Vanessa Bell Calloway

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Vanessa Bell Calloway
Vanessa Bell Calloway 10.jpg
Bell Calloway in 2010
Vanessa Bell

(1957-03-20) March 20, 1957 (age 65)
Alma materOhio University
Years active1981–present
Anthony Calloway
(m. 1988)

Vanessa Bell Calloway (née Bell; born March 20, 1957) is an American actress. Beginning her career as a dancer, Bell Calloway became known for her film roles as Princess Imani Izzi in the 1988 comedy Coming to America, as well as for her roles in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993), The Inkwell (1994), Crimson Tide (1995), and Daylight (1996). Bell Calloway had several starring roles on television series and movies, include first African American prime time soap opera, Under One Roof (1995). She later played recurring roles on Hawthorne and Shameless. In 2016, she appeared in comedy-drama film Southside with You, and began starring as Lady Ella Johnson in the Bounce TV prime time soap opera, Saints & Sinners. Bell Calloway is a nine-time NAACP Image Award nominee.

Early life[edit]

Bell was born on March 20, 1957, in Cleveland, Ohio.[1] She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ohio University, where she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Calloway also studied dance with Alvin Ailey, George Faison, and Otis Sallid. Calloway began her career as a dancer in Michael Bennett's original Broadway production of Dreamgirls.[2][3] It was during this time period that Calloway directed the music video "Angel Man" for soul singer Rhetta Hughes. She also was in the ensemble of the short-lived musical Bring Back Birdie.[4]


Bell Calloway began her acting career in the ABC daytime soap opera, All My Children in 1985. After moving to Los Angeles in 1986, she began appearing in episodes of prime time shows such as The Colbys, Falcon Crest, 227, China Beach, A Different World, and L.A. Law. She made her film debut on Number One with a Bullet (1987), before supporting role of Eddie Murphy's character's arranged wife in the 1988 comedy Coming to America. In 1990, Bell Calloway co-starred alongside Joe Morton in the ABC drama series, Equal Justice. During the 1990s, Bell Calloway had number of supporting roles in films, including What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) opposite Angela Bassett, The Inkwell (1994), and Crimson Tide (1995) as Denzel Washington's character wife. She also voiced main role in the 1992 animated comedy, Bébé's Kids.[5] Bell Calloway also had number of leading and supporting roles in the made for television movies. In 1995, she co-starred opposite James Earl Jones and Joe Morton in the short-lived CBS prime time soap opera, Under One Roof, the first drama series that feature an African-American lead characters.[6] For her role on the series, Calloway was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. She also had the leading roles on the short-leved NBC sitcom Rhythm & Blues (1992–93), and starred alongside Larry Hagman as his girlfriend in the CBS drama Orleans (1997).

Bell Calloway in 2007

In the 2000s, Bell Calloway had the recurring roles on Boston Public and The District. She co-starred in films including The Brothers, All About You, Dawg, Biker Boyz, Love Don't Cost a Thing, and Cheaper by the Dozen. Bell Calloway also guest starred on The Division, Strong Medicine, The Closer, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Dexter, Rizzoli & Isles, and Castle. From 2010 to 2011, she had the recurring role in the TNT medical drama, Hawthorne. In 2011, she began appearing in the Showtime comedy-drama, Shameless.

In 2016, Bell Calloway was cast as lead character in the Bounce TV first prime time soap opera, Saints & Sinners.[7] She plays Lady Ella Johnson, the widow of pastor and manipulative "First Lady of the Church".[8] Also in 2016, Bell Calloway co-starred as president Obama's future mother-in-law, Marian Shields Robinson, opposite Tika Sumpter as Michelle Obama, in the comedy-drama film Southside with You, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[9] She also guest starred on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy playing Arizona's Lawyer.

