"I am an actor, producer, writer and a director. I am an artist, basically. What I do is, what my mission and my goal is to entertain and to educate at the same time, to enlighten people." Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Making his Broadway debut as cornet player Buddy Bolden in the musical "Jelly's Last Jam" (1992; alongside Gregory Hines), Ruben Santiago-Hudson won Tony's Best Actor in 1996 for his brilliant performance as Canewell, the harmonica-playing amateur philosopher, in August Wilson's “Seven Guitars.” He also gained praise for his autobiographical/musical one-man show "Lackawanna Blues," which he both wrote and starred in. He later adapted it into the HBO original movie in 2005 and received similar positive reviews.
The Latino African-American performer was credited in the films “Coming to America” (1988), “The Devil's Advocate” (1997), “Shaft” (2000), “Domestic Disturbance” (2001) and “Mr. Brooks” (2007). He will star alongside Danny Glover in an upcoming film titled “Honeydripper,” a musical drama set in 1950 Rural Alabama written and directed by John Sayles.
On the small screen, Santiago-Hudson has appeared on the daytime dramas “Another World” and “All My Children,” as well as the primetime series “The Cosby Mysteries,” “NYPD Blue,” “Touched by an Angel,” “The West Wing,” “Third Watch” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” He was also seen in five episodes of “Law & Order.”
Childhood and Family:
In Lackawanna, New York, Ruben Santiago-Hudson was born on November 24, 1956. His father, Ruben Santiago, was a Puerto Rican railroad worker and his mother, Alean Hudson, was African American. While his mother battled drug addiction, little Santiago-Hudson was raised by his mother's landlady, Rachel Crosby (Nanny), and a couple, Mattie and Adolph Overton.
About Rachel Crosby, Santiago-Hudson said, “You know, for her to take me in as a small child and instill values in me and provide for me and refuse to let me fail - is the reason I am standing here today.”
Young Santiago-Hudson attended Lackawanna High School and then studied Theater at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated in 1978 from the State University of New York.
Santiago-Hudson resides in New York with his wife Jeannie Brittan, and their twins, Lily and Trey. He also has two older sons, Broderick and Ruben III, from a previous relationship. In his free time, Santiago-Hudson enjoys playing the harmonica and devoting himself to causes of children.
Being asked his biggest accomplishment so far, Santiago-Hudson explained, "I think it's trying to be a good father. Trying to be a righteous father; somebody who teaches and provides, protects and also leads by example. What it means to be a good person and, as a father, being a father, you have that responsibility by the way that you conduct yourself. I think that's my biggest accomplishment. In my maturity, being an older father now, I have come to be at peace in who I am and where I fit in the world and I try to lead by example with my children. Things that I don't want them to do, I don't do."
Jelly's Last Jam
Initially rejected by both the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre (because he does not speak Spanish) and Negro Ensemble Company (because of his Latino ancestry), Latino African-American Ruben Santiago-Hudson finally won a role in Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Soldier's Play" at the Negro Ensemble Company. He also landed roles in the John Landis's comedy film starring Eddie Murphy, “Coming to America” (1988) and NBC’s sitcom "Dear John" (1990). He could also be seen in the made-for-television movie “Which Way Home” (1991; alongside Cybill Shepherd) on TNT.
A decade after his first stage performance, Santiago-Hudson made his Broadway debut in the musical "Jelly's Last Jam" (directed by George C. Wolfe) at The Mark Taper Forum. During that time, he also played Captain Billy Casper (1990-1993) on the NBC daytime Emmy-winning soap opera "Another World" and played Mr. Winters (1990-2003) on NBC’s cop/legal drama "Law & Order."
In 1994, film director Stephen Hopkins gave Santiago-Hudson a small part in his action/thriller film “Blown Away,” opposite Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones. That same year, he also appeared in Gregory Hines' directorial debut, the independent feature “Bleeding Hearts” (aka “Fatal Destiny”). The subsequent year, he co-starred with Halle Berry and fellow Latino actor Jimmy Smits in Showtime's movie, “Solomon & Sheba.” He also appeared twice on ABC's Emmy-winning cop drama "NYPD Blue" and Fox's crime drama "New York Undercover." Additionally, he guest starred in several episodes of the acclaimed animated TV series "Gargoyles" and had a tiny role as a bum in Ken Selden's comedy film “White Lies” (1996).
Santiago-Hudson returned to Broadway in 1996 and won a Tony Award for Best Actor (Featured Role - Play) for his brilliant performance as Canewell, the harmonica playing amateur philosopher, in August Wilson's "Seven Guitars." Afterward, he portrayed the title role in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of "Henry VIII" (summer).
Back on screen, Santiago-Hudson was cast as Eddie Diaz on the CBS drama series starring David Caruso, "Michael Hayes," and as Jess Chapel on HBO's animated/action TV series "Spawn." After acting opposite Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino and Charlize Theron in Taylor Hackford's thriller/drama horror film based on a novel by Andrew Neiderman, “The Devil's Advocate” (1997), Santiago-Hudson guest starred in an episode of CBS’ fantasy drama series "Touched by an Angel," NBC’s political drama "The West Wing" and NBC’s crime drama "Third Watch."
Entering the new millennium, Santiago-Hudson co-starred opposite Samuel L Jackson in John Singleton's 2000 movie, “Shaft,” the sequel/spin-off of the 1971 original, and was cast as a detective in Harold Becker's 2001 thriller/drama movie “Domestic Disturbance,” starring John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo and Steve Buscemi. He also played Dr. Zeke McMillan (2001, 2002) on ABC’s long-running soap opera "All My Children."
Meanwhile, Santiago-Hudson wrote and starred in his autobiographical one-man show titled "Lackawanna Blues," where he portrays over twenty various characters from his past, sings and plays the harmonica. He later adapted it into the HBO original movie with the same name in 2005, which earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Miniseries or TV Movie. For his work, Santiago-Hudson received the Humanitas Prize and Emmy and Writers Guild of America Award nominations.
Santiago-Hudson starred in the TV movies “Little John” (2002), “The Red Sneakers” (2002) and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (2005). He also appeared in an episode of NBC’s short-lived sitcom "Whoopi," the mystery/drama/comedy series "Wild Card" and NBC’s cop/legal drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Moviegoers could recently catch Santiago-Hudson in Bruce A. Evans' psychological thriller film “Mr. Brooks” (2007), starring Kevin Costner and William Hurt. He has completed his upcoming film “Honeydripper,” a musical drama set in 1950 Rural Alabama written and directed by John Sayles.
Black Reel: Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted - Television, “Lackawanna Blues,” 2006
Christopher: Television & Cable, “Lackawanna Blues,” 2006
Black Movie: Outstanding Television Movie, “Lackawanna Blues,” 2005
Humanitas: 90 Minute or Longer Category, “Lackawanna Blues,” 2005
Tony: Best Actor (Featured Role – Play), "Seven Guitars," 1996