Family & Companions
An accomplished character performer who also excelled in leading roles, actor Dennis Haysbert quietly amassed a long résumé that included a wide array of television and movies that often benefited greatly from his assured presence. After getting his start as a guest star and eventually regular player on episodic television, Haysbert delivered a memorable performance as a Cuban baseball player who practices voodoo and is unable to hit a curveball in the hit comedy "Major League" (1989), a role he reprised in its two sequels. More supporting parts in big movies like "Heat" (1995) and "Absolute Power" (1997) preceded arguably his most recognized character, playing the President of the United States on the hit series "24" (Fox, 2001-2010). While on the show, Haysbert was hailed for his performance as a compassionate gardener who strikes up a too-close-for-comfort relationship with a 1950s white woman in "Far From Heaven" (2002). After leaving "24," Haysbert returned to the small screen for a starring role on "The Unit" (CBS, 2006-09), while serving as the spokesman for Allstate insurance - all of which underscored the actor's unique ability to bring a calming assurance and comfortable presence to just about any project he chose.
Born on June 2, 1954 in San Mateo, CA, Dennis Haysbert was raised by his father, Charles, a sheriff's deputy, and his mother, Gladys, a homemaker. Though his large frame and height made him a natural for a variety of sports and led to athletic scholarship offers, he instead chose to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the alma mater of such heavyweights as Robert Redford and Danny DeVito. Haysbert's professional career began in episodic television via appearances on such popular shows as "Lou Grant" (CBS, 1977-1982), "Laverne & Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983), "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) and "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88). He moved up to regular and recurring roles on several series, including "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (NBC, 1979-1981), "Code Red" (ABC, 1981-82), and the short-lived sitcom "Off the Rack" (ABC, 1984-85) with former "Lou Grant" star Ed Asner. Following episodes of "Growing Pains" (ABC, 1985-1992), Haysbert made an indelible impression in his feature debut, "Major League" (1989), in which he portrayed the voodoo-practicing Cuban baseball player on a team of misfits (including Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Wesley Snipes) destined to earn last place so the new owner can move the Cleveland Indians to another city.
Reteaming with "Major League" co-star Charlie Sheen, Haysbert was one of the "Navy SEALs" (1990) involved in saving a naval helicopter crew held hostage, while in "Mr. Baseball" (1992), he was the teammate of an arrogant, but washed-up Major League baseball player (Tom Selleck) whose career is given new life in Japan. Haysbert's big break came when he was chosen to star opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in the civil rights drama "Love Field" (1992), a role he earned after Denzel Washington dropped out, and his successor Eriq La Salle was hired and fired. The film provided him the opportunity to demonstrate his range in playing a single father trying to evade police, who stumbles upon a well-meaning Southern white woman (Pfeiffer) on a bus and ends up falling in love with her while traveling to Washington, D.C. Haysbert returned to television for a supporting role as a union organizer in the miniseries "Queen" (CBS, 1993), before playing Cherokee Jack in "Return to Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1993) and reprising the Cuban ballplayer Pedro Cerrano - now a Buddhist - for the sequel "Major League II" (1994).
Haysbert began landing prominent supporting roles in prominent features, playing an ex-con trying to go straight in Michael Mann's "Heat" (1995), and a married man whose on-the-side lover (Whitney Houston) holds out hope that he will leave his wife in Forest Whitaker's "Waiting to Exhale" (1995). Following a small role in the political thriller "Absolute Power" (1997), Haysbert returned for a third and last time for the woebegone sequel "Major League: Back to the Minors" (1998). Meanwhile, strong performances in "The Thirteenth Floor" (1999), "The Minus Man" (1999) and "Random Hearts" (1999) raised his profile and solidified his image as a dependable actor with a quietly commanding screen presence. He continued to impress on the big screen with a memorable turn in the independently released "Love & Basketball" (2000), which cast him as a former pro ballplayer now working as a scout who cheats on his wife (Debi Morgan) and lets down his son (Omar Epps). Meanwhile, "What's Cooking?" (2000) featured Haysbert as a high-ranking political aide who was unfaithful to his splintering superwoman wife (Alfre Woodard) and who has alienated his militant son (Eric K. George).
