He Got Game: About The Cast

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DENZEL WASHINGTON (Jake Shuttlesworth) won the Academy Award® as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Trip, an embittered runaway slave in "Glory," and also received two Academy Award® nominations, both for his portrayal of South African freedom fighter Steven Biko in Sir Richard Attenborough's "Cry Freedom," and most recently, for his portrayal of Malcolm X, the complex Black activist from the 1960s, in director Spike Lee's biographical epic "Malcolm X." Washington previously starred for Spike Lee in "Mo' Better Blues," playing Bleek Gilliam, the womanizing trumpet player.

Throughout his career, Washington has continually sought out new challenges, evidenced by his commanding performances and the colorful array of characters he has made distinctly his own in diverse film and stage portrayals.

He recently starred in Greg Hoblit's crime thriller "Fallen," and starred opposite Whitney Houston in Penny Marshall's romantic comedy "The Preacher's Wife," which Washington's Mundy Lane Entertainment produced. In the summer of 1996, he starred in the critically acclaimed military drama "Courage Under Fire," portraying Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling, a tank commander in the Gulf War who is charged with investigating conflicting reports surrounding the first female nominee for a Medal of Honor. The film was directed by "Glory" director Ed Zwick, with whom Washington most recently re-teamed to star in the terrorist thriller "Marshall Law," tentatively set for release by the end of 1998.

Washington has also recently starred opposite Gene Hackman as Navy Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter in Jerry Bruckheimer's underwater adventure "Crimson Tide," directed by Tony Scott; as ex-cop Parker Barnes in the futuristic-thriller "Virtuosity"; and as World War II veteran Easy Rawlins in the 1940s-era romantic-thriller "Devil in a Blue Dress," produced with Jonathan Demme's Clinica Estetico and Washington's Mundy Lane Entertainment.

In addition to his accomplishments on screen, Washington recently took on a very different type of role as the executive producer on "Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream," a biographical documentary for TBS which was nominated for an Emmy Award. Additionally, Washington's narration of the legend of John Henry was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children, and he was awarded the 1996 NAACP Image Award for his performance in the animated children's special "Happily Ever After: Rumpelstiltskin."

Born in Mt. Vernon, New York, Washington had his career sights set on medicine when he attended Fordham University. During a stint as a summer camp counselor he appeared in one of their theater productions and was bitten by the acting bug. He returned to Fordham that year seeking the tutelage of Robinson Stone, one of the school's leading professors. Upon graduation from Fordham, Washington was accepted into San Francisco's prestigious American Conservatory Theater. Following an intensive year of study in their theater program, he returned to New York.

Washington's professional New York theater career began with Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park and was quickly followed by numerous off-Broadway productions including "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men"; "When Chickens Came Home to Roost" (in which he portrayed Malcolm X); "One Tiger to a Hill"; "Man and Superman"; "Othello"; and "A Soldier's Play," for which he won an Obie Award. His more recent stage appearances include the Broadway production of "Checkmates" and "Richard III," which was produced as part of the 1990 Free Shakespeare in the Park series hosted by Joseph Papp's Public Theater in New York City.

Washington was "discovered" by Hollywood when he was cast in the television film "Flesh and Blood," co-starring George Segal in 1979. But it was his award-winning stage performance in "A Soldier's Play" that captured the attention of the producers of the NBC television series, "St. Elsewhere," and he was soon cast in that long-running hit series as Dr. Phillip Chandler. His other television credits include "The George McKenna Story," "License to Kill" and "Wilma."

In 1982, he recreated his role from "A Soldier's Play" for Norman Jewison's film version, retitled "A Soldier's Story." Washington's portrayal of Private Peterson was critically well received. He then went on to star in Sidney Lumet's "Power," "For Queen and Country," "The Mighty Quinn," "Heart Condition," and also appeared in "Ricochet," and Mira Nair's bittersweet comedy "Mississippi Masala." Additional film credits include Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing," Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia" with Tom Hanks, and "The Pelican Brief," which was based on the John Grisham novel.

RAY ALLEN (Jesus Shuttlesworth) makes his feature film and acting debut in Touchstone Pictures' "He Got Game," yet, at 22 years of age, Allen has already stacked up a stellar career record in the sport of basketball.

Since being selected as the #5 NBA draft pick in 1996, Allen has gone on to fulfill his extraordinary promise on the basketball court as a guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. During his rookie year, he started all but one of their games, and finished with averages of 13.2 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game, also leading the team in 3 pointers made and free-throw shooting. Cited as the most promising newcomer in recent years, Allen played in the NBA Rookie All-Star Game, and the NBA Team Up this past February.

