Jurnee Smollett Biography

Jurnee Diana Smollett (born October 1, 1986) is an American actress.

Early life and career

Smollett was born in New York City, the daughter of Joel and Janet Smollett. The fourth of six performing siblings, she received critical acclaim for playing a ten-year-old who finds her father (Samuel L. Jackson) in a compromising position in the independent drama Eve's Bayou (1997). The performance earned her a Young Star Award nomination. In casting the role, writer-director Kasi Lemmons had envisioned "a light-skinned black child … who could convey the nuances of a Creole child in the 60s."

She co-starred with her siblings in the television comedy On Our Own (1994-1995) and appeared in numerous television shows such as Hangin' with Mr. Cooper and Full House in which she played Michelle Tanner's young friend Denise. From 1998 to 2000, she appeared as a regular cast member of the Bill Cosby series titled Cosby. She also played as a regular in Wanda at Large as Wanda Sykes' niece Holly in 2003, in the episode "Fools for Love" as the character "Tracey" on House, in The Great Debaters, and most recently as Beth, a terminally ill girl who undergoes a clinical trial to successful results in the episode "Freedom" on the popular ABC drama Grey's Anatomy.

Smollett starred with Bow Wow in the 2005 film Roll Bounce. She played the role of Danyelle Rollins in the 2006 film Gridiron Gang, and also played leading roles in the racial drama Selma, Lord, Selma as well as Beautiful Joe (alongside Sharon Stone and Billy Connolly) and Ruby's Bucket of Blood. In 2007, she played the role of Samantha Booke in The Great Debaters (which was directed by Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey).

On March 17, 2009, she visited Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre, Kwa Mashu Township, north of Durban, South Africa where she led an exchange youth forum sharing her experiences with Kwa Mashu youth.

Smollett had a role in the most recent season of Friday Night Lights. She is currently co-starring in the new CBS legal drama The Defenders.

Personal life

Smollett has four brothers and one sister, all of whom are actors:

* Jazz Smollett
* Jocqui Smollett
* Jake Smollett
* Jojo Smollett
* Jussie Smollett

Smollett has been active in HIV/AIDS involved causes since she was twelve. She has spoken at the Ryan White Youth Conference, and elsewhere, on this issue. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS. She is also on the Board of Directors of the group Artists for a New South Africa, dedicated to dealing with HIV/AIDS in Africa.


* Black Reel Awards
o 2006, Best Ensemble (Roll Bounce) Nominated
o 2002, Best Supporting Actress- Network/Cable (Ruby's Bucket of Blood) Nominated

* Broadcast Film Critics Awards
o 1998, Best Child Performance (Eve's Bayou) Winner

* BET J Virtual Awards
o 2008, Best Actress (The Great Debaters) Nominated

* Image Awards
o 2010, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series- ("Friday Night Lights")- Nominated
o 2008, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture- (The Great Debaters) Winner
o 2000, Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress- (Cosby) Winner
o 1999, Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress- (Cosby) Winner
o 1998, Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress- (Eve's Bayou) Nominated

* Teen Choice Awards
o 2008, Choice Movie: Breakout Female (The Great Debaters), Nominated

* Young Artist Awards
o 1998, Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actress- (Eve's Bayou) Nominated
o 1995, Best Performance by an Actress Under Ten in a TV Series- "On Our Own" Nominated


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