Michael Jai White

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Michael Jai White
White in January 2016
  • Actor
  • director
  • martial artist
Years active1989–present
Courtenay Chatman
(m. 2005; div. 2011)
Gillian Iliana Waters
(m. 2015)

Michael Jai White is an American actor, director and martial artist. He was the first African American to portray a major comic book superhero in a major motion picture,[1] starring as Al Simmons, the protagonist in the 1997 film Spawn.[note 1] White appeared as Marcus Williams in the Tyler Perry films Why Did I Get Married? and Why Did I Get Married Too?, and starred as the character on the TBS/OWN comedy-drama television series Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse. White portrayed Jax Briggs in Mortal Kombat: Legacy and the Cyborg Seth in Universal Soldier: The Return. He portrayed boxer Mike Tyson in the 1995 HBO television film Tyson. He also played the title role in the blaxploitation parody film Black Dynamite, as well as the animated series of the same name.

Early life[edit]

White is a martial artist in nine different styles: Shōtōkan, Goju-Ryu (for which he studied under Master Eddie Morales where he learned to sharpen his Goju karate technique), Taekwondo, Kobudō, Tang Soo Do, Wushu, Jujutsu, Kyokushin and Boxing,[2][3] with a specific focus in Kyokushin Karate (although his style incorporates aspects of many different martial arts forms).[4] White started training in the martial arts at the age of four in Jujutsu. He next took up Shōtōkan and moved on to other styles later.[5] White holds seven legitimate black belts in, Kyokushin Karate, Goju-Ryu Karate, Shotokan Karate, Taekwondo, Tang Soo Do, Kobudo, and Wushu.[citation needed]

White is a former special education teacher and taught students with behavioral problems for three years. He cites his history in education as the reason why, despite his personal love for the music genre on "a lot of levels", he cannot "in good [conscience]" have a positive opinion on hip hop or "excuse some of [its] pervasive and destructive elements", mainly due to his experience with youngsters who had difficulty seeing the difference between it and real life.[6]

He graduated from Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1982.[7]

Acting career[edit]

White's first major starring role and breakout performance was in the 1995 HBO film Tyson, as heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson. He portrayed the eponymous character in the 1997 film Spawn, making him the first African American to portray a major comic book superhero in a major motion picture.[1] His work in Spawn earned him a nomination for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award. White starred opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier: The Return, in 1999. A few years earlier, he acted in Full Contact, with Jerry Trimble. In 2001, he also starred opposite fellow martial artist Steven Seagal in Exit Wounds. In 2003, he starred in Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey's music video "I Know What You Want". Since 2003, in addition to his on screen roles, White has been doing voice work, including in Static Shock and Justice League. White showcases his martial arts skills in the direct-to-DVD film Undisputed II: Last Man Standing. He also appears in Michelle Yeoh's Silver Hawk in 2004. He appeared in Kill Bill: Volume 2, although his role was cut from the theatrical release. His film Why Did I Get Married? opened at number one at the box office on October 12, 2007.

White played the role of the mob boss Gambol in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. He also starred in the film Blood and Bone and the blaxploitation homage Black Dynamite, both released in 2009. White wrote the scripts for both Black Dynamite and 3 Bullets in which he stars with Bokeem Woodbine.

On March 30, 2010, White appeared on The Mo'Nique Show to promote his film Why Did I Get Married Too. The two joked about the acclaim that comes with winning an Oscar. In May of that year he appeared in the music video for Toni Braxton's new song "Hands Tied" from her album Pulse, as well as the Nicki Minaj music video for "Your Love" as Nicki's sensei and love interest.

He also starred in Kevin Tancharoen's short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth,[8] as Jax Briggs, and reprised the role in Mortal Kombat: Legacy, a webseries from the same director. He posted on Twitter that he would not be returning to the role for the second season, but would return for the 2013 film.

