"I get frustrated because most white writers don't do their research on the black experience. Most screenwriters write for the big money and the big money actors. And most of them are white. And what I know they aren't doing is writing for Don Cheadle." Don Cheadle
First tossed into the limelight playing lawyer John Littleton on the CBS series Picket Fences (1993-1995), Don Cheadle was recently nominated for both Oscar and Golden Globe awards after portraying the heroic hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, in Terry George's war drama Hotel Rwanda (2004). The African-American actor was also highly praised for his role in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) and in the TV movie The Rat Pack (1998). His credited films include Boogie Nights (1998), Traffic (2000), Ocean's Eleven (2002) as well as the miniseries A Lesson Before Dying (1999) and Things Behind the Sun (2002).
On the personal front, the award-winning actor has been living with his on-screen wife in Rosewood (1997), actress Bridgid Coulter and shares two children with her.
Cheadle is also known for his support raising awareness of the genocide in Sudan. In early 2005, together with some congress members, Cheadle was reported visiting the refugee camps and talking with the genocide survivors in Sudan.
Acting and Jazz Beckoned
Childhood and Family:
Son of child psychologist and teacher parents, Don Cheadle was born on November 29, 1964 in Kansas City, Missouri. Together with his two siblings, sister Cindy and brother Colin (actor), Don later spent the rest of his childhood in between Lincoln, Nebraska and Denver, Colorado.
Don showed his interest in acting and jazz at the early age of 5. After graduating from East High School in Denver, Colorado, he subsequently won a scholarship for studying jazz and acting (he chose acting). He then studied at the high-status Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California and graduated in 1986 with a degree in Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Off screen, Don is the father of ten-year-old and eight-year-old daughters from his relationship with Rosewood (1997) playmate, actress Bridget Coulter.
Black Man Issues
"I've been doing this since I was 10 years old, inhabiting different people and playing different roles. Thirty years later, there's still the same sort of excitement I get from it. It's still fun to inhabit different characters and play different things, so it's all in that panoply of acting." Don Cheadle.
Formerly encouraged by his friends to participate in auditions, Don Cheadle landed his first on-screen role in 1985 playing a hamburger server in the feature Moving Violations and performed onstage with the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota as well as with the New York Shakespeare Festival in NYC's Central Park. He then appeared in guest spots in several TV series like Fame, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Hill Street Blues while also appearing on the big screen with roles in films like Punk (1986), Hamburger Hill (1987) and Colors (1988).
Following his first starring and co-writing work in the NBC's comedy In the House (1991), Cheadle won the regular role of hotel manager Roland Wilson on CBS' The Golden Palace (1992-1993), The Golden Girls' spin-off. He also appeared in Lush Life (1993, TV), The Meteor Man (1993), and was seen on ABC's Hangin' With Mr. Cooper (two episodes).
Cheadle's breakthrough on the small screen came while playing lawyer John Littleton (1993-1995) on CBS' series Picket Fences. After his appearance on Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995), Cheadle won the role of Mouse Alexander in Denzel Washington's (star of film) Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) which earned him an Oscar nomination. Besides acting in HBO's Rebound: The Legend of Earl 'The Goat' Manigault (1996) and Volcano (1997), Cheadle continued with his acting talent and received critical acclaim for playing roles in Boogie Nights and John Singleton's Rosewood (both 1997).
Don garnered Oscar nominations playing Sammy Davis Jr in Rob Cohen TV movie The Rat Pack (1998) and playing schoolteacher Grant Wiggins in Joseph Sargent's adaptation of Ernest J. Gaines' novel, A Lesson Before Dying (1999, TV). His 1998 films included Warren Beatty's romance-comedy Bulworth and Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (starring George Clooney).
During the 2000s, Cheadle added to his acting resume with such films as Mission to Mars (2000), Traffic (2000), and Things Behind the Sun (2001), the reproduction of Ocean's Eleven (2001) and The United States of Leland (2003, starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Klein). Besides being a gifted actor, Cheadle is also a talented musician who plays saxophone, writes music, and sings. In 2003, he was nominated for an Emmy award for guest starring in the series ER and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, Fear Itself. He also returned to stage with Jeffery Wright in Suzan-Lori Parks' Off-Broadway drama, Topdog/Underdog in 2001.
Behind the screen, Cheadle is a skilful director who credited several stage productions including Cincinnati Man at the Attic Theater, The Trip at Friends and Artists Theater in Hollywood and Three, True, One at the Electric Lodge in Venice, California.
In 2004, moviegoers can find Cheadle in Ocean's Twelve, After the Sunset, Crash, and The Assassination of Richard Nixon. Most recently, Cheadle achieved high praise for portraying the heroic hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in Terry George's war drama Hotel Rwanda (alongside Nick Nolte). For the next year Cheadle is scheduled to direct and star in his first feature film, an Elmore Leonard's novel adaptation, Tishomingo Blues.
"I'm glad that people try to write roles that anyone can do, but I also don't ever want to end up in movies where the fact that I'm a black man is a non-issue. In America, it's always an issue." Don Cheadle.
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, Devil in a Blue Dress, 1995
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, Devil in a Blue Dress, 1995
- Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Series, Miniseries or TV Movie), The Rat Pack; tied with Gregory Peck, Moby Dick, 1998