In 2018, Bell Calloway appeared in the Christian drama film Unbroken: Path to Redemption and the crime thriller Dragged Across Concrete. In 2019, she played abolitionist Harriet Tubman's mother in the biographical drama film Harriet.[10] She reprised her role as Imani Izzi in the 2021 sequel Coming 2 America.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Bell Calloway has been married to anesthesiologist Dr. Anthony Calloway since 1988. The couple have two daughters, Ashley and Alexandra.[12] Ashley was one of the stars of the BET series Baldwin Hills which originally ran from 2007 until 2009.[13]

In 2009, Bell Calloway was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma, an early stage of breast cancer. She underwent two lumpectomies, and then a mastectomy. She subsequently underwent reconstructive surgery, in which tissue from her stomach was used to reconstruct her breast. She recounted her experience in an October 2015 essay in Ebony magazine, by which point she had been cancer-free for six years.[12]


Film and TV Movies[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1987 Number One with a Bullet Woman
1988 The Return of Desperado Molly Pickett TV Movie
Coming to America Princess Imani Izzi
The Loner Carver TV Movie
1989 Polly Nancy Dodds TV Movie
A Little Bit Strange Marilyn McClane-Masterson TV Movie
Death Spa Marci Hewitt
1990 Piece of Cake Doreen TV Movie
1992 Memphis Martha Kinship TV Movie
Stompin' at the Savoy Dorothy TV Movie
Bébé's Kids Jamika (voice)
Why Colors? - Short
1993 What's Love Got to Do with It Jackie
1994 The Inkwell Francis Phillips
1995 Crimson Tide Julia Hunter
1996 America's Dream Miss Dina Williams TV Movie
Daylight Grace Calloway
The Cherokee Kid Abby Holsopple TV Movie
1998 Archibald the Rainbow Painter Diana
When It Clicks Catherine Douglass Short
2000 A Private Affair Nikita Harrell TV Movie
Love Song Evie Livingston TV Movie
2001 The Brothers Dr. Thelma Woolridge
All About You Donna
2002 The Red Sneakers Berniece TV Movie
Dawg Christine Hodges
2003 Biker Boyz Anita
Love Don't Cost a Thing Vivian Johnson
Cheaper by the Dozen Diana Philips
2004 Pryor Offenses' Gertrude TV Movie
2007 Stompin' Mrs. Jackson
2008 Lakeview Terrace Aunt Dorrie
2009 Truly Blessed Lynda
Aussie and Ted's Great Adventure Mrs. Jones
The Killing of Wendy Wendy
Applause for Miss E Miss E TV Movie
2012 The Last Fall Marie Bishop
A Beautiful Soul Guardian Angel
The Obama Effect Molly Thomas
The Undershepherd Deaconess Carter
2013 Between Sisters Lilian TV Movie
Holla II Marion
2014 The Divorce Eva TV Movie
2015 To Hell and Back Colleen TV Movie
Emergency Contact Ruthie Biltmore TV Movie
About Scout Faith Price
2016 Southside with You Marian Shields Robinson
Lark Aziza Short
Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story Josephine
Post Life Diane McIntosh Short
The Bounce Back Ellen
LAPD African Cops Officer Collins
Hustle vs. Heartache Hustle's Mother
2017 The Preacher's Son Elena
Message from a Mistress Heather
Girl Minus Ivys Mom
2018 Love, Once and Always Isabel TV Movie
Dragged Across Concrete Jennifer Johns
Unbroken: Path to Redemption Lila Burkholder
Thriller Mrs. Jackson
Her Only Choice Dr. Bailey
Throwback Holiday Mildred Anderson
The Counter: 1960 Nicole Short
2019 American Skin Bernice
Harriet Rit Ross
2021 Saints & Sinners Judgment Day Ella TV Movie
Coming 2 America Imani Izzi
Baby Jackie Short
A Holiday Chance Sheryl Chance
2022 Starkeisha The Voice Short
The Devil You Know Della Cowans


