Prolific character actress Tina Lifford worked steadily in films and on television for decades, appearing with the likes of Sidney Poitier and Clint Eastwood before earning a showcase role as the matriarch of a large Southern clan in the Oprah Winfrey-produced series "Queen Sugar" (OWN, 2016- ). Raised in Evanston, Illinois, she relocated with her family to California in her early teens; there, Lifford earned a degree from the University of Santa Monica and began working in features and on television in the early 1980s. Between assignments on episodic television series and the occasional role in features like "The Ladies Club" (1986) and Barbra Streisand's "Nuts" (1987), she also provided automated dialogue replacement (ADR) voices for films like "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989). After more than a decade of guest roles, Lifford landed her breakout project with "South Central" (Fox, 1994), a short-lived comedy-drama about a single mother (played by Lifford) raising three children in the titular Los Angeles neighborhood. The attention afforded to the show by critics gave her career profile a considerable boost, and Lifford quickly progressed to significant roles in "Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers Story" (Hallmark Channel, 1996), which cast her as Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey, and Joseph Sargent's "Mandela and de Klerk" (Showtime, 1997), for which she played Winnie Mandela opposite Sidney Poitier's Nelson Mandela. She then returned briefly to network series on "Crisis Center" (NBC, 1997) before resuming her busy career in features and on television, including turns for Clint Eastwood in "Blood Work" (2002) and recurring roles on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-2015), "Parenthood" (NBC, 2010-15) and Shonda Rhimes' "Scandal" (ABC, 2012-18) as a CIA director. After more than three decades in the entertainment industry, Lifford finally earned a starring role in "Queen Sugar," a drama produced by Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Ava DuVernay about a trio of siblings who reunite to save their family's sugarcane farm in Louisiana. Lifford played the siblings' mother figure, Violet, who provided an emotional anchor for the family, and for her efforts, earned an Image Award nomination in 2016.
Cast (Feature Film)
Sound (Feature Film)
Post Production (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Landed first credited screen appearance on an episode of "Knots Landing"
Made film debut in "The Ladies Club"
Starred as a single mother raising three children on the Fox drama "South Central"
Cast as Winnie Mandela in the TV-movie "Mandela and de Klerk"
Began role as Joy Bryant's mother on "Parenthood"
Began role as CIA Director Lowry on "Scandal"
Starred as Aunt Violet on "Queen Sugar"