Born at the Castle Air Force Base in Merced, California, Allen attended Hillcrest High School in South Carolina and became a basketball star at the University of Connecticut. He was named 1996 Big East Player of the Year in a unanimous All-Big East First Team selection, and also received the 1995-96 Consensus All-America First Team selection by the Associated Press, United Press International, The Sporting News and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

With a devoted interest in helping others, Allen is also the founder of the Ray of Hope Foundation, established to enhance and uplift the lives of children and young adults through sports-related and community-based programs.

MILLA JOVOVICH (Dakota Burns) has established herself as one of Hollywood's most talented and sought after actresses.

Jovovich began her career as a model, when at age 11, she graced the covers of 15 international fashion magazines.

Milla made her feature film debut at age 12 in "Two Moon Junction," and followed with her first starring role in "Return to the Blue Lagoon." At 17, she co-starred opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in Richard Attenborough's "Chaplin" as Mildred Harrris, Chaplin's first wife, and was featured in Richard Linklater's "Dazed & Confused."

In 1994, Milla released her first album Milla: The Divine Comedy on EMI records. Milla's work as a songwriter, singer and musician was hailed by MTV, Rolling Stone magazine and other music industry giants. Jovovich was working on her second album when the opportunity to star in Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" arose. Milla's starmaking performance opposite Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman received international acclaim and has made her one of the most bankable stars of her generation.

This summer, Milla will reteam with Luc Besson in the starring role of "Joan of Arc."

Milla lives in New York when she is not traveling around the globe continuing her successful acting, modeling and music careers.

HILL HARPER (Coleman "Booger" Sykes) recently starred in Spike Lee's "Get on the Bus" as Xavier, a young film student who sets out to videotape the Washington, D.C. Million Man March. He has most recently starred in the forthcoming features "The Nephew" which was produced by, and starred, Pierce Brosnan, as well as Jonathan Demme's feature "Beloved," and the Miramax film "Hav' Plenty."

Harper also recently co-starred in Kathryn Bigelow's "Strange Days," and he was hailed as a "haunting presence" in the critically acclaimed Showtime feature "Zooman" with Lou Gossett and Charles S. Dutton. Other film credits include "Steel," "Full Court Press" with Ellen Burstyn, "Blankman" with Damon Wayans, "Pumpkinhead II," "Little Black Panther," and the critically acclaimed "One Red Rose," which he also co-wrote for Showtime.

Harper is a series regular on the forthcoming series "The Dave Chappelle Project," and was a series lead on the UPN Network comedy/drama "Live Shot." He has also guest starred on numerous series, including "E.R.," "N.Y.P.D. Blue," "Murder One," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Sweet Justice," and "Married... With Children."

His extensive stage credits include off-Broadway productions of "Your Handsome Captain," "Freeman" and "American Buffalo."

Harper began acting and writing poetry and rap songs at a very young age. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University and went on to earn two graduate degrees with honors from Harvard University. While there, Harper was invited to become a full company member of Boston's Black Folks' Theater Company, one of the nation's oldest and most respected African-American traveling theater troupes. He continued his work on stage in Boston and then in Los Angeles before being cast in motion picture and television roles.

BILL NUNN (Uncle Bubba) has recently appeared in "Mad City" opposite John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman, in "Kiss The Girls" with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, and as a New York policeman in "Extreme Measures." He has most recently starred opposite Tim Roth in Giuseppe Tornatore's forthcoming "The Legend of the Pianist of the Ocean," as well as in the forthcoming features "Ambushed" with Courtney B. Vance, Gary Winick's "Lessons in the TIC Code," and HBO's "Socrates," with Laurence Fishburne.

Nunn has also co-starred in "Things To Do in Denver When You're Dead," and has become a familiar face to film audiences through such diverse roles as the policeman keeping Whoopi Goldberg undercover in "Sister Act," and as Harrison Ford's compassionate but determined physical therapist in "Regarding Henry."

Nunn first gained international attention for his portrayal of Radio Raheem in Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing," and has also starred for Lee in "School Daze" and "Mo' Better Blues."

His other feature credits include "Bulletproof," "Money Train," "The Last Seduction," "Canadian Bacon," "Cadillac Man," "New Jack City," "Glory" and "Sharkey's Machine."