Year Title Role Notes
1985 All My Children Yvonne Caldwell Regular Role
Days of Our Lives Denise Preston Regular Role
1986 The Colbys Lowell Sherman Episode: "The Trial"
Simon & Simon Julie Episode: "Act Five"
Falcon Crest Nurse Episode: "Double Jeopardy"
1987 227 Sherry Episode: "The Honeymoon's Over"
1988 Days of Our Lives Charlene Regular Role
1989 Webster Denice Episode: "A-Camping We Will Go"
In the Heat of the Night Audrey Moore Episode: "Accused"
Disneyland Nancy Episode: "Polly"
1990 1st & Ten Della King Episode: "Final Bow" & "Out of the Past"
Dragnet Receptionist Episode: "Millie"
Equal Justice Delia Wayne Recurring Cast: Season 1
China Beach Hula Episode: "One Giant Leap"
A Different World Lily Connors Episode: "A Campfire Story"
1991 L.A. Law Robyn Edwards Episode: "Splatoon"
Father Dowling Mysteries Dr. Emily Stone Episode: "The Monkey Business Mystery"
The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage Rene Episode: "Look for the Union Label"
Doctor Doctor Gail Butterfield Episode: "Butterfields Are Free"
A Different World Danielle Vinson Episode: "The Cash Isn't Always Greener"
1992 Dream On Jeanette Episode: "Red All Over" & "The Guilty Party"
1992-93 Rhythm & Blues Colette Hawkins Main Cast
1993 The Sinbad Show Michelle Michaels Episode: "The Par-tay"
Where I Live - Episode: "The Big Easy"
1995 Under One Roof Maggie Langston Main Cast
Touched by an Angel Debra Willis Episode: "The Driver"
1997 Orleans Rosalee Clark Main Cast
Sparks Monique Episode: "Too Hot Not to Cool Down"
Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Princess Katusha (voice) Episode: "The Golden Goose"
1998 Prey Grace Episode: "Revelations" & "Infiltration"
The Gregory Hines Show Kyra Lewis Episode: "Wahunthra"
Moesha Dr. Madeline Woods Episode: "Psyche Your Mind"
The Temptations Johnnie Mae Matthews TV Mini Series
1999 Malcolm & Eddie Vina Jensen Episode: "Daddio"
2001 Diagnosis: Murder Mrs. Calender Episode: "No Good Deed"
Boston Public Mrs. Michelle Ronning Recurring Cast: Season 1
The Division Dana Episode: "The First Hit's Free, Baby"
2002 One on One Michelle McCall Episode: "The Way You Make Me Feel"
The Parkers Alaina Episode: "And the Winner Is..."
2003–04 10-8: Officers on Duty Gina Barnes Recurring Cast
The District Gwen Hendrix Recurring Cast: Season 4
2004 CSI: Miami Tonya Washington Episode: "Speed Kills"
Strong Medicine Melanie Rhodes Episode: "Foreign Bodies"
2005 Joan of Arcadia Corey Phillips Episode: "Shadows and Light"
2006 The Closer Lynn Talmadge Episode: "Slippin'"
All of Us Marvella James Episode: "Like Father, Like Son... Like Hell!" & "My Two Dads"
2009 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Judge Gina Himmel Episode: "Miscarriage of Justice"
Cold Case Geraldine Watkins (1970) Episode: "Soul"
2010 Dexter Dr. Vanessa Abrams Episode: "Practically Perfect"
Outlaw - Episode: "In Re: Kelvin Jones"
2010-11 Hawthorne Gail Strummer Recurring Cast: Season 2–3
2011 Detroit 1-8-7 Bonnie McCord Episode: "Stone Cold"
Let's Stay Together Mimi Episode: "Daddy's Home"
Harry's Law Judge Jude Campbell Episode: "Queen of Snark" & "Insanity"
2011-21 Shameless Carol Fisher Guest: Season 1-2 & 6 & 10, Recurring Cast: Season 3-5 & 11
2012 Ringer Agent Royce Wiegler Episode "I'm the Good Twin"
Go On Joyce Gold Episode: "Videogame, Set, Match" & "Dinner Takes All"
2012-13 Rizzoli & Isles A.D.A. Edna Calloway Recurring Cast: Season 3, Guest: Season 4
2013 Castle Beryl Wickfield Episode: "Time Will Tell"
2014 NCIS Sally Hammond Episode "Crescent City: Part 1"
Reckless Judge Ella Kress Episode "Parting Shots"
Almost Home Jocelyn Sanders Episode "She Wants That Old Thing Back..."
2015 Murder in the First Veronza Ervin Episode: "Oh, Mexico" & "Out of the Shadows"
Real Husbands of Hollywood Trina's Mother Episode: "When Kevin Met Salli"
Hand of God Eunetta Graham Episode: "He So Loved" & "The Tie That Binds"
In the Cut Samantha Episode: "Like Father, Like Son"
2016 Grey's Anatomy Lucinda Gamble Recurring Cast: Season 12
2016–22 Saints & Sinners Lady Ella Johnson Main Cast
2017 Survivor's Remorse Camille Jordan Recurring Cast: Season 4
2018 Love Is 'Wiser' Angela Episode: "(Her) Questions"
2019 Rel Nancy Episode: "Mom"
A Black Lady Sketch Show Kiley's Mother Rita Episode: "3rd & Bonaparte Is Always in the Shade"
Unbelievable Sarah Episode: "#1.3"
The Conners Carrie Langham Episode: "Smoking Penguins and Santa on Santa Action"
2019-20 Black Monday Ruth Episode: "339" & "Arthur Ponzarelli"
2021 Sacrifice Carol Steinburg Episode: "Sacrifice"
2021-22 Kenan Bobbi Recurring Cast
2022 This Is Us Edie Recurring Cast: Season 6
The Black Hamptons Carolyn Britton Main Cast
Queen Sugar Betty Episode: "We Can Be"
Wicked City Tabitha Main Cast

