The celebrated talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist and businesswoman, is the chairman of Harpo Entertainment Group in Chicago. Through Harpo Productions, she produces and hosts "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the highest-rated talk show in television history. Since entering syndication in 1986, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" has remained the number one talk show for twelve consecutive seasons, receiving 32 Emmys&emdash;seven of which went to the host. At the end of the 1995/96 television season, Oprah was honored with the most prestigious award in broadcasting, the George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award. In June 1998, she was named one of the one hundred most influential people of the Twentieth Century by Time. More recently, Oprah was named Newsweek’s "Most Important Person in Books and Media," and in May of 1998 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Oprah began her career in broadcasting at age 19 when she became the youngest and the first African-American woman ever to anchor the news at Nashville’s WTVF-TV. She then moved to Baltimore to co-anchor the six o’clock news until she was recruited to co-host Baltimore’s WJZ-TV’s local talk show, "People Are Talking."
Seven years later, she relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s morning talk show, "AM Chicago," which became the number one talk show one month after Oprah took it over. In less than a year, the show expanded to an hour and was renamed, "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
In addition to her acting debut in "The Color Purple," Oprah was lauded by critics for her performances in "There Are No Children Here" and "The Women of Brewster Place," two acclaimed television projects produced by her company, Harpo Films.
Under the Harpo Films banner, Oprah is the executive producer with Kate Forte of the Oprah Winfrey franchise "Oprah Winfrey Presents," a collection of original television films for ABC. The first production, "Before Women Had Wings," starring Ellen Barkin, Tina Majorino and Oprah Winfrey, debuted last fall. An adaptation of Dorothy West’s The Wedding aired earlier this year.
DANNY GLOVER (Paul D) gained international star status for his portrayal of police detective Roger Murtaugh opposite Mel Gibson in the mega-hit "Lethal Weapon" series of films. Among his numerous feature credits are "The Color Purple," "The Saint of Fort Washington," "Bopha!," "Grand Canyon," "To Sleep With Anger" "Flight of the Intruder," "A Rage in Harlem," "Predator 2," "Witness," "Bat-21," "Silverado," "Places in the Heart," "Operation Dumbo Drop," "Angels in the Outfield" and "Gone Fishin’." His early roles include "Escape from Alcatraz" and "Iceman."
He earned a CableACE Award and a NAACP Image Award for his performance in HBO’s 1987 presentation of "Mandela." He went on to star in the PBS production of "A Raisin in the Sun" and won an Emmy nomination for his role in the top-rated miniseries "Lonesome Dove."
A native of San Francisco, Glover trained at the Black Actors’ Workshop of the American Conservatory. He first gained national recognition for his performance in the New York production of Athol Fugard’s "Master Harold and the Boys."
Glover made his directorial debut with the Chanticleer Films production of Showtime’s "Override," and has executive produced HBO’s "America’s Dream" series for Black History Month, as well as the upcoming HBO-BBC movie "Deadly Voyage."
In 1997, Glover added a Grammy Award nomination to his list of achievements, in the spoken word category for his reading of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom. In 1998 Glover was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for The United Nations Development Program.
Most recently, Glover starred in TNT’s acclaimed made-for-television production "Buffalo Soldiers." He also starred in the films "Switchback," opposite Dennis Quaid, and "The Rainmaker," directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He will also be featured as a character voice in the animated feature "Antz" in October.
THANDIE NEWTON (Beloved) was born to a Zimbabwean mother and an English father, and she was raised in Zambia until she was five years old. Due to the political unrest in the country, her family then relocated to England.
At age 16, she won the lead role in John Duigan’s critically acclaimed "Flirting," playing a Ugandan girl isolated in an Australian Ladies Academy who begins a romance with a teenage boy from the neighboring boarding school. After completing the role, she returned to England to continue her education, earning a B.A. with honors in anthropology at Cambridge University.
Her feature credits also include "The Young Americans," "Loaded," "Interview With the Vampire," "Jefferson in Paris," in which she portrayed Sally Hemings, "The Journey of August King" and "The Leading Man."