His telefilm credits include Showtime's "Mr. & Mrs. Loving," Fox's "Quicksilver Highway," USA Cable's "Native Strangers" and "Dangerous Heart," HBO's "The Alibi" and "War Stories," as well as "Ellen Foster," "Carriers," "White Lie," "Littlest Victims," "A Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and "Silent Witness: What a Child Saw."

He has had series regular roles on "Traps" and the pilots for "The Precinct" and "Local Heroes," and has guest starred on Showtime's "Fallen Angels," as well as on "Chicago Hope," and, most recently, on "Millennium" and "Early Edition." He was also nominated for an Image Award for his role as Lt. Carver on "New York Undercover."

His extensive stage work includes theater productions such as "Fences," "A Soldier's Play," "T-Bone 'N Weasel," "A Lesson From Aloes," "Split Second" and "Macbeth."

Raised in Pittsburgh, Nunn is a graduate of Atlanta's Morehouse University and was the recipient of an Artist in Residence award to Spelman College, granted by the Georgia Council for the Arts. He has taught theater workshops and has directed numerous children's theater productions. Previously, together with longtime friend Al Cooper, Nunn developed a comedy act known as "Nunn and Cooper." One of the few African-American comedy teams in the country, the duo performed comedy sketches and vignettes at nightclubs throughout the U.S. between 1980 and 1983.

JIM BROWN (Spivey) was born in 1936 at St. Simons Island on the southern Georgia coastline. He was raised by his grandmother until age 7 when he joined his mother near Long Island, New York. He later enrolled in nearby Manhasset High School where his sensational athletic career began averaging 14.9 yards per carry on the football field and 38 points on the basketball court.

Jim Brown was educated at Syracuse University where he was named as an All-American running back, averaging 6.2 yards in his senior year and later was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He also was an All-American in lacrosse and is considered one of the best players ever in that sport. Jim Brown also excelled academically and was honored as one of 5 recipients of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Outstanding Students of the Past 25 Years.

Jim Brown played professional football with the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1966. During his illustrious and legendary career, Mr. Brown established many records, including a 9-year career total of 12,312 yards gained. His 5.2 yards per carry average has never been broken. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and is considered by many as the greatest running back in football history. He retired at the peak of his professional football career after winning the NFL Championship and MVP of the League to become a motion picture actor.

As a screen actor, Mr. Brown has appeared in over 20 motion pictures, including "The Dirty Dozen" (1967), "El Condor" (1970), "Slaughter and Black Gunn" (1972), "Original Gangsta's (1996) and "Mars Attacks!" (1996).

While playing for the Cleveland Browns, Jim Brown began laying the foundation for the Negro Industrial and Economic Union (NIEU) whose motto was "produce, achieve and prosper." In 1966, he and some of the finest African-American minds in the country, formally established the NIEU which was principally capitalized with a Ford Foundation Grant in excess of $1 million. Over 400 African-American businesses benefited from the Union's capital support and technical expertise.

In 1980, Jim Brown set his aspirations toward helping empower the disenfranchised, and became involved with Coor Golden Door and Barriers, both job creation programs for ex-convicts to properly re-introduce them to society's mainstream. Mr. Brown's 6-year association with the Vital Issues Project helped elevate that organization's status nationally and help thousands of inmates and ex-convicts transition to society.

In 1988, Jim Brown founded and became president of the Amer-I-Can Program, Inc. The core of the program is a self-esteem/life management skills curriculum that teaches responsibility and self-determination. Combined with a strong after-care component, the Amer-I-Can Program is considered a premiere prevention and intervention tool in reaching the "hard-core" and the at-risk population. A powerful weapon in accomplishing this task is that 95% of the Amer-I-Can staff is composed of former gang members and/or ex-convicts. Mr. Brown's Herculean efforts contributed to the gang truce and helped keep peace among warring gang sets during the Los Angeles uprising.

Amer-I-Can operations have been in school, adult and juvenile correctional facilities and communities in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Florida. Tens of thousands of correctional inmates, law enforcement officers, students, community residents and others have been trained.

Mr. Brown is also the chairman of The Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change, a non-profit organization, founded in 1993. Its mission is to extend Amer-I-Can services to inner city youth, their families and others in the Los Angeles area who are normally deprived of such services because of economic hardship.

THOMAS JEFFERSON BYRD (Sweetness) recently starred as Evan Thomas, Sr. in filmmaker Spike Lee's "Get on the Bus," and previously co-starred for Lee in "Clockers" and "Girl 6."

