Born in Missouri in 1964, Don Cheadle appeared in shows such as Fame, L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues throughout his early career in the 1980s. But it was his portrayal of trigger-happy Mouse Alexander in the film Devil in a Blue Dress that catapulted Cheadle to success. Cheadle went on to appear in many acclaimed films, such as Hotel Rwanda, Crash and Iron Man 2. He transitioned back to television in 2012 as the lead actor in the popular comedy House of Lies, for which he won a Golden Globe Award.
Actor Donald Frank Cheadle Jr. was born on November 29, 1964, in Kansas City, Missouri, as the middle child in a family of three children. Cheadle was involved in acting at an early age. While attending elementary school in Denver, Colorado, he played Templeton the Rat in a stage adaptation of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. "I remember carrying my script around and studying it like I do now," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know why but I was serious about acting even then."
Cheadle entered the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California, in 1982. At CalArts, Cheadle received a rigorous education in classic theater, and by the time he graduated he quickly found work in television. He appeared in small parts on shows such as Fame (1982-87), L.A. Law (1986-94) and Hill Street Blues (1981-97), while also taking the time to do stage performances.
Cheadle began his first recurring role alongside Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty in the short-lived spin-off of the popular cult classic The Golden Girls (1985-92), titled The Golden Palace (1992-93). His next recurring role as District Attorney John Littleton in the television series Picket Fences (1992-96) was more successful.
Film and Television Roles
Cheadle earned an Emmy nomination for his lead role in the HBO film A Lesson Before Dying (1993), but it was his riveting portrayal of trigger-happy Mouse Alexander in the film Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) that brought him greater notice in Hollywood. Based on the novel by Walter Mosely, and also starring Denzel Washington, the film explored the heart of the Los Angeles black community in the 1940s. Cheadle won awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics, and was nominated for Screen Actors Guild and NAACP Image Awards.
Following his memorable appearance in Boogie Nights (1997), Cheadle won his first Golden Globe Award for his work in the TV film The Rat Pack (1998) as Sammy Davis Jr. He later earned another Emmy nomination for the Showtime movie Things Behind the Sun (2001).
Cheadle's roles on film and on television became more varied as his exposure grew. In 2000, he enjoyed a prominent role in the criminal drama Traffic, which was released shortly after he appeared in the comedy The Family Man. He made appearances on several episodes of the hospital drama ER (1994-2009), but his biggest dramatic roles were yet to come.
Critically Acclaimed Films
In 2005, Cheadle was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda (2004), a film about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He also starred in and co-produced the movie Crash (2004), which won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Picture. His performance drew BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
With two high-profile, Oscar-nominated films under his belt, Cheadle was able to try his hand at blockbuster films and edgier shows. Having played a minor role in the 2001 film Ocean's Eleven, Cheadle reprised his character with more screen time in the sequels Ocean's Twelve (2004) and Ocean's Thirteen (2007). He also starred in the popular summer blockbusters Iron Man 2 (2010) and Iron Man 3 (2013), taking on the role that Terrence Howard had played in the first film.
In 2012, Cheadle also returned to TV in the comedy House of Lies. For his role as a successful yet arrogant management consultant, Cheadle was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy in 2012. He was nominated again for the series in 2013 and 2014. His work on House of Lies also earned him multiple Emmy nominations for Lead Actor in a Comedy.
In 2015, Cheadle returned to the superhero genre with his appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He also made his directorial debut with Miles Ahead, a biopic in which he starred as iconic jazz composer and trumpeter Miles Davis.
Cheadle currently resides in Santa Monica, California, with actress Bridgid Coulter and their two daughters.
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