Roger Guenveur Smith

Actor, writer and director Roger Guenveur Smith was the well-respected and award-winning creator of such acclaimed one-man shows as "A Huey P. Newton Story" (1989), as well as a character actor in films ranging from "Do the Right Thing" (1989) to "American Gangster" (2007). Born July 27, 1955 in Berkeley, California, Smith initially intended to pursue a graduate degree in history, but changed majors after developing an interest in the theater. He successfully auditioned for Yale's Drama School and attended the Keskidee Arts Centre in London, England, before earning his breakout project with "A Huey P. Newton Story," a one-man drama based on the life of the Black Panther Party co-founder. After debuting the show in Los Angeles, Smith brought "Story" to theaters across the country, picking up significant theater awards on its route to New York and an Obie Award in the early 1990s. Along the way, Smith developed a connection with filmmaker Spike Lee, who cast him in small but pivotal roles in several of his films, including the mentally disabled savant, Smiley, in "Do the Right Thing" (1989), as well as "Malcolm X" (1992) and "Get on the Bus" (1996). The exposure afforded by "Story" and these film appearances led to other roles in features, including "Deep Cover" (1992), John Singleton's "Poetic Justice" (1993) and recurring roles on "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003) and "All My Children" (ABC, 1970-2011). In 2001, Smith and Lee brought "A Huey P. Newton Story" to the screen with a Peabody Award-winning film version of the one-man show. Theater remained Smith's main focus through one-man shows like "Juan and John" (2009) and "Rodney King" (2011), though he continued to appear in features and on television, most notably Ridley Scott's "American Gangster" (2007), the indie comedy-drama "Dope" (2015) and Nate Parker's Nat Turner biopic, "The Birth of a Nation" (2016).