In Living Color
A fine-looking, captivating, classically trained African-American performer who began his film career in dramatic roles but quickly came to concentrate in comedy, David Alan Grier first attracted the attention of public with his Tony-nominating portrayal of baseball star Jackie Robinson in the Broadway musical ”The First” (1981), in which he also won a Theatre World Award. He combined the success with another one in 1983 by nabbing a Venice Film Festival for his promising starring performance in Robert Altman’s Streamers (1983). The comedian, however, is most popular to TV audiences for starring in such shows as “the Emmy Award winning “In Living Color” (1990–1994), “DAG” (2000–2001) and “Life with Bonnie” (2003, earned an Image and Golden Satellite nominations).
Since making his debut in Streamers (1983), Grier has had roles in a number of movies like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), Boomerang (1992), Blankman (1994) and the popular Jumanji (1995). In a more recent time, moviegoers can catch the busy player in such productions as Mario Van Peebles’ Baadassss! (2003), The Woodsman (2004), Bewitched (2005), Little Man (2006) and Kissing Cousins (2006). Additionally, he has recently returned to his theatrical roots by starring in the musical “The Wiz,” opposite Nikki M. James, Titus Burgess.
Outside the spotlight, Grier was once named Comedy Central’s “100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.” He is a friend of Adam Carolla and Damon Wayans. On a more personal note, 1.87 meters tall Grier married Maritza in 1987, but the bond later ended in separation.
Childhood and Family:
David Alan Grier, whose nickname is DAG, was born on June 30, 1955, in Detroit, Michigan to William H Grier, a co-author of book “Black Rage.” He graduated from The University of Michigan with a BA degree in Radio, Television and Film and received an MFA from Yale School of Drama in 1981.
Six years after completing his studies, David tied the knot with Maritza, but the marriage later ended in divorce. He is currently a resident of Los Angeles, California.
Shortly after receiving his master’s degree at the Yale School of Drama, David Alan Grier debuted on Broadway in the musical “The First” (1981), directed by Martin Charnin and written by Joel Seigal. For his breathtaking portrayal of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, he picked up a Theatre World, as well as earned a Tony nomination for Best Actor. In conjunction with a turn in the popular musical “Dreamgirls,” he also plied his craft in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of “Richard III” and acted in the acclaimed off-Broadway drama “A Soldier’s Play,” opposite Adolph Caesar and Denzel Washington.
Segueing to film, Grier made an auspicious debut as Roger in the Robert Altman hard-hitting drama Streamers (1983), for which he was handed the Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor prize. The following year, he reprised his stage role for Norman Jewison’s realistic film adaptation, A Soldier’s Story, and moved to lighter cinematic fare with a leading role in the advertising lampoon Beer, the next year. Still in 1985, the actor made his TV debut with a guest spot in “The Equalizer,” which was followed by a regular role in the short-lived sitcom “All Is Forgiven” (1986), playing a new soap writer named Oliver Royce.
Following a string of character roles in films and guest spots on television, Grier was featured in Keenan Ivory Wayans’ dead-on blaxploitation satire I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988). This led to the even more successful collaboration when Grier joined Wayans for his comedy sketch show “In Living Color” in 1990. During his four-year stint on the series, Grier created several of the show’s most memorable characters, such as colorful, circle-snapping critic Antoine Merriwether and Muhammad Ali. The comedian maintained his presence on the big screen by appearing as himself in Altman’s The Player (1992), teaming up with Eddie Murphy in Boomerang (1992), playing the “super” hero’s elder brother in Mike Binder’s Blankman (1994, opposite Damon Wayans) as well as costarring in the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now (also 1994).
After “In Living Color” departed the airwaves, Grier went on to alternate between films and TV. He executive produced and starred in the Fox short-lived comedy series “The Preston Episodes” (1995) and acted in the Robin Williams hit Jumanji (1995). He reunited with Damon Wayans for the short-lived sitcom “Damon” (1998, received an Image nod for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series), showcased his dramatic talent with his performance as a Black Panther in the great miniseries “The 60s” (1999), starring Josh Hamilton, Julia Stiles, Jerry O’Connell, Jeremy Sisto and Jordana Brewster, as well as provided the voice of Red (Alley Cat) in the animated movie Stuart Little (1999). Meanwhile, Grier also found himself revisiting Broadway by playing Pseudolus on the revival of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1997).
A series of film appearances followed in the new millennium, including in the jaded The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) and the David Duchovny-Minnie Driver vehicle Return to Me (2000), before Grier headlined his own sitcom, “DAG” (NBC, 2000), portraying a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the frank First Lady (Delta Burke). Two years later, he costarred with Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden, Lauren Holly and Roy Scheider in a television adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, King of Texas, which won the Bronze Wrangler Award for Television Feature Film at the 2003 Western Heritage, and voiced Landanlius ‘The Truth’ Truefeld for the animated series “Crank Yankers,” a gig he held until 2005. Still on television, Grier enjoyed success as David Bellows on the comedy series “Life with Bonnie” (2003), where he nabbed a Golden Satellite and Image nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
The same year, Grier delivered a fine turn as Clyde Houston on Baadassss!, writer-director-star Mario Van Peebles’ half documentary/half homage to his father Melvin Van Peebles. He then could be seen in such films as Tiptoes (2003), the acclaimed independent film The Woodsman (2004, starred Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon) and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005, TV). In the big screen adaptation of Bewitched (2005), he shared the screen with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.
Recently, Grier rejoined the Wayan brothers for the comedy Little Man (2006), in which he was featured as David, and appeared as Griller in the director-writer Amyn Kaderali’s comedy Kissing Cousins (2006). On the small screen, he did a voice-over for the animated film The Wayans Family Presents: Thugaboo - Sneaker Madness (2006). In October 2006, the award-winning actor made his return to stage by starring in the title character in the musical “The Wiz,” based on L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Opened in a La Jolla Playhouse, the play also starred Nikki M. James, Titus Burgess, Rashad Naylor and Michael Benjamin Washington, among others.
- Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Television Feature Film, King of Texas, 2003
- Venice Film Festival: Best Actor, Streamers, 1983