saums character’s mother.[27] This marked the first time she reunited on-screen with Annie Potts since the finale of Any Day Now in 2002.[11]

Toussaint starred in the second season of Netflix's original comedy-drama series, Orange Is the New Black in 2014.[28][29] 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 critical acclaim.[11][30][31][32][33][34] In the series Toussaint, in her 50s, appeared nude on-screen for the first time in her career.[33][35] For her performance, she won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.[36][37] In February 2016, Vee was ranked 28th on Rolling Stone's list of "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time".[38]

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.[39][40] That same year, she was cast in the ABC fantasy-drama series Forever opposite Ioan Gruffudd and Alana de la Garza.[41][42] 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. Also in 2015, she co-starred in Runaway Island and Sophie and the Rising Sun.[43][44] Later that year, Toussaint was cast in Coco, a drama produced by Lionsgate, alongside rapper Azealia Banks.[45] In June 2015, she joined the cast of the Fox comedy-drama Rosewood in the series regular role of the titular character's mother.[46]

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..[47][48] On August 14, 2017, it was announced that Toussaint would 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.[49]

In 2019, Toussaint starred in the NBC limited drama series The Village.[50] 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.[51] The following year, she played feminist, civil rights advocate and activist Florynce Kennedy in the biographical film The Glorias directed by Julie Taymor.[52][53] The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020. Later, she was cast opposite Idris Elba in the drama film Concrete Cowboy.[54] Also in 2020, Toussaint was cast as Viola "Aunt Vi" Lascombe in the CBS reboot for The Equalizer starring Queen Latifah.[55][56]

Personal life[edit]

Toussaint has one daughter named Samara.[4] One of Toussaint's grandparents was from Martinique.[57] She had a blog.[58] Toussaint married a man named Michael Tomlinson in August 2017 but they divorced almost two years later in 2019.[59]