She also starred opposite Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur in "Gridlock’d." She recently completed filming Bernardo Bertolucci’s "The Siege," co-starring with David Thewlis.
KIMBERLY ELISE (Denver) made her feature film debut in the urban drama "Set It Off," starring opposite Jada Pinkett and Queen Latifah.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Kimberly helped pay her college tuition at the University of Minnesota by doing television commercials. As a student of the performing arts, she pursued interests both behind and in front of the camera, working in public television and immersing herself in the burgeoning independent film community as a director and actor. She also starred in numerous local theatre productions taking advantage of the city’s esteemed theatrical community.
After her short film, "The Joy of Mama’s Recall," was screened at Minneapolis’ Walker Arts Center, she was accepted as a Director’s Fellow at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles. After completing the program, Elise returned to acting and only six months later, was cast as one of the leads in "Set It Off."
Elise followed her film debut with the Family Channel’s acclaimed production "The Ditchdigger’s Daughters," a role which earned her a CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actress.
BEAH RICHARDS (Baby Suggs) received an Academy Award® nomination for her performance opposite Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in the 1967 classic "Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?"
Her feature film credits also include, "Drugstore Cowboy," "In the Heat of the Night," "The Great White Hope" and "Hurry Sundown."
On television, she recently held a recurring role on the highly popular NBC series "ER." Richards won an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on "Frank’s Place." Among her other numerous television credits are, "Beauty and the Beast" (recurring role), "Designing Women," "L.A. Law," "Equal Justice," "Hill Street Blues" and "Highway to Heaven."
On stage, Richards earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance in James Baldwin’s "Amen Corner." She starred in the Yale Repertory Theatre production of "A Raisin in the Sun," the Lincoln Center and national tour production of "The Little Foxes," and with Charlton Heston in "The Crucible" at the Ahmanson Theatre. She also appeared with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in the pre-Broadway run of "The Miracle Worker."
Inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame for her work in theater, Richards wrote and starred in "One Is A Crowd," produced by the Inner City Cultural Center. Her collection of poems and essays, A Black Woman Speaks, was produced on stage as a one-woman show which toured nationally and later aired on PBS.
LISA GAY HAMILTON’s (Young Sethe) film credits include "Palookaville" and "Drunks" and most recently, Quentin Tarantino’s "Jackie Brown."
She is currently a series regular on the television drama "The Practice," created by David E. Kelley. She has also been seen on "Law & Order" and "Homicide: Life On the Streets."
A graduate of the Juilliard School’s drama division, Hamilton’s extensive theater credits include the New York Shakespeare Festival production of "Measure for Measure," opposite Kevin Kline and Andre Braugher, and the original Broadway production of August Wilson’s "The Piano Lesson."
In 1997, Hamilton earned an Ovation nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of Veronica in Athol Fugard’s play, "Valley Song," at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Her performance previously earned her an Obie Award, the Clarence Derwent Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination.
Recently, Hamilton was invited to attend the prestigious Filmmakers and Screenwriters Lab at the Sundance Institute.
ALBERT HALL (Stamp Paid) made an impressive impact on film audiences as the levelheaded and dignified Chief, the boat captain in Francis Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now." He also appeared in the acclaimed documentary on its creation, "Heart of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse." Hall’s recent film roles include two films for director Spike Lee, "Get on the Bus" and "Malcolm X"; and Carl Franklin’s "Devil In A Blue Dress." His other films include "The Great White Hype," "Major Payne," "Jimi," "Rookie of the Year," "The Music Box" and "Betrayed (the latter two from director Costa-Gavras), "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "Trouble In Mind," and "Leadbelly."
For television, Hall plays a recurring role on David E. Kelley’s award-winning Fox series "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice." He played Hank Aaron in the telefilm "The Tiger Woods Story" and has appeared in such series as "New York Undercover," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "ROC" and "A Different World." He starred in the pilot for Warner Bros.’ "Brimstone," and in the highly rated miniseries "Danielle Steel’s Star," "Sophisticated Gents" and "The Long Hot Summer."