White made his directorial debut and starred in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, which was released on home video on September 13, 2011.[9]

White also provided the voice of Green Lantern in the video game Justice League Heroes.[10]

In October 2019, White announced that the spiritual successor to Black Dynamite titled Outlaw Johnny Black had officially entered pre-production. Despite the Indiegogo campaign not reaching its goal, he was still able to secure enough backers and additional donors to get the project off the ground. It is available for pre-order on the official website. Its theatrical release date was 15 September 2023.[11] In July 2023, its trailer was released.[12]

In October 2020, White's latest film Welcome to Sudden Death debuted on Netflix and became one of the most watched films on the platform.[13] The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release is a remake of the 1995 film Sudden Death starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

On July 12, 2021, White laid out a vision for starting a film studio in New Haven, CT called "Jaigantic Studios".[14] He wants to create a studio district on New Haven's Quinnipiac River waterfront.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Michael Jai and Gillian White in 2017

From 2005 to 2011, White was married to Courtenay Chatman and together they have a daughter named Morgan. In addition, White has two sons.[16][17] In February 2014, White announced his engagement to actress Gillian Iliana Waters.[17] In April 2015, White penned an open letter via Facebook entitled "Apologies to My Ex's", where he credited Waters for helping him become "the very best version of myself."[18] In July 2015, White married Waters in Thailand.[19] They appeared together in the martial arts thriller movie Take Back (2021),[20] with Gillian White starring as the female lead.[21]

In 2014, White was honored with the Fists of Legends Decade Award at the Urban Action Showcase & Expo at HBO.[22] In 2015, he was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.[23] On November 8, 2019, he assumed the "Mantle of The Black Dragon" from Ron van Clief, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, and Taimak, in a ceremony at the 2019 Urban Action Showcase & Expo at AMC 25, NYC.[24]

White is a cousin of comedian and actress Kym Whitley.[25]



