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Actor Mykelti Williamson has appeared in films such as Forrest Gump and Free Willy, and on TV shows such as 24.
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During this same period, Williamson landed the first role of his budding film career, playing a wayward football player in the 1986 film Wild Cats. In 1989, he headed back to the big screen with a minor part in the 1989 thriller Miracle Mile.
Williamson's career took off in the early 1990 when he turned in memorable performances in the beloved films Free Willy (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994). Williamson played the role of Dwight, a paternal social worker, in the family drama Free Willy, which was a box-office smash. The next year Williamson starred opposite Tom Hanks as Bubba in Forrest Gump, which won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Picture. Williamson's heart-rending depiction of Forrest's friendly, shrimp-loving friend who is killed in the Vietnam War earned him rave reviews and national fame. It remains his best-remembered and most enduring performance.
Propelled by Forrest Gump, Williamson landed prominent roles in many acclaimed and popular films throughout the 1990s. He played opposite Al Pacino in Heat (1995). He also appeared in such notable films as 12 Angry Men (1997), Con Air (1997), Primary Colors (1998) and Three Kings (1999).
However, Williamson's career was derailed by personal problems in 1998, when he went on trial for attempted manslaughter. Williamson was arrested for allegedly stabbing the companion of his ex-wife, Cheryl Chisholm. Williamson admitted that he angrily confronted the couple after he heard that they had engaged in inappropriate behavior in front of his 4-year-old daughter, Phoenix Williamson. "After what I'd been through as a child, I was especially sensitive," he said about the incident. Although Williamson was eventually acquitted from all charges due to insufficient evidence, the trial took a major toll on his life and career. "I lost my home, which I sold to pay my lawyers, my car and basically lost my career," he said after the trial. "I never thought I'd come back."
Nevertheless, Williamson has since managed to revive both his personal and professional life. He married actress Sondra Spriggs in 1997 and the couple has two daughters, Maya and Nicole. Williamson credits Spriggs with helping him to overcome the trial by opening up about his painful childhood. Williamson became very active in his church and took up restoring classic cars and flying airplanes as hobbies. Williamson has also returned to form as an actor. He starred opposite Will Smith in the 2001 film Ali and landed recurring roles in the TV series The Fugitive and CSI: NY. In 2010, he landed one of his most prominent roles yet as Brian Hastings, the special agent in charge of the New York CTU on the popular drama 24.
Mykelti Williamson has endured many hardships on his way to becoming one of Hollywood's most respected actors, and he hopes that his story can serve as an inspiration to others who have fallen upon hard times. "Everyone has gone through something painful in their life," he said in an interview. "But if you surround yourself with people who have the light turned on, you can—you will—come through it."
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