Hall’s Broadway roles include the plays "Black Picture Show," "We Interrupt This Program," "Ain’t Supposed To Die a Natural Death" and "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?" Off-Broadway, Hall has appeared in productions of "Streamers," "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel," "Wedding Band," and such classic plays as "Miss Julie," "As You Like It" and "Richard III."
IRMA P. HALL (Ella) received widespread critical acclaim for her role in "A Family Thing," in which she co-starred with Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones. Hall has recently appeared in such films as "Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil," "Soul Food," "Nothing to Lose" and Buddy." Her other films include "Mo’ Money," "The Babe" and "Backdraft." She will soon be seen in "Patch Adams," starring Robin Williams, and "A Slipping Down Life," starring Lili Taylor and Guy Pearce.
Hall’s television credits include such series and telefilms as "Getting Personal," "Touched By An Angel," "Nothing Sacred," "The Long Hot Summer," and "Gabriel’s Fire." She also appeared in "Brewster Place" for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.
Long in demand as a theater actress, Hall most recently appeared in "Time To Burn" at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and "Flyin’ West" at the San Diego Repertory Theater. She won Joseph Jefferson Awards two consecutive years (1988-‘89) for "Steppin’ Out" at the Steppenwolf and "Zandile" at Chicago Theatre Company. Other Chicago theater credits include "The Rover" and "The Lion & The Jewel." Her Dallas theatre credits include "Funny Girl" at the Dallas Summer Musicale, directed by Garson Kanin, "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Black Girl" at the Dallas Minority Repertory, and "House of Flowers" and "For Colored Girls. .." at Theater Three.
Born in Beaumont, Texas, Hall worked as a teacher and publicist before becoming an actress. She is a founder of the Dallas Minority Repertory Theater, where she served as executive director for five years. She currently lives in Chicago.
CAROL JEAN LEWIS (Janey Wagon) has appeared in such films as "Quiz Show," "The Super," "Laser Man," "Spike of Bensonhurst," "Off-Beat," "Forty Deuce," "Mixed Blood" and provided all the voices for "Hairpiece: A Film For Nappyheaded People." For television, Lewis has co-starred in "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," "The Day the Kids Took Over" and "One Life to Live."
Her impressive theater credits include the Broadway productions of "Daddy Goodness," "Sarava," "Two Gentlemen of Verona" and "Purlie." Lewis has appeared in off-Broadway plays such as "Hello, Mrs. President," "Sugar Hill," "Resurrection of Lady Lester," "Forty Deuce" and "Mother Courage." Regional theater productions in which she has performed include "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Flying West," "Fences," "Black Orpheus," "Shakin’ The Mess Outa Misery," "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" and "You Can’t Take It With You."
Lewis’ training includes attending The Juilliard School of Drama, Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theater of Harlem and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She currently lives in New York.
Sixteen year old KESSIA KORDELLE (Amy Denver) grew up traveling around the world on film locations with her brothers, actor Ethan Embry and recording artist Aaron Embry. In addition to receiving a living education in world cultures and geography on independent study, she enjoyed playing several small roles in Ethan’s films.
A native of Los Angeles, Kordelle’s first experiences performing were as a ballet dancer at age 10 with the nationally recognized ballet school, Westside Ballet. To prepare for her career as an actress, she has studied with such leading young actors’ coaches as Christine McClure and Jamie Donnelly.
Kordelle most recently appeared in the critically acclaimed TriStrar film "Dancer, Texas." She will soon be seen in the MGM film "Stigmata," starring Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne.
JUDE CICCOLELLA (Schoolteacher) was seen in "Night Falls On Manhattan," "Mad Love," "Boys on the Side" and "The Shawshank Redemption." His feature credits also include "City of Hope" and "Glengarry Glen Ross." Prior to "Beloved," he completed roles in the upcoming films "Gloria," for director Sidney Lumet, and "Simon," for director Harold Becker.
A familiar face to fans of some of television’s most highly regarded programs, Ciccolella played principal roles on "NYPD Blue," "Law & Order," and "New York News." He also co-starred with Kris Kristoferson in the CBS telefilm "Inflammable," the HBO film "Teamster Boss," the CBS film "Janek: A Silent Betrayal," and the NBC telefilm "With Murder in Mind." Recent television work includes "Westpoint" and the pilot for the CBS series "It’s True."