Year Title Role Notes
1989 The Toxic Avenger Part II Apocalypse Inc. Executive
The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie
1991 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze Audience Man
True Identity Alley Guy #1
1992 Universal Soldier Soldier
1993 Full Contact Low-Ball
1994 On Deadly Ground Oil Worker
Lion Strike Silvio
1995 Ballistic Quint
1996 2 Days in the Valley Buck
1997 City of Industry Odell Williams
Spawn Al Simmons / Spawn
1998 Ringmaster Demond
Thick as Thieves Pointy
1999 Breakfast of Champions Howell
Universal Soldier: The Return S.E.T.H. Super UniSol [26]
2000 The Bus Stop Unknown Short
2001 Exit Wounds Sergeant Lewis Strutt
2002 Trois 2: Pandora's Box Hampton Hines
2003 Justice Tre
2004 Silver Hawk Morris
2006 Undisputed II: Last Man Standing George "The Iceman" Chambers Video
2007 Why Did I Get Married Marcus
2008 The Dark Knight Gambol
2009 Black Dynamite Black Dynamite Also writer
The Legend of Bruce Lee Ali Video
Blood and Bone Isaiah Bone
Three Bullets The Man Short; also writer
2010 Why Did I Get Married Too? Marcus
Mortal Kombat: Rebirth Jackson "Jax" Briggs Video short [27]
2011 Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown Casey "Case" Walker Jr. Video; also director
Tactical Force SWAT Sergeant Tony Hunt
2012 We the Party Officer Davis
Freaky Deaky Donnell Lewis
The Philly Kid Arthur Letts
2013 Fedz "Big D"
2014 Android Cop Hammond
Falcon Rising John "Falcon" Chapman
Skin Trade FBI Agent Reed
2015 Chocolate City Princeton
Chain of Command James Webster
2016 Vigilante Diaries Barrington [28][29]
The Asian Connection Greg "Greedy Greg"
Never Back Down: No Surrender Casey "Case" Walker Jr. Video; also writer and director
2017 S.W.A.T.: Under Siege "Scorpion"
Chocolate City: Vegas Strip Princeton
Cops and Robbers Michael
2018 Accident Man Mick
Making a Killing Orlando Hudson
Dragged Across Concrete "Biscuit"
2019 The Hard Way Payne
Triple Threat Devereaux
Undercover Brother 2 Undercover Brother
2020 Welcome to Sudden Death Jesse Video
2021 Batman: Soul of the Dragon Bronze Tiger Voice[26]
Assault on VA-33 Chief Malone
Take Back Brian
Send It! Coach
Rogue Hostage Sparks
Black Friday Archie
2022 The Commando James Baker
Dead Zone Boss Tubi original
The Hit Brooke
As Good As Dead Bryant Also writer
2023 You're Not Alone Keith Mitchell Tubi original
A Snowy Day in Oakland Reverend Carter Direct-to-video
The Island Mark
MR-9: Do or Die Duke Direct-to-video
Outlaw Johnny Black Johnny Black Also writer and director
TBA One More Shot Robert Jackson Direct-to-video; post-production
Denotes works that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Saved by the Bell Military Police Man #2 Episode: "Wrestling with the Future"
1993 Renegade Luther, Dawn's Boyfriend Episode: "Vanished"
1994 Martin Valdez Episode: "Arms Are for Hugging"
Living Single Steve Episode: "Hot Fun in the Wintertime"
1995 NYPD Blue Officer Reggie Fancy 2 episodes
JAG Navy Petty Officer Peter Quinn / Lieutenant Martin Payne Episode: "Brig Break"
Tyson Mike "Iron Mike" Tyson Television film
1996 Captive Heart: The James Mink Story Elroy Television film
Shaughnessy Carpenter Television film
1999 Mutiny Ben Cooper Television film
2000 Wonderland Dr. Derrick Hatcher Main cast
Freedom Song Coleman Vaughnes Television film
2001 Boston Public Darren Schofield Episode: "Chapter Eighteen"
Soul Food Russell Banks Episode: "Who Do You Know?"
2003 CSI: Miami Officer Roy Bailey Episode: "Hard Time"
Justice League Doomsday Voice; episode: "A Better World, Part 1"[26]
Hotel Unknown Television film
2003–2004 Static Shock Osebo Voice, 2 episodes[26]
2004–2005 Clubhouse Ellis Hayes Recurring cast
2005 Justice League Unlimited Doomsday Voice, episode: "The Doomsday Sanction"[26]
2006 Windfall Michael Episode: "Priceless"
Getting Played Actor Television film
2008 Tyler Perry's House of Payne Bryan Recurring cast, season 3
2010 The Boondocks Bushido Brown / Cop Voice, episode: "Stinkmeaner 3: The Hateocracy"
One Angry Juror Derrick Television film
2011 Batman: The Brave and the Bold Tattooed Man Voice, episode: "The Scorn of the Star Sapphire!"[26]
2011–2017 Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse Marcus Williams Main cast
2011–2015 Black Dynamite Black Dynamite Voice, main cast; also creator[26]
2012 Aqua Something You Know Whatever Zucotti Manicotti Voice, episode: "Zucotti Manicotti"
Somebody's Child Douglas Television film
Arrow Ben Turner / Bronze Tiger Guest (season 2), recurring (season 7); 10 episodes
2016 The Crooked Man Milo Television film
2017 Insecure: Due North Zeke Episode: "201"
Insecure Zeke 2 episodes
2018 Every Day Is Christmas Justin Television film
2018–2020 The Family Business Vegas Duncan Recurring cast
2020 Black-ish Vincent Episode: "Dad Bod-y of Work"
Pump Eric Main cast


Year Title Role
1992 Prototype Stunts
1994 On Deadly Ground Stunts

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice role
2006 Justice League Heroes John Stewart[26]
2007 The Underground Bounty Hunter Hatch
2022 Marvel's Midnight Suns Eric Brooks / Blade[26]

Web series[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2011 Mortal Kombat: Legacy Jackson "Jax" Briggs 2 episodes
2012 Métal Hurlant Chronicles Teague Episode: "King's Crown"
2014 Métal Hurlant Chronicles Balt Episode: "The Endomorphe"
2016 Enter the Dojo Himself Episode: "How to Fight a Clown"

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Performer
2003 "I Know What You Want" Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey featuring The Flipmode Squad
2010 "Your Love" Nicki Minaj
2010 "Hands Tied" Toni Braxton
2012 "Let's Go" Calvin Harris featuring Ne-Yo
2021 "Where I Belong" Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey


  1. ^ Spawn was released on August 1, 1997, two weeks before the release of Steel, which starred NBA basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. Robert Townsend and Damon Wayans also starred in the superhero films The Meteor Man (1993) and Blankman (1994), respectively, both parodies.