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Movie/Serie Outcome
1994 NAACP Image Award NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture "What's Love Got to Do with It" Nominated
1996 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series "Under One Roof" Nominated
1997 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special "America's Dream" Nominated
1998 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series "Orleans" Nominated
1999 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special The Temptations Nominated
2002 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series "Boston Public" Nominated
2004 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series "The District" Nominated
2011 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series "Hawthorne" Nominated
2020 Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture "Harriet" Nominated


  1. ^ "Calloway, Vanessa Bell 1957-". Cengage.
  2. ^ "Outstanding accomplishments: Ohio University's Greek community honors three alumni". Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  3. ^ "Official biography". Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  4. ^ The Broadway League. "Vanessa Bell Callaway - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  5. ^ "Vanessa Bell Calloway". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "New Black Series Is Hanging On". The New York Times. April 11, 1995. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  7. ^ Tambay A. Obenson (January 12, 2016). "Bounce TV Enters Original Hour-Long Drama Series Programm - Shadow and Act". Shadow and Act. Archived from the original on March 2, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  8. ^ Stephanie Stephens. "Vanessa Bell Calloway: First Lady of New Saints & Sinners Drama". Parade. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  9. ^ Todd McCarthy (January 24, 2016). "'Southside With You': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  10. ^ "'Harriet' Biopic: Vanessa Bell Calloway, Zackary Momoh, Vondie Curtis-Hall And Deborah Ayorinde Added To Cast".
  11. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 13, 2019). "'Coming 2 America': Vanessa Bell Calloway to Reprise Original Role (EXCLUSIVE)".
  12. ^ a b Bell Calloway, Vanessa; Parker, Najja (October 16, 2015). "In Her Words: Vanessa Bell Calloway Shares Her Breast Cancer Survival Story". Ebony. Retrieved November 1, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Bet's 'Baldwin Hills' Returns With Fresh Faces and New Drama". July 10, 2008. Archived from the original on September 16, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2008.

External links[edit]