Ciccolella’s theatrical experience includes New York productions of "Curse of the Starving Class," "Below the Belt," "Iron Tommy," The E.S.T. Marathon, featuring plays by David Mamet and Ernest Thompson, and "Those The River Keeps," written and directed by David Rabe. His regional theater work includes the Eugene O’Neill Conference and The Actors Theatre of Louisville.
A member of both the Ensemble Studio Theater and the Actor’s Studio, Ciccolella received a B.A. in philosophy from Brown University, and an M.F.A. from Temple University. An accomplished singer, guitarist and songwriter, his firs CD is titled Haunted and his second CD, to be released this fall, is titled A Single Matter of Timing. He lives in New York.
On stage ANTHONY CHISHOLM (Langhorne) appeared as Fielding in August Wilson’s play "Jitney" at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre, and as Wolf in the original cast of Wilson’s "Two Trains Running," a role he repeated at a number of leading regional theaters. He appeared in the hit play "Travers" at the New York Shakespeare Festival and subsequently at London’s Royal Court Theatre, Los Angeles’ Coronet, Philadelphia’s Annenberg Performance Center, and at the Seymour Center in Sydney, Australia.
His off-Broadway credits include "The Talented Tenth" at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and "Back in the World," for which he received a Downtown Village Theatre Award. Chisholm made his film debut in Jules Dassin’s "Uptight" and, after several featured roles, portrayed the lead character in "Let’s Get Bizzee."
Chisholm’s television credits include HBO’s "Vietnam War Stories," for which he received a CableACE Award nomination; "Sojourner," "The American Parade," "Murder in Black and White," and a guest starring role on "New York Undercover."
DOROTHY LOVE COATES (M. Lucille Williams) is something of a legend in the world of gospel music. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, the fourth of seven children, she formed the Royal Gospel Singers, for which she was also a musician and songwriter, with family members in 1944. They performed weekly on radio station WILD. In 1948, she joined the Gospel Harmonettes, and became their lead singer, songwriter and manager. She remained with the group until 1980.
In 1981, she founded the Dorothy Love Coates Singers, and with them, she has performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater, as well as such music festivals as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the International Jazz Festival in Bern, Switzerland.
Her many awards for her music include The National Gospel Award, the Gospel Academy of Arts & Sciences Award, the Thomas A. Dorsey Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to her in London.
Several of her songs have been featured in major films, including "No Hiding Place," which was used in the "Ghost" soundtrack, and "City Built Four Square" and "I’m Glad He Found Me," from "Used Cars."
Ms. Coates also appeared as a Lead Singer in the 1990 Whoopi Goldberg Civil Rights film "The Long Walk Home."
JANE WHITE (Lady Jones) is a performer of rare versatility. She originated the role of the Queen in the 1959 off-Broadway production of "Once Upon a Mattress," reprising her role on Broadway the following year, and in television adaptations in 1964 and 1972. She won an Obie Award for her performance in "Helen of Troy" at the 1965 New York Shakespeare Festival. She has performed in her own one-woman show, "Jane White, Who ...?" off-Broadway, and she has twice been guest artist with the Metropolitan Opera, for "Les Troyens" in 1983 and with "La Fille Du Regiment" a decade later. She has also performed as a soloist at the Kool Jazz Festival, and made her cabaret debut, presented by Bobby Short at the Town Hall Theater in 1977.
White’s extensive theater credits include the Broadway plays "Strange Fruit," "The Climate of Eden," "Take a Giant Step," "Jane Eyre" and "The Cuban Thing," as well as such recent off-Broadway shows as "The Petrified Prince," "The Tropical Breeze Hotel" and "The Madwoman of Chaillot."
White played the role of the Madam in the film "Klute," and she also appeared in the Italian film "Queste Donne." Her television work includes the series "Law & Order," "Amen," and the daytime dramas "The Edge of Night" and "Search For Tomorrow."
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