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Aunjanue Ellis

Aunjanue Ellis

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Also Known As: Aunjanue L Ellis Died:
Born: February 21, 1969 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: San Francisco, California, USA Profession: actor, dancer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Aunjanue Ellis may not be a household name in Hollywood, but her face and performances as a versatile character actress left a lasting impression on audiences. From a special agent on "The Mentalist" (CBS 2008- ) to a bitter backup singer in the biopic "Ray" (2004) and a housemaid in 1960s Mississippi in "The Help" (2011), her dynamic roles earned her countless awards and the ability to seek out non-stereotypical characters worthy of her talent. Aunjanue Ellis was born on February 21, 1969 in San Francisco. Ellis was sent by to her grandmother's farm in Tougaloo, Mississippi at a young age, where the extent of her exposure to the dramatic arts was limited to the lively performances given at her local Baptist church. It wasn't until her second year at Tougaloo College where a visiting drama teacher from Brown University cast her in a student play that this small town girl embraced acting and the world outside Mississippi. She transferred to Brown University to get a degree in African-American studies and went on to get her graduate degree in drama at New York University. With a name pronounced like "ingénue," it's no surprise that Ellis's first acting job was working in the big leagues, making her...

Aunjanue Ellis may not be a household name in Hollywood, but her face and performances as a versatile character actress left a lasting impression on audiences. From a special agent on "The Mentalist" (CBS 2008- ) to a bitter backup singer in the biopic "Ray" (2004) and a housemaid in 1960s Mississippi in "The Help" (2011), her dynamic roles earned her countless awards and the ability to seek out non-stereotypical characters worthy of her talent.

Aunjanue Ellis was born on February 21, 1969 in San Francisco. Ellis was sent by to her grandmother's farm in Tougaloo, Mississippi at a young age, where the extent of her exposure to the dramatic arts was limited to the lively performances given at her local Baptist church. It wasn't until her second year at Tougaloo College where a visiting drama teacher from Brown University cast her in a student play that this small town girl embraced acting and the world outside Mississippi. She transferred to Brown University to get a degree in African-American studies and went on to get her graduate degree in drama at New York University.

With a name pronounced like "ingénue," it's no surprise that Ellis's first acting job was working in the big leagues, making her Broadway debut in George C. Wolfe's adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" opposite Patrick Stewart in 1995. Ellis's also shared the stage with aspiring actress Carrie Preston, who would later appear with her on the first season of the vampire gothic drama "True Blood" (HBO 2008-). Before Ellis was sinking her teeth into late night dramas, she made her television debut in the hit urban drama series "New York Undercover"(FOX 1994-98) quickly followed by her first film role in the critically acclaimed movie "Girls Town" (1996). Success came in quick succession soon after, as Ellis nabbed a recurring role as Officer Leslie Joyner in the Stephen Spielberg-produced police drama "High Incident" (ABC 1996) followed by another cast spot on the legal series "The Practice" (ABC 1997-2004). While Ellis worked continuously on the small screen, it was her portrayal of Jo Brashear in "Men of Honor" (2000) opposite Academy Award-winning actors Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert DeNiro that she earned her first NAACP Image Award Nomination.

From there, Ellis bounced around the small screen, from guest spots to recurring characters, while also seeking out interesting and independent film projects. Her range was evident, as she went from the indie comedy "Lovely and Amazing" to playing the campy Sistah Girl in faux blaxploitation comedy "Undercover Brother" (2002). Putting comedy aside, Ellis drew the attention of audiences and critics again, this time as the Raylette Mary Ann Fisher in the biopic "Ray" (2004), which earned the ensemble cast a SAG award nomination. After the success of "Ray," Ellis went back to playing blue-blood professionals, being cast by Jerry Bruckheimer for his military series "E-Ring" (NBC 2005-06) and his legal drama "Justice" (FOX 2006-07). As a consummate character actress, Ellis manages to standout in even a standard procedural drama, but she proved especially adept at tackling true-life material. She reunited with her former costar Cuba Gooding Jr. for the TV movie "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story" (TNT 2009) and starred in the TV film "Abducted: The Carlina White Story" (Lifetime 2012), the true story of a woman who abducted an infant from a hospital.

In addition to her film appearances in "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" (2009), the Biggie Smalls biopic "Notorious" (2009) and her recurring role as Madeleine Hightower on "The Mentalist," it was her role as the wronged housemaid Yule Mae Davis in "The Help" that ushered a new level of critical prestige and blockbuster-sized audiences in her career.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Game of Death (2011)
3.
 Resident, The (2011)
4.
 Motherhood (2009)
6.
 Notorious (2009)
7.
10.
 Express, The (2008)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1995:
Co-starred in New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "The Tempest" (first in Central Park, then on Broadway)
1996:
TV series debut, "High Incident"
1996:
Feature film debut "Girls Town"
2000:
Co-starred in "Men of Honor"
2001:
Cast in "Lovely & Amazing" with Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer
2002:
Starred in the comedy "Undercover Brother" with Eddie Griffin and Chris Kattan
2004:
Cast opposite Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles) in "Ray" a biopic of legendary blues singer Ray Charles
2006:
Cast in "Freedomland," a drama directed by Joe Roth and based on Richard Price's acclaimed novel of the same name
2008:
Cast in the Bill Duke directed thriller, "Cover"
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Education

New York University: New York , New York -
Brown University: Providence , Rhode Island - 1992

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