Became first black student at her high school to be accepted into National Honor Society
Cast in Bob Dylan film "Masked & Anonymous"
First film with independent writer-director John Sayles, "City of Hope"
Portrayed the mother of a young girl trying to make it to the National Spelling Bee in "Akeelah and the Bee"
Worked at Hartford Stage Company, performing in "The Mystery Plays"
Broadway debut, August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; directed by Lloyd Richards
Cast as a school principal in "Music of the Heart"
Cast as Robert De Niro's love interest in "The Score"
Feature debut, "F/X" playing a news reporter
First primetime TV guest spot, "Spenser: For Hire" (ABC)
Worked with Negro Ensemble Company as an understudy
Acted in Broadway production of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," directed by Lloyd Richards
Acting debut, school production of "A Raisin in the Sun"
Appeared in less than stellar sci-fi flick "Supernova"
Joined cast of "Alias" (ABC) as the new CIA director
Moved with mother and sister to St. Petersburg, FL
Played the owner of a waterfront joint in 1960s Louisiana who begins a relationship with a white male singer in Showtime movie "Ruby's Bucket of Blood"; also served as co-producer
Provided voice of writer Zora Neale Hurston for TBS documentary miniseries "A Century of Women"
Reprised role of Betty Shabazz for uncredited cameo in Mario Van Peebles' "Panther"
Acted in off-Broadway productions
Appeared on episodes of "Spenser: For Hire" spin-off "A Man Called Hawk" (ABC)
Delivered breakout role in biopic "What's Love Got To Do With It"; portrayed Tina Turner opposite Fishburne's Ike
Co-starred in female ensemble "Waiting to Exhale," directed by Forest Whitaker and scripted by Terry McMillan
Co-starred with Danny Glover in "Boesman and Lena"; film adapted from Athol Fugard's play
Portrayed Voletta Wallace, mother of slain rapper Biggie Smalls (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) in biopic "Notorious"
Starred in "Sunshine State" with Edie Falco as a failed actress who goes with her friend home to their northern Florida town
Portrayed Jackson family matriarch Katherine in ABC miniseries "The Jacksons: An American Dream"
TV movie debut, playing a prostitute in "Doubletake" (CBS)
Joined cast of NBC's "ER" as Dr. Cate Banfield, an exacting Chief of the ER; husband Courtney Vance played her television husband
Co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson on Broadway in "The Mountaintop," a fictionalized depiction of the night before Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination
Landed supporting role in "This Means War," an action comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy
Played the head of the Secret Service in action thriller "Olympus Has Fallen"
Nabbed a supporting role in the crime-thriller "Survivor"
Nabbed a supporting role on the mini-series "Close to the Enemy"
Co-starred in "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns"
First gained notice in John Singleton's directorial debut "Boyz N the Hood" as Laurence Fishburne's estranged wife
Portrayed Betty Shabazz, the wife of "Malcolm X" in Spike Lee's feature biopic
Starred in title role of CBS biopic "The Rosa Parks Story"
Headlined second adaptation of a McMillan novel "How Stella Got Her Groove Back"
Voiced U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on "The Simpsons" (Fox) episode titled "Stealing First Base"
Played Dr. Amanda Waller, a government agent in film adaptation of DC Comics superhero "Green Lantern"
Was a co-star in Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq"
Was a recurring character on Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story"