Aunjanue Ellis
Birth Date:
February 21, 1969
Birth Place:
San Francisco, California, USA
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Sistah Girl


An NYU drama program graduate, Aunjanue Ellis began her acting career in the mid-'90s, appearing in films like "Girls Town" (1996) and "Ed's Next Move" (1996). She would later be recognized for her roles in "Men of Honor" (2000), "The Caveman's Valentine" (2001), "Lovely & Amazing" (2001), "Undercover Brother" (2002; as Sistah Girl), "Ray" (2004; as Mary Ann Fisher), "Freedomland" (2006), and "Cover" (2007). She will next be seen in the upcoming films "The Express" and "The Hungry Ghosts."

As for her small screen works, Ellis, who scored her first TV series regular role as Officer Leslie Joyner in the short-lived ABD cop drama "High Incident" (1996), co-starred with William Fichtner in the short-lived ABC medical drama "MDs" (2002) and with Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper in the NBC military drama "E-Ring" (2005-2006), playing Master Sergeant Jocelyn Pierce.

She also had recurring roles in the ABC legal drama series "The Practice," short-lived A&E Network courtroom television drama "100 Centre Street," short-lived FOX action-crime drama "Jonny Zero" (2005), and FOX legal drama "Justice" (2006).

A true thespian, Ellis also displayed her talent on stage. She acted on Broadway in a 1995 revival of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and in Regina Taylor's play "Drowning Crow" in 2004.

San Francisco Native

Childhood and Family:

Born in San Francisco, California, on February 21, 1969, Aunjanue L. Ellis was raised on her grandmother's farm in McComb, Mississippi. She attended Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi before transferring to Brown University, where she received her BA in African-American studies. She later went to study acting in the graduate drama program at New York University, New York, NY.



Honing in on her craft at the NYU, Aunjanue Ellis made her Broadway debut in 1995 when the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "The Tempest," which first staged in Central Park, was brought there. In the revival that ran from November 1, 1995 to December 31, 1995, she portrayed Ariel, the airy spirit. That same year, she made her first appearance on television, playing a guest role in an episode of the FOX police drama series "New York Undercover." In the following year, she scored her first TV series regular role, as Officer Leslie Joyner, in the short-lived ABD cop drama "High Incident."

The newcomer soon arrived on the wide screen, beginning with a co-starring role alongside Lili Taylor, Bruklin Harris, and Anna Grace in Jim McKay's directional debut, the dramatic comedy, "Girls Town" (1996), in which her character Nikki unexpectedly commits suicide. She followed it up with roles in writer/director John Walsh's micro-budget romantic comedy starring Matt Ross, "Ed's Next Move" (1996), Tony Gerber's independent ensemble comedy for Merchant Ivory film, "Side Streets" (1998; with Rosario Dawson and Jennifer Esposito), and writer/director Morgan J. Freeman's drama/comedy "Desert Blue" (1998; starring Kate Hudson, Christina Ricci, Casey Affleck, Peter Sarsgaard, and Brendan Sexton).

She also added to her resume with appearances in the 1999 films "A Map of the World," Scott Elliott's film adaptation of Jane Hamilton's novel that stars Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, David Strathairn, and Chloë Sevigny, and "In Too Deep," Michael Rymer's crime/drama/thriller starring LL Cool J, Omar Epps, and Nia Long. Meanwhile, she played a recurring role, as Sharon Young, in the ABC legal drama series "The Practice."

Hitting the new millennium, Ellis co-starred with Matt Letscher and Christian Craft in Jefferson Davis' layered movie "John John in the Sky," with Erika Eleniak in writer/director Eugene Jarecki's boxing drama "The Opponent," and with Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Charlize Theron in George Tillman, Jr.'s true story-based film, "Men of Honor," which earned her an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. In that year, she also guest-starred in two episodes of the NBC drama "Third Watch" and co-starred with Sanaa Lathan, Wesley Snipes, and Regina Hall in the romantic drama TV movie inspired by Terry McMillan's New York Times best-selling novel, "Disappearing Acts."

Ellis then supported Samuel L. Jackson, playing his cop daughter Lulu, in Kasi Lemmons' film adaptation of George Dawes Green's mystery-drama novel, "The Caveman's Valentine," and played Big Sister volunteer Lorraine in writer/director Nicole Holofcener's dramedy film "Lovely & Amazing" (both in 2001). Meanwhile, she was spotted as a guest in an episode of BET music show "Access Granted" and played a recurring role on the short-lived A&E Network courtroom television drama "100 Centre Street."

The following years saw Ellis starred in Dream Hampton's 18-minute short film "I Am Ali" (2002) and in Malcolm D. Lee's comedy "Undercover Brother" (2002; with Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, and Denise Richards), in which she played Sistah Girl, a female agent of the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., and received a Black Reel nomination for Theatrical - Best Actress for the role. She also co-starred with Anthony Mackie and Roger Robinson in Rodney Evans' award-winning, Sundance-screened gay movie "Brother to Brother" (2004), and was cast opposite Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx in Taylor Hackford's critically-acclaimed biopic of legendary blues singer Ray Charles, "Ray" (2004; she played Mary Ann Fisher), which handed her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

During this time, Ellis co-starred with William Fichtner in the short-lived ABC medical drama "MDs" (2002) and appeared in an episode of the ABC dramatic series starring Steven Weber, "The D.A." (2004). She also returned to Broadway and was a featured player in actress Regina Taylor's play, “Drowning Crow” (February 19, 2004 - April 4, 2004), at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

Ellis subsequently played recurring roles in the short-lived FOX action-crime drama series starring Franky G, GQ, and Brennan Hesser, "Jonny Zero" (2005), as Gloria, and in the FOX legal drama "Justice" (2006), as Miranda Lee, a jury consultant who possesses an uncanny insight into the mindset of potential jurors and is frequently employed by TNT&G. She also co-starred as Master Sergeant Jocelyn Pierce with Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper in the NBC military drama "E-Ring" (2005-2006).

Meanwhile, moviegoers could catch her in Irving Schwartz's dramatic film starring Piper Perabo, "Perception" (2005), Joe Roth's film adaptation of Richard Price's 1998 novel, "Freedomland" (2006; starring Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore), and Bill Duke's dramatic thriller "Cover" (2007), in which she played the lead role of a church-going home-maker who is the prime suspect of a murder on New Year's Eve.

TV viewers recently watched Ellis guest-starring in an episode of NBC/USA Network cop drama "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," CBS crime/police procedural drama "Numb3rs," and the Canadian drama "The Border." She also appeared in Charles S. Dutton-directed biographical TV movie "Racing for Time" (2008).

Ellis has completed her new film, "The Express," Gary Fleder-directed drama based on the life of college football hero Ernie Davis (portrayed by Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, in which Ellis plays Davis mother and Dennis Quaid as his coach. She is currently filming "The Hungry Ghosts," an upcoming drama written and directed by Michael Imperioli.


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