  1. ^ a b "Michael Jai White is first Black comic superhero to star on the movie screen in 'Spawn.'". Jet magazine. September 22, 1997. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  2. ^ "Male Celebs Who Practice Martial Arts", Jet magazine, Sept. 24, 2001, at pp. 38-39.
  3. ^ Pollard, Edward. "Michael Jai White Ignites Black Dynamite". Black Belt Magazine. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
  4. ^ Taco the Town: Michael Jai White Archived 2010-06-10 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Howlett, Sandy (August 27, 2014). "The Kyokushin Karate Roots of Michael Jai White". www.blackbeltmag.com. Black Belt Magazine. Archived from the original on January 4, 2018.
  6. ^ Black Dynamite Interview with Michael Jai White and Scott Sanders. Midcmedia. February 11, 2010. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  7. ^ "Central High Distinguished Alumni". Bridgeport Central High School. Archived from the original on June 10, 2003. Retrieved September 23, 2023.
  8. ^ "New Mortal Kombat Promotional Featurette Delivers the Goods". dreadcentral.com. June 8, 2010. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Morales, Wilson (September 13, 2011). "Never Back Down 2: Michael Jai White". Blackfilm.com. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  10. ^ "Justice League Heroes (Video Game 2006)". IMDb. Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  11. ^ "Outlaw Johnny Black". Samuel Goldwyn Films. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  12. ^ Fuge, Jonathan (July 13, 2023). "Outlaw Johnny Black Trailer Sees Michael Jai White Wage War in the Wild West". MovieWeb. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  13. ^ "A Michael Jai White Remake Of A Van Damme Bomb Is Now One Of Netflix's Most-Watched Movies". Forbes.
  14. ^ "Movie Superhero Lays Out "Jaigantic" Community Vision".
  15. ^ "Jaigantic Vision Pitched on River Street Walkthrough".
  16. ^ "Michael Jai White's Adorable Baby Girl". Archived from the original on 2009-01-24. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  17. ^ a b Bailey-Tureaud, Kimberly (3 February 2014). "Michael Jai White and fiancée Gillian Iliana Waters share the secret to their romance". Las Vegas Black Image. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  18. ^ Williams, Brennan (15 April 2015). "Michael Jai White Writes Letter Of Apology To His Ex-Girlfriends: 'I Believed All Women Were Crazy'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  19. ^ Caslin, Yvette (8 July 2015). "Exclusive: Michael Jai White and Gillian Iliana Waters tie the knot". Rolling Out. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  20. ^ Blueskye, Brian (June 18, 2021). "Duo filmed action movie in the Coachella Valley during pandemic". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs. pp. 3A, 4A. Retrieved 2022-11-28 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Hoad, Phil (23 March 2021). "Take Back review – dusty martial arts thriller looks cramped". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-11-28.
  22. ^ 2014 Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival & Honoree Awards. YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  23. ^ Dr. Robert Goldman (March 13, 2015). "2015 International Sports Hall of Fame Inductees". www.sportshof.org. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  24. ^ Zirogiannis, Marc (November 9, 2019). "Michael Jai White Assumes The Mantle of the Black Dragon". Tae Kwon Do Life Magazine. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  25. ^ "Hey Family, Michael Jai White and Kym Whitley are Cousins".
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Michael Jai White (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved October 7, 2023. A green check mark indicates that a role has been confirmed using a screenshot (or collage of screenshots) of a title's list of voice actors and their respective characters found in its opening and/or closing credits and/or other reliable sources of information.
  27. ^ George 'El Guapo' Roush (June 8, 2010). "Mortal Kombat Fans, This Is The Hard 'R' MK Movie You've Been Waiting For". latinoreview.com. Archived from the original on June 11, 2010.
  28. ^ Sesma, Christian (2016-06-24), Vigilante Diaries, retrieved 2016-08-29
  29. ^ Taylor, Kelly (22 June 2016). "Michael Jai White on new film 'Vigilante Diaries' and finding his soul mate". Fox. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved 2016-08-29.

External links[edit]