Diminutive in stature, but possessing a powerful onscreen presence, actress Chandra Wilson worked sporadically in New York with a number of small feature parts before being cast in her breakthrough role as the tough-talking Dr. Miranda Bailey on the popular ABC medical soap opera, "Grey's Anatomy" (2005- ). Prior to that series' long-running popularity, Wilson struggled to find steady footing in the acting world and even held onto a 9-5 job while appearing wherever and whenever she could. She was cast in the CBS Schoolbreak Special "Sexual Considerations" (1991), and had bit parts in "Mad Dog and Glory" (1993) and "Philadelphia" (1993), before landing a moderately larger part in John Sayles' acclaimed "Lone Star" (1996). Following her Broadway debut in "On the Town" (1998), Wilson landed her first regular series role on the short-lived sitcom "Bob Patterson" (ABC, 2001). She continued to struggle until finally scoring her big break when mid-season replacement "Grey's Anatomy" emerged in 2005 and landed in the Nielsen Top Ten right out of the gate, allowing the former unknown to become an Emmy-nominated actress who suddenly found herself a bankable star.
Born on Aug. 27, 1969, the Houston, TX native was cast in her first play at age five, attended Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and earned a BFA from New York University's prestigious Tisch School for the Arts. Wilson then spent four years at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. Wilson racked up numerous New York stage credits: She won a Theater World Award for Outstanding Debut Performance for her role in "The Good Times are Killing Me." She also did "Paper Moon: The Musical" at the Papermill Playhouse, "Believing" for the Young Playwright's Festival and the Broadway production of "Our Town." The strong-jawed actress also did TV commercials for Blockbuster, Burger King, Scope and United Negro College Fund.
Her early TV work was sporadic, but Wilson started straight at the top with an appearance on "The Cosby Show" in 1989 and then TV movie sudser "Sexual Considerations" (CBS, 1991). She didn't resurface on the small screen again until three years later on "Law and Order" in 1992. In 1993, Wilson scored bit roles in two high-profile films: "Mad Dog and Glory" with Bill Murray, Uma Thurman and Robert De Niro and the historic "Philadelphia" with Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Antonio Banderas. Wilson had a similarly small role in writer-director John Sayles' "Lone Star" (1996) with Matthew McConaughey and Kris Kristofferson.
Eight years after her last TV appearance, Wilson was back on the small screen, this time on another Bill Cosby program "Cosby" in 2000. Wilson appeared on "Third Watch" and "100 Centre Street" and had a regular role on one of Jason Alexander's disastrous post-Seinfeld projects, "Bob Patterson" (ABC, 2001). Wilson had a memorably amusing guest spot on the HBO hit "Sex and the City" in 2002, playing the street cop who allows Samantha to continue posting defamatory flyers about her hotel magnate boyfriend, whom she found with another woman. She also made an appearance on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 2002). In 2003, Wilson had an uncredited turn in "Head of State" with Chris Rock and Bernie Mac. A year later, she was spotted on another HBO monster hit, "The Sopranos" (1999-2007), and in 2005 she was back for a different one-shot role on "Law and Order: SVU."
The same year, Wilson became a viewer favorite in her role as Dr. Bailey on "Grey's Anatomy," the combative surgical intern supervisor who seems to have it in for heroine Dr. Meredith Grey until the truth is revealed: Grey's boyfriend, Dempsey's character is secretly married and Bailey was actually trying to protect her young intern, defending her charge through the fallout. The actress also made "Strangers with Candy" with Amy Sedaris and Allison Janney, the big screen adaptation of the Comedy Central series about an ex-con returning to high school. Meanwhile, Wilson earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2006, an accomplishment she repeated for the next three years. She received a second Emmy nod in 2009 for her performance in the television drama based on a true story, "Accidental Friendship" (Hallmark Channel, 2008), in which she played a homeless woman whose life is transformed by her unlikely friendship with a LAPD officer (Kathleen Munroe). Meanwhile, Dr. Bailey crossed over to the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff, "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-13), where she made recurring appearances over the course of several seasons.
Made stage debut playing Bonna Willis in "The Good Times are Killing Me" at the Second Stage and Minetta Lane Theatres
Cast in the CBS Schoolbreak Special, "Sexual Considerations"
Played bit roles in "Mad Dog and Glory" and "Philadelphia"
Had a small role in writer-director John Sayles' "Lone Star"
Made Broadway debut in the production of "On the Town"; directed by George C. Wolfe
First series regular job was in the role of Claudia Hopper on ABC's "Bob Patterson"
Cast as Dr. Miranda Bailey on the ABC medical drama "Grey's Anatomy"; earned Emmy (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Co-starred with Amy Sedaris and Allison Janney in "Strangers with Candy," the big screen adaptation of the Comedy Central series
Played a Homeless woman in the Hallmark Channel original film "Accidental Friendship"; earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Television Movie
Returned to the Broadway stage as Matron Mama Morton in "Chicago"
Nominated for the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Nominated for the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series