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Michael Michele

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Also Known As: Michael Michele Williams Died:
Born: August 30, 1966 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Evansville, Indiana, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Actress Michael Michele excelled in roles that belied her beauty and poise, frequently finding herself cast as strong-willed attorneys, doctors and police detectives. Michele initially garnered notoriety in director-star Mario Van Peebles' gritty blaxploitation movie "New Jack City" (1991). From there, it was on to a brief starring role on the adventure series "Dangerous Curves" (CBS, 1992-93) and a recurring character throughout the first season of the urban crime drama, "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98). Demonstrating an aptitude for playing professional women in the public service sector, Michele took on roles on two of the most acclaimed programs of the day - first, as Det. Rene Sheppard on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99), followed by three seasons as Dr. Cleo Finch on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). With the increased recognition came more parts in feature films, most notably as Veronica Porsche Ali, former wife of "The Greatest" opposite Will Smith in director Michael Mann's biopic, "Ali" (2001). Other film appearances included supporting work in the grim L.A. cop-drama "Dark Blue" (2002) and the romantic-comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003). The actress was also seen on the...

Actress Michael Michele excelled in roles that belied her beauty and poise, frequently finding herself cast as strong-willed attorneys, doctors and police detectives. Michele initially garnered notoriety in director-star Mario Van Peebles' gritty blaxploitation movie "New Jack City" (1991). From there, it was on to a brief starring role on the adventure series "Dangerous Curves" (CBS, 1992-93) and a recurring character throughout the first season of the urban crime drama, "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98). Demonstrating an aptitude for playing professional women in the public service sector, Michele took on roles on two of the most acclaimed programs of the day - first, as Det. Rene Sheppard on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99), followed by three seasons as Dr. Cleo Finch on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). With the increased recognition came more parts in feature films, most notably as Veronica Porsche Ali, former wife of "The Greatest" opposite Will Smith in director Michael Mann's biopic, "Ali" (2001). Other film appearances included supporting work in the grim L.A. cop-drama "Dark Blue" (2002) and the romantic-comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003). The actress was also seen on the short-lived legal-drama "Kevin Hill" (UPN, 2004-05), followed by several recurring appearances on such series as "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007- ) in 2011. Michele ably projected inner-resolve and mental toughness to each of her deceptively attractive characters.

Born in Evansville, IN on Aug. 30, 1966, Michael Michele Williams and her sister were raised in a low-key home. Her father, an entrepreneur, was Caucasian; her mother, African-American, was a manager in the corporate world. Michele's masculine first name originated from her mother's best girlfriend, Michael Ann. As a youth, Michele attended school at Howard Roosa Elementary. By the time she had reached high school at Benjamin Bosse High, she had found a passion for sports of varying sorts, excelling in track, volleyball and basketball, helping her school's star basketball team reach the Indiana state championships. A fierce competitor, Michele typically had the tenacity to test her skills against opponents of both sexes. During her high school years, Michele found a bigger interest in acting, deciding to head for New York after graduating in 1984. By the late 1980s, she was earning a living appearing in television commercial spots and had appeared in a trio of videos by musician Freddie Jackson. Michele got her first big break when she was cast in comedy icon Eddie Murphy's directorial debut, the box office bomb, "Harlem Nights" (1989). The film began shooting in April of 1988, but Michele lost her role as quickly as she had gotten it after claiming that Murphy approached her sexually, before firing her on the basis of her refusal to accept. She later filed a suit against Murphy that was settled outside of court. Instead, she carried on with a bit part in the horror satire "Def by Temptation" (1990).

Undeterred by her first brush with Hollywood politics, Michele found more film work one year later as Selina, part of the ensemble of "New Jack City" (1991), before beginning to delve into series television, first appearing in the short-lived CBS action series "Dangerous Curves" (1992-93) as Holly Williams. Michele also became a regular on NBC's tropical soap miniseries, "Trade Winds," which aired over August and September of 1993. She began working steadily on the small screen, recurring as attorney Sandra Gill during the 1994-95 season on Fox's "New York Undercover" (1994-98) and then as a series regular on Darren Star's nighttime soap "Central Park West" (1995-96), a show which never found its footing with viewers during the first season. Michele next tried her hand at comedy, playing a sportscaster who falls for Marlon Wayans' possessed basketball player in "The Sixth Man" (1997) and continued a steady string of projects into 1998. She found a different sort of island conflict in the ABC adaptation of "Peter Benchley's "Creature" (1998), before entering into a prosperous partnership with NBC. The character, Detective Rene Sheppard, appearing in a February 1999 episode of "Law & Order" (1990-2010), morphed into a full-fledged member of the "Homicide: Life on the Street" that fall, which, after its finale in the spring of 1999, was then revisited the following February in 2000's "Homicide: The Movie." By then, she was a network staple, having joined the cast of NBC's "ER" as Dr. Cleo Finch. In 2000 and 2001, her work on "Homicide" and "ER" was rewarded with consecutive Image Award nominations, for supporting lead roles, from the NAACP. On a less important note, Michele also began being noticed as an impeccable fashion plate on the red carpet, often making the "Best Dressed" lists. Even hard-to-please fashion critic Joan Rivers consistently cited Michele as one of the best "put together" stars in Hollywood.

