“The sexiest scene I ever shot for 'Rescue Me' was in season one when I saved my daughter from an abusive relationship. I've been told by many women that there's nothing sexier than a man who will fight for and protect his children.” Daniel Sunjata
American actor Daniel Sunjata rose to fame with his Tony nominated portrayal of a gay basketball player on the controversial play “Take Me Out” (2003), for which he also nabbed a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination. The graduate of New York City’s Tisch School of the Arts enjoyed further attention for playing sexually provocative firefighter Franco Rivera on the FX series “Rescue Me” (2004-2010), opposite Denis Leary. He received an Image nomination for his performance in the TV miniseries “The Bronx Is Burning" (2007, ESPN) and appeared in the short lived series “D.C.,” (2000) and “Love Monkey” (2006). He has also acted in the hit series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (16 episodes, 2000-2004). Sunjata's film credits include “Bad Company” (2002), “Brother to Brother” (2004), “Melinda and Melinda” (2004), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” (2009).
Sunjata is of African-American, German and Irish descent. He was voted one of People Magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2003.
Childhood and Family:
Daniel Sunjata Condon was born on December 30, 1971, in Evanston, Illinois, to a biracial family. He was raised in Chicago by his adoptive parents, a civil rights worker and a police dispatcher. A graduate of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, he played linebacker for two state championship football teams while in high school. After high school, he attended Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, before transferring to and eventually earning a BFA from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Lafayette, Louisiana. He went on to receive an MFA degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Take Me Out
Daniel Sunjata got his start on stage in the late 1990s. One of his early stage performances included playing Valentine in a 1998 production pf Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at the Lincoln Center. Directed by Nicholas Hynter and starring Helen Hunt, Kyra Sedgwick and Paul Rudd, the play was aired on PBS that same year.
In 2000, Sunjata made his debut as a series regular when he was cast as Lewis Freeman on the WB short lived political drama “D.C.,” opposite Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Gabriel Olds, Jacinda Barrett and Kristanna Loken. The series ran from April 2 to April 23, 2000.
The following year, Sunjata landed the role of Christophe Mercier on the television miniseries adaptation of Anne Rice's novel, “The Feast of All Saints” (Showtime). The Emmy winning show was directed by Peter Medak and starred James Earl Jones, Forest Whitaker, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Pam Grier, Ben Vereen, Jasmine Guy, Jennifer Beals, Gloria Reuben and Peter Gallagher. The same year, he also portrayed Zachary Pell in the daytime soap “All My Children.”
Sunjata next portrayed Officer Carew in “Bad Company,” an action comedy directed by Joel Schumacher that was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starred Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock. Released on June 7, 2002, the film received primarily negative reviews from critics and was a box office failure. He then made a brief appearance as a Louisiana sailor named Louis Leroy on HBO's “Sex and the City” episode “Anchors Away,” which was broadcasted on July 21, 2002, and provided the voice of Nick Landers/James Randall on the “ToCA Race Driver” video game, which was released in the U.K. on August 23, 2002, and the U.S. on December 10, 2002.
However, Sunjata did not gain early prominence until he joined the cast of the NBC popular series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which was created by Dick Wolf. First appearing as a bomb squad officer in the 2000 episode “Remorse,” he was invited back to the show to play the recurring role of Burt Trevor, a CSU technician, on several episodes during 2002 to 2004.
In 2003, Sunjata attracted public attention when he scored a Tony nomination in the category of Best Actor (Featured Role - Play) for his portrayal of Darren Lemming, a gay Major League Baseball player, on Richard Greenberg's Tony award winning and Pulitzer Prize nominated “Take Me Out.” The role also brought the actor a 2003 Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Actor. “Take Me Out” was originally staged in 2002 by the London's Donmar Warehouse with The Public Theater and opened off-Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater on September 5, 2002. The play ran on Broadway for 355 performances at the Walter Kerr Theatre beginning February 27, 2003. Prior to the show's debut on Broadway, Sunjata made a guest appearance on “Ed.”
In 2004, Sunjata appeared in three films. He was first cast as Langston Hughes in the festival favorite “Brother to Brother,” by director and writer Rodney Evans. The film starred Anthony Mackie and Roger Robinson. He then costarred with Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penélope Cruz, Alan Arkin, Marcus Thomas and Robin Williams in the Christmas themed drama “Noel,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2004, before earning a limited theatrical release in the U.S. in November 2004. He also played Billy in Woody Allen’s “Melinda, Melinda,” which starred Radha Mitchell, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Will Ferrell, Jonny Lee Miller, Amanda Peet and Chloë Sevigny. Debuting at Spain's San Sebastián Film Festival on September 17, 2004, the latter film was given a limited release in the U.S. on March 18, 2005.
Sunjata's increasing popularity was further confirmed when he landed the costarring role of firefighter Franco Rivera on the FX Network drama series “Rescue Me.” Starring Denis Leary as veteran firefighter Tommy Gavin, the show, which was co-created by Leary and Peter Tolan, debuted on July 21, 2004, and has since collected several Emmy nominations.
While working on “Rescue Me,” Sunjata also portrayed Kenny Tremont in a 2005 episode of “Law & Order” called “Mammon,” appeared in the short lived CBS series “Love Monkey” (4 episodes, 2006) and offered a memorable turn as fashion designer James Holt in the surprise hit “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), which was loosely based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger. In 2007, Sunjata starred opposite John Turturro and Oliver Platt in the ESPN miniseries “The Bronx Is Burning,” an adaptation of Jonathan Mahler's best selling book “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning.” As baseball superstar Reggie Jackson, he was nominated for a 2008 Image for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
Sunjata revisited Broadway by playing Christian de Neuvillette in Edmond Rostand's “Cyrano de Bergerac,” opposite Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. The play ran at the Richard Rodgers Theater from December 2007 to January 6, 2008. A video taped production of the Broadway revival, recorded before a live audience, was shown as part of “Great Performances” on October 4, 2008.
In 2009, Sunjata was cast as Brad in the Mark Waters helmed romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Emma Stone. Despite mixed reviews, the film grossed over $102 million worldwide. The same year, he also appeared as Andrew Jenkins in an episode of the Tim Roth starring series “Lie to Me” and narrated the documentary “Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup.”
Recently, in 2010, Sunjata costarred with Andie MacDowell in the Lifetime TV film “At Risk,” which is an adaptation of a novel by Patricia Cornwell. He also reprised his role of Win Garano from “At Risk” in the television movie “The Front.”
Sunjata will portray Alejandro in “Weakness” (2010), an upcoming film written and directed by Michael Melamedoff.
Theatre World: “Take Me Out,” 2003