Born on December 28, 1978 in Bessemer, Alabama, André Holland went on to pursue a career as an actor, appearing in several Shakespeare in the Park productions and making his Broadway debut in 2009 in Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Holland has earned roles in an array of TV and film projects as well, having starred in the series Friends With Benefits, 1600 Penn and The Knick. He has also been featured in films like 42 and Selma, and earned further accolades for his role as a thoughtful, caring chef in 2016's Moonlight, an acclaimed Miami-based work that won a Golden Globe for best picture, drama.
Background and Education
André Holland was born on December 28, 1978 in Bessemer, Alabama, the only son of Donald and Mary Holland and the middle child of three siblings. Holland grew up in the town of Shades Valley, near Birmingham, with his mother eventually enrolling him in drama classes. He debuted at age 11 in the musical Oliver! and developed a lifelong passion and dedication to his craft that would shape the direction of his future studies.
Holland attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, earning a bachelor’s in fine arts, and afterwards traveled to London and then Paris to study at the Theatre du Soleil in Paris with filmmaker Ariane Mnouchkine. He returned to the states to earn his M.F.A. at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2006.
Shakespearean Stage Success
Having appeared in Off-Broadway productions of Wig Out! and The Tempest, Holland made his Broadway debut in spring 2009 with the revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, penned by the iconic August Wilson. Later that year, Holland portrayed Elegba/Marcus as part of the ensemble cast of the Brother/Sister Plays, by Tarrell Alvin McCraney. Having previously worked with Shakespeare in the Park in 2004, he returned to the bard’s embrace in 2011 with All’s Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure at the Delacorte Theater in New York's Central Park.
TV and Film Star
By the mid-aughts, Holland had also started to focus on screen projects, guest starring in TV series like Law & Order, The Black Donnellys, Damages and Burn Notice. He had a lead role in the 2011 sitcom Friends With Benefits, which lasted a season, and later co-starred as press secretary Marshall Malloy in Josh Gad’s White House comedy 1600 Penn.
The actor was featured in big-screen projects as well, as seen with Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna (2008), 42 (the 2013 film in which Holland portrayed real-world sportswriter Wendell Smith, who chronicled the triumphs of Jackie Robinson) and Black and White (2014), with the latter co-starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer.
In 2014, Holland garnered more TV recognition for his portrayal of Harvard-trained surgeon Algernon Edwards in the series The Knick, a medical drama set in early 20th-century New York featuring Clive Owen and Eve Hewson and directed by Steven Soderbergh. In an interview with Brian Tallerico for RogerEbert.com, Holland would later describe the experience of working with Soderbergh as a freeing “trial by fire,” with the fast-moving director trusting his actors to be pros and, in rehearsals, make the choices that feel right for the production. The following year, Holland was seen playing another real-world figure, that of pastor/activist Andrew Young Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated Selma (2015), starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr.
Acclaim for 'Moonlight'
In 2016, Holland joined the sixth-season cast of the anthology television series American Horror Story, featuring the likes of Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sarah Paulson. That autumn saw the release of Moonlight, a movie directed by Barry Jenkins based on the McCraney play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Co-starring Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe and Trevante Rhodes, the three-act film depicts the struggles of Chiron, an African-American boy growing up in the drug ravaged Liberty City section of Miami who must also contend with issues around identity and sexuality. Holland plays the adult version of Kevin, a chef with a twinkle in his eye who’s made peace with his past and wants to reconnect with Chiron.
“What I found interesting is that he's a guy who had this kind of idea of what masculinity is, and he performed it to the Nth degree, and then at some point in his life he decided that he wanted to drop that mask and try to come at life from a more authentic place,” Holland said of his character in a 2016 Esquire interview. “Then he goes back to try to fix something that was broken from his past. I found that to be really touching. And also, it's a love story, and I know what it feels like to carry a deep love for someone over a long period of time who's not in your life.”
A quiet, mood-laden masterpiece, Moonlight has earned a mountain of accolades from critics and won a Golden Globe for best picture, drama, with the film and its cast considered Academy Award contenders as well. In January 2017, Holland is slated to return to Broadway as a featured player in another of August Wilson’s works, Jitney.
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