Year Title Role Notes
1989 Breaking In Delphine the Hooker
1991 Hudson Hawk Almond Joy
1993 Point of No Return Beth
Mother's Boys Robert's Associate
1994 Bleeding Hearts Enid Sheperd
1995 Dangerous Minds Irene Roberts
1996 Psalms from the Underground - Short
1997 The Spittin' Image - Short
1998 Black Dog Avery
Jaded Carol Broker
2000 The Sky Is Falling Janie
2007 Rwanda Rising Berne Mukaniwisi (voice)
2008 The Gold Lunch Judge Short
2009 The Soloist Flo Ayers
2012 Knife Fight Brenda Davis
Middle of Nowhere Ruth
2014 Ask Me Anything Dr. Sherman
Selma Amelia Boynton Robinson
2015 Runaway Island Naomi Holloway
The Night Before Mrs. Roberts
2016 Sophie and the Rising Sun Salome Whitmore
2017 Girls Trip Herself
Love Beats Rhymes Nichelle
2018 Fast Color Bo
Sprinter Donna
A Conversation: Anne Frank Meets God God (voice) Short
2019 Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Louise "Lou Lou" Baptiste
2020 The Glorias Florynce Kennedy
Concrete Cowboy Nessie
2023 Nimona Queen Valerin (voice)
TBA Silent Retreat Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1983 The Face of Rage Stendah TV movie
1986 A Case of Deadly Force Pat Bowden TV movie
1988 One Life to Live Vera Williams Regular Cast
1989 A Man Called Hawk Emily Howell Episode: "Hear No Evil"
1990 Common Ground Alva TV movie
227 Monica Patton Episode: "Nightmare on 227"
Nasty Boys Dr. Chanel Cory Episode: "Kill or Be Killed: Part 1"
1990–94 Law & Order Shambala Green Recurring cast: season 1 & 3, guest: season 4
1991 Daddy Judge Lorraine TV movie
1992 Tequila and Bonetti Big Marie Touissant Episode: "The Rose Cadillac"
Trial: The Price of Passion Nancy Goodpaster TV movie
Bodies of Evidence Dr. Mary Rocket Episode: "Afternoon Delights"
Red Dwarf Captain Lorraine Tau TV movie
1993 Queen Joyce Episode: "Episode #1.3"
Lies and Lullabies Florence Crawford TV movie
Class of '61 Sarah TV movie
The Sinbad Show Mrs. Payton Episode: "Pilot"
Where I Live Marie St. Martin Main cast
1994 A Time to Heal Zelda TV movie
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"
Amazing Grace Yvonne Price Main cast
Murder One Margaret Stratton Episode: "Chapter Six" & "Chapter Eight"
It Was Him or Us Lt. Lorraine Washington TV movie
1996 America's Dream Philomena Jonz TV movie
Nightjohn Dealey TV movie
If These Walls Could Talk Shameeka Webb TV movie
Mr. & Mrs. Smith Dr. Avery Cotter Episode: "The Coma Episode"
The Cherokee Kid Mama Annie Turner TV movie
Dark Skies Eda Mae Tillman Episode: "We Shall Overcome"
1997 Promised Land Linda Paxton Episode: "Running Scared"
Leaving L.A. Dr. Claudia Chan Main cast
1998 Blackout Effect Kim Garfield TV movie
Nothing Sacred Lorraine Hamilton Episode: "Signs and Words"
Cracker Tisha Watlington Episode: "If: Part 1 & 2"
C-16: FBI Marsha Fontaine Episode: "My Brother's Keeper"
1998–2002 Any Day Now Rene Jackson Main cast
2002 Static Shock Dr. Franklin (voice) Episode: "Jimmy"
2002–03 Crossing Jordan Dr. Elaine Duchamps Main cast: season 2
2003 This Far by Faith Narrator Episode: "There Is a River"
Law & Order Shambala Green Episode: "Identity"
2003–04 Threat Matrix Carina Wright Recurring cast
2004 Frasier Nurse Betty Toussaint Episode: "Boo!"
2005 Their Eyes Were Watching God Pearl Stone TV movie
Judging Amy Eileen Stayman Episode: "The New Normal"
The Closer Deputy D.A. Patrice Powell Episode: "Fatal Retraction" & "Standards and Practices"
Numb3rs Medical Examiner Episode: "Bones of Contention"
2006 3 lbs Della Episode: "Unaired Pilot"
2006–07 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Cynthia James Recurring cast: Season 7
2007 Ugly Betty Amelia 'Yoga' Bluman Recurring cast: season 2
2007–10 Saving Grace Capt. Kate Perry Main cast
2008 ER Yolanda Episode: "Believe the Unseen"
2009 Numb3rs Agent Terri Green Episode: "Cover Me"
2009–11 Friday Night Lights Birdie "Bird" Merriweather Recurring cast: season 4-5
2010 Three Rivers Yolanda Moss Episode: "Every Breath You Take"
The Glades Carol Watkins Episode: "A Perfect Storm"
2011 NCIS Deputy Director Donna Wolfson Episode: "Defiance"
Against the Wall Officer Edie Marks Episode: "Obsessed and Unwanted"
2012 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Helen Fincher Episode: "The Girl with No Name"
The Finder La Bruja Episode: "Voodoo Undo"
Drop Dead Diva Prof. Ellen Daily Episode: "Road Trip"
The Secret Life of the American Teenager Lorraine Episode: "Holy Rollers"
Scandal Nancy Drake Episode: "The Other Woman"
2012–14 The Young and the Restless Dr. Watkins Regular Cast
2013 Body of Proof Police Chief Angela Martin Recurring cast: Season 3
2013–17 The Fosters Dana Adams Recurring cast
2014 Being Mary Jane Aunt Toni Episode: "The Huxtables Have Fallen"
Orange Is the New Black Yvonne "Vee" Parker Recurring cast: Season 2
2014–15 Forever Lt. Joanna Reece Main cast
2015–17 Rosewood Donna Rosewood Main cast
2016 The Real Housewives of Atlanta Herself Episode: "Shade for Days"
Chicago P.D. Shambala Green Episode: "Justice"
Black-ish Aunt Alma Johnson Episode: "Auntsgiving"
2017 Shots Fired Carole Moore Episode: "Hour Eight: Rock Bottom"
2018 Grace and Frankie Rebecca Episode: "The Death Stick"
2018–19 Into the Badlands Cressida Main cast: season 3
2018–20 She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Shadow Weaver/Light Spinner (voice) Main cast [60]
2018–23 Big City Greens Rashida Remington (voice) Recurring cast
2019 The Village Patricia Main cast
2020 The Good Fight Nia Rogers Episode: "The Gang Offends Everyone"
2020–21 Your Honor Judge Sarah LeBlanc Recurring cast: season 1
2021 Cinema Toast Mother (voice) Episode: "Kiss, Marry, Kill"
Summer Camp Island Emily Ghost (voice) Episode: "The Emily Ghost Institute for Manners and Magical Etiquette"
Star Wars: Visions Masago (voice) Episode: "Akakiri" [61]
2021–present The Equalizer Viola "Aunt Vi" Lascombe Main cast
2022 Wolfboy and the Everything Factory Forest Ancient (voice) Episode: "We Search for Change"

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role
2004 World of Warcraft High Sage Viryx
2014 World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor High Sage Viryx
2015 King's Quest Sphinx

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result
1999 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Any Day Now Nominated
TV Guide Award Best Actress in a Drama Series Any Day Now Nominated
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
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
Black Reel Award Best Supporting Actress Middle of Nowhere Nominated
Black Reel Award Best Ensemble Middle of Nowhere Nominated
2014 NewNowNext Award Best New Television Actress[62] Orange Is the New Black Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award Best Ensemble Selma Nominated
Black Film Critics Circle Award Best Ensemble[63] Selma Won
2015 Critics' Choice Movie Award Best Ensemble[64] Selma Nominated
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series[65] Orange is the New Black Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series[66] Orange is the New Black Won
Essence Black Women in Hollywood Award Vanguard Award[67] Orange is the New Black Won
Black Reel Award Best Ensemble[68] Selma Won
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series[69] Orange is the New Black Won
EWwy Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Drama[70] Orange is the New Black Nominated
2020 Chlotrudis Award Best Supporting Actress Fast Color Won
2022 Black Reel Award Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama Series The Equalizer Nominated[71]


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External links[edit]