During her three seasons on "ER," Michele, more often known for her small screen appearances, used her hiatuses to take on additional film work. In January 2001, she was earmarked to play Veronica Porsche, one of Muhammad Ali's wives in "Ali" (2001), as well as playing a police officer opposite Ving Rhames and Kurt Russell in Ron Shelton's critically well-received cop drama "Dark Blue" (2002). The films were modestly-received at the box office, but a third movie - filmed over an "ER" hiatus in 2002 - "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" (2003) was a surprise hit. Following the big screen hit, Michele returned to series regular work, having chucked her scrubs for power suits as the legal eagle of UPN's short-lived drama, "Kevin Hill" (2004-05), heading up the New York law firm at which the titular character comes to work. In 2005, "Kevin Hill" was cancelled, providing Michele with an opportunity to reduce her workload and stay in New York to tend to her newborn son, Brandon, born in 2004 to her and restaurant owner boyfriend Jimmy Rodriguez. The following year, she appeared as a detective on the trail of infamous serial murderer Dennis Rader (Gregg Henry) on the based-on-fact crime-drama, "The Hunt for the BTK Killer" (CBS, 2005). After working on a pair of failed television pilots, Michele took on several guest spots on popular series like the medical drama "House M.D." (Fox, 2004-2012) and the police-procedural "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ). She then appeared opposite Cicely Tyson and her old "ER" co-star, Eriq La Salle, in the family drama "Relative Stranger" (Hallmark Channel, 2009). Other roles included a recurring turn as Jane, Serena's (Blake Lively) Hollywood boss in several episodes of "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007- ) in 2011.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
3.
 Dark Blue (2003) Beth Williamson
4.
 Ali (2001) Veronica Porsche
5.
6.
 Homicide: The Movie (2000) Detective Rene Sheppard
8.
 Sixth Man, The (1997) R C St John
9.
 New Jack City (1991) Selina
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Made appearances in TV commercials for such products as Revlon, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Old Spice
:
Appeared in music videos starring Freddie Jackson
:
Offered a role in Eddie Murphy's film Harlem Nights (1989); role was dissolved when she spurned his advances and she filed a sexual harassment suit against him; suit was ultimately settled out of court
1991:
Played gangster moll in "New Jack City"
1992:
TV debut as a regular in the CBS series "Dangerous Curves"
1993:
Starred in the NBC miniseries "Trade Winds"
1994:
Played recurring role of a lawyer romanced by a detective (Malik Yoba) in the Fox drama "New York Undercover"
1995:
Was art gallery owner Nikki Sheridan on "Central Park West/CPW" (CBS)
1997:
Had leading role in "The Sixth Man"
1998:
Joined the cast of NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street" as Detective Rene Sheppard for the final season
1999:
Joined the cast of the NBC medical drama "ER" as Dr. Cleo Finch
2000:
Reprised role of Det. Sheppard in "Homicide: The Movie" (NBC)
2001:
Cast as the fighter's wife Veronica in the biopic "Ali", about boxer Muhammed Ali
2003:
Appeared in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"
2003:
Played a dedicated Los Angeles police officer in the gritty cop drama "Dark Blue"
2004:
Had a starring role in the short-lived UPN television series "Kevin Hill"
2007:
Guest-starred on an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," directed by her previous "ER" co-star Eric La Salle
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Howard Roosa Elementary School: Evansville , Indiana -

Notes

Michele was named after a woman--her mother's best friend, who was named Michael Ann.

"I come from a family that is not entertainment oriented--my mother works in pharmaceuticals, my father is a businessman, my sister works in banking and finance--but it was a dream and I spent a lot of time going to the theatre. I used to sneak into the Negro Ensemble Theatre and put my name on the audition list thinking, I want to be part of these stage productions." --Michael Michele in VENICE, April 1997

"As an African American woman your opportunities are so slim that you really struggle to find good roles. So when you're offered a role on a primetime series, do you turn it down because you know you'll struggle against just being an extension of the boyfriend? No, you don't. You get into the trenches and you make it work." --Michael Michele

"I was delighted to hire her. When she came in and first read for Veronica, she was able to hit that in-between 'not performance' part. She's a very authentic actress." -Director Michael Mann (Ali)

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Jimmy Rodriguez. Restaurateur.

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