Back on television with "Now and Again" (CBS, 1999-2000), Haysbert impressed audiences and critics alike with his turn as the mysterious scientist behind a covert government operation that utilizes the abilities of an insurance salesman-turned-mega man (Eric Close) for tasks aiding national interest. Though a cult favorite, the show failed to grab enough viewers to ward off cancelation. Haysbert found greater success as presidential candidate David Palmer in the high-concept action series "24" (Fox, 2001-2010), which played out a single horrific day in the life of FBI agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) over 24 episodes, with each episode chronicling an hour out of that day. Critics loved the show and audiences eventually discovered and embraced the series as well, causing Haysbert to return in the second season; this time as the President of the United States, a role he played for 80 episodes in regular and recurring fashion over five seasons. Just as he found a stable spot on network television, Haysbert's onscreen career also propelled forward with an acclaimed performance in "Far From Heaven" (2002), director Todd Haynes' film on 1950s repression and the illusion of appearances. Haysbert's Sidney Poitier-esque performance as the kind and gentle black gardener who embarks on a frowned-upon interracial romance with a neglected wife (Julianne Moore) was roundly praised by critics.
After leaving "24" as a regular at the end of the third season, Haysbert returned to the show as a guest star for several episodes of the subsequent two seasons, while enjoying a thriving side career as a voice actor and narrator for documentaries, commercials, animated projects and video games. He also enjoyed a long stint as the official spokesman for Allstate insurance, using his baritone voice to intone "Are you in good hands?" Back on the big screen, he had a small, but pivotal appearance in director Sam Mendes' Gulf War meditation, "Jarhead" (2005), as a gruff, no-nonsense Marine officer. The following year, Haysbert returned to the small screen, appearing as a black-ops commander on the anti-terrorism series, "The Unit" (CBS, 2006-09), which delved inside the personal lives of the members of a fictional special forces team who are routinely uprooted from their comfortable and often troubled domestic lives to handle a wide array of geopolitical crises. Though ratings were substandard, the show managed to hang on for four seasons before the network finally canceled in 2009. Haysbert next starred in "Goodbye Bafana" (2007), playing an imprisoned Nelson Mandela, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a white Afrikaner guard (Joseph Fiennes). Following a small turn in the praised, but overlooked "Breach" (2007), Haysbert returned to the stage to take over a role inaugurated by David Alan Grier in David Mamet's "Race" (2009-10).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made professional acting debut as guest star on an episode of CBS drama "Lou Grant"
TV movie debut, "Grambling's White Tiger" (NBC)
Cast as regular on ABC drama series "Code Red"
Played recurring role on "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (NBC)
Featured on ABC sitcom "Off the Rack"
Played Dr Hoover Beaumont on failed pilot (aired as ABC TV movie) "The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D."
Landed guest role on ABC sitcom "Growing Pains"
Played recurring role of Coach Duane Johnson on "Growing Pains" spin-off "Just the Ten of Us" (ABC)
Feature film debut, "Major League"; reprised role in 1994 and 1998 sequels
Acted in adventure drama "Navy Seals"
First feature lead role, "Love Field"; reportedly hired after Denzel Washington turned down role and Eriq LaSalle was fired during shooting; film not released until 1992 due to Orion Pictures' financial problems
Featured in sports comedy "Mr. Baseball"
Played supporting roles in CBS miniseries "Queen" and "Return to Lonesome Dove"
Featured in "Heat" and "Waiting to Exhale"
Acted in political suspense yarn "Absolute Power"
Lent his voice to animated series "The New Batman/Superman Adventures" (The WB)
Played supporting role as a police detective in virtual reality thriller "The Thirteenth Floor"
Co-starred in CBS drama series "Now and Again"
Played an unfaithful husband in independent features "Love & Basketball" and "What's Cooking?"
Guest starred on Showtime drama "Soul Food"
Played U.S. senator-turned-president David Palmer on Fox action drama "24"; earned Golden Globe (2002) nomination for Best Supporting Actor
Co-starred with Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes directed "Far from Heaven"
Cast opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in war drama "Jarhead," directed by Sam Mendes
Cast as Jonas Blane on CBS special forces drama "The Unit," created by David Mamet
Portrayed Nelson Mandela in "Goodbye Bafana," a drama about Mandela's relationship with his censor officer and prison guard, based on James Gregory's book <i>Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend</i>
Co-starred in "Breach," a thriller about FBI traitor Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper)
Made directorial debut on episode of "The Unit" (CBS)
Produced documentary feature "When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun"
Voiced General Hologram in Disney animated feature "Wreck-It Ralph"
Co-starred with Common in drama feature "LUV"
Appeared in the satire "Dear White People"
Joined the cast of the crime comedy series "Backstrom"
Appeared in the horror film "Knock Knock."