A gifted theatrical and screen actor, David Harewood graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and became a West End sensation for his controversial turn in the play "Entertaining Mr. Sloane." Simultaneously praised and pilloried as a rising black English actor, Harewood overcame considerable personal demons to build an impressive career, notching roles on such TV projects as "Always and Everyone" (ITV, 1999-2002), "The Vice" (ITV, 1999-2003), "Fat Friends" (ITV, 2000-05) and "The Palace" (ITV, 2008). Scoring stage triumphs as Shakespeare's "Othello" and Martin Luther King, Jr. in "The Mountaintop," he was equally impressive in "The Merchant of Venice" (2004), "Blood Diamond" (2006) and "Mrs Mandela" (BBC, 2010). Chafing at the lack of substantial roles for non-Caucasian actors in the U.K., Harewood achieved even greater notice when he landed the juicy supporting part of David Estes, the hard-edged director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center whose allegiance to unpredictable agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) constantly shifted on the international smash "Homeland" (Showtime, 2011- ). Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to drama and reminding many of Hollywood's Golden Age-era leading men, David Harewood was recognized as one of the most versatile actors working on either side of the pond.
Born Dec. 8, 1965 in Birmingham, England, David Harewood earned his training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but found himself the subject of enormous cultural pressure as a rising black English actor. Although he earned excellent reviews and national recognition for his performance as a sexually conflicted murderer in the play "Entertaining Mr. Sloane," many conflated his role with his ethnicity, leading to attacks on Harewood's casting as portraying minorities in a negative light. Overwhelmed by the firestorm and unable to appease all the conflicting expectations, Harewood developed an alcohol addiction and eventually required treatment in a psychiatric ward before he was able to conquer his personal demons. Nevertheless, his talent paved the way and he made his screen debut in an episode of "Casualty" (BBC One, 1986- ). Steadily booking roles, he appeared in such projects as "Spatz" (ITV, 1990-92) and "Harnessing Peacocks" (ITV, 1993) before landing a series regular role on the sitcom "Agony Again" (BBC, 1995). On stage, he made history in 1997 as the Royal National Theatre's first black actor to play Othello, which earned him rapturous critical reviews.
After booking lengthy roles on the series "The Bill" (ITV, 1984-2010), "Always and Everyone" (ITV, 1999-2002) and "The Vice" (ITV, 1999-2003), he played the Prince of Morocco in the Shakespearean adaptation "The Merchant of Venice" (2004). Continuing to move easily between film and television, he earned high-profile roles on the series "Fat Friends" (ITV, 2000-05) and "The Palace" (ITV, 2008) while also notching parts in the movies "Separate Lies" (2005) and "Blood Diamond" (2006). Harewood also appeared in the miniseries "The Last Enemy" (BBC One, 2008) and "Criminal Justice" (BBC One, 2008-09) and played a version of Friar Tuck on the popular series "Robin Hood" (BBC One, 2006-09). Continuing to dazzle with his theatrical work, Harewood played Martin Luther King, Jr. in the London workshop productions of "The Mountaintop," although Samuel L. Jackson stepped into the role when the show moved to Broadway. Harewood made the best kind of real-life headlines when he joined forces with The African Caribbean Leukemia Trust to highlight the dearth of non-white bone marrow donors, and his personal bone marrow donation helped saved the life of a patient.
Back on screen, he essayed the famous world leader Nelson Mandela in the made-for-TV movie "Mrs Mandela" (BBC, 2010), recurred on the ever popular series "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963-1989, 1996, 2005- ), and stepped into the shoes of two renowned literary characters when he played the Creature in "Frankenstein's Wedding. Live in Leeds" (BBC Three, 2011) and pirate Billy Bones in "Treasure Island" (Sky1, 2012). Harewood achieved a major American breakthrough, however, when he landed the plum role of David Estes, the morally ambiguous, ruthlessly ambitious director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, whose unyielding style clashed with his brilliant but unstable subordinate, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), on "Homeland" (Showtime, 2011- ). As the show became a global phenomenon, Harewood found himself enjoying a new level of fame for his masterful, nuanced performance, and in 2012 Queen Elizabeth II named him a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to drama. Despite all his success, Harewood continued to speak publicly on his disappointment in the lack of substantial roles for non-white actors in United Kingdom productions.
By Jonathan Riggs