He most recently starred as Rafiki in Warren Beatty's "Bulworth," and has starred in "Set It Off" and in director Joel Shumacher's "A Time To Kill," as well as appearing in "Soul Survivors."

On television he has recently performed for "In the House," and has guest-starred on "Living Single," "In the Heat of the Night," the PBS production "The Life of Langston Hughes," and on three episodes of the Emmy Award-winning series "I'll Fly Away."

Born in Georgia, Byrd earned his bachelor of science degree in education from Morris Brown College, and later received his master of fine arts degree in dance from California Institute of the Arts.

He has starred in numerous regional stage productions including the San Diego Repertory Theater's award-winning performance of "Spunk." He has also starred in "Home" by Samm-Art Evans, "Two Trains Running," "The Piano Lesson" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" at the Alliance Theater, "Flyin' West," "Hamlet" and "Miss Evers' Boys" at the Indiana Repertory, at other productions of "Flyin' West" at both the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at the Long Wharf Theater.

ROSARIO DAWSON (Lala Bonilla) made her feature debut in the cult hit "Kids." She was discovered for the role when the filmmakers were doing location scouting in her neighborhood. She was a natural; and her acting career began.

Dawson can be seen in the forthcoming independent features "Trigger Happy" and "Sidestreets." She also recently starred in Myra Paci's short "Girls Night Out."

Born in Coney Island, Dawson's mother had attended Lincoln High School where several scenes for Touchstone Pictures' "He Got Game" were set and filmed. Although Rosario was raised in nearby New York, she lived with her family in Texas for a year until her experience with "Kids" led her back to New York to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute.

ZELDA HARRIS (Mary Shuttlesworth) launched her career in filmmaker Spike Lee's bittersweet family drama "Crooklyn." She then co-starred as Jessi Ramsey in "The Baby-Sitters Club Movie."

On television, she was featured in the title role of the Hallmark Hall of Fame/USA Cable telefilm "Clover," and also appeared in the Hallmark/CBS telefilm "The Piano Lesson." She has also portrayed an outspoken Bethany as a cast member of the series "Second Noah," and has guest-starred on "Cosby," "Law & Order," and during five seasons of "Sesame Street."

Her stage credits include the role of Nita in the New York Stage and Film Playwrights Workshop production of "Tripping Through the Carhouse."

LONETTE McKEE (Martha Shuttlesworth) starred as Louise Little in filmmaker Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" and has also starred in "Jungle Fever." She most recently starred in the forthcoming "Blind Faith" as Carol Williams.

She made her feature debut in 1976, gaining widespread recognition for her role in "Sparkle." She has also appeared in Bertrand Tavernier's "'Round Midnight," Francis Ford Coppola's "Gardens of Stone" and "The Cotton Club," "Cuba," and the comedies "Which Way Is Up?" and "Brewster's Millions," both opposite Richard Pryor.

On television, she recently starred in the telefilm "To Dance With Olivia" and "Alex Haley's Queen." She has also starred in "Dangerous Passion" and "The Women of Brewster Place."

McKee won critical and audience acclaim, and a Tony Award nomination, for her portrayal of Julie, the mixed-race actress fleeing Mississippi in the Broadway revival of "Show Boat." She has also starred on Broadway in "The First," the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson, and has appeared off-Broadway in a one-woman show, "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill."

ROGER GUENVEUR SMITH (Big Time Willie) most recently starred with Samuel L. Jackson and Lynn Whitfield in Kasi Lemmons' acclaimed "Eve's Bayou." His frequent collaborations with Spike Lee include "Get on the Bus," "Do The Right Thing," "Malcolm X" and "School Daze."

His other feature credits include Mario Van Peebles' "Panther," Rusty Cundieff's "Tales From the Hood," John Singleton's "Poetic Justice," Bill Duke's "Deep Cover," and Abel Ferrara's "King of New York."

On television, Smith has been featured in recurring roles on the ABC daytime series "All My Children," the HBO series "Oz" and NBC's "A Different World."

Smith's acclaimed theater work includes a string of original performance pieces which were inspired by his dual passions for acting and American history. He won an Obie and a Helen Hayes Award for his creation and performance of "A Huey P. Newton Story" which played a sold-out engagement off-Broadway at the Public Theater and continues to tour nationally. Smith has also written and starred in the nationally acclaimed "Frederick Douglass Now," "Inside the Creole Mafia," and "Christopher Columbus 1992."

Smith studied at the Yale School of Drama; Occidental College; and Keskidee Arts Centre, London, as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

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