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Roger Guenveur Smith Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Jan 1, 0001
  • Died: Jan 1, 0001

An esteemed African-American playwright and actor whose roles almost invariably contend with the politics and dynamics of race (frequent collaborator [[Performer~P99175~Spike Lee~spikelee]] once famously described him as a "racial cheerleader"), thespian Roger Guenveur Smith grew up in Berkeley and debuted onscreen in the late '80s. Over the ensuing years, Smith cultivated and sustained a reputation for tackling demanding, challenging, and thought-provoking assignments with immense aplomb. He achieved much of his success thanks to repeated collaborations with [[Performer~P99175~Lee~spikelee]], who cast him as Yoda in the musical [[Feature~V43136~School Daze~schooldaze]] (1988) and Smiley, the hipster street philosopher in [[Feature~V14126~Do the Right Thing~dotherightthing]] (1989); in fact, [[Performer~P99175~Lee~spikelee]] later noted that Smith was the one who devised the idea for the juxtaposed photographs of [[Performer~P38332~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.~martinlutherkingjr]] and [[Performer~P366897~Malcolm X~malcolmx]] in one of [[Feature~V14126~Thing~dotherightthing]]'s pivotal scenes. Meanwhile, Smith remained extremely active in regional theater, both by authoring his own efforts (such as a musical about Christopher Columbus that painted commonly accepted versions of the man's life story as historical revisionism) and by teaching drama to juvenile delinquents.
As the years passed, Smith's onscreen activity crescendoed; he signed for plum roles in such contemporary classics as [[Feature~V27435~King of New York~kingofnewyork]] (1990), [[Feature~V13040~Deep Cover~deepcover]] (1992), and [[Feature~V158663~Eve's Bayou~evesbayou]] (1997), and, significantly, extended his professional relationship with [[Performer~P99175~Lee~spikelee]] to many additional projects. The celebrated director cast Smith in such features as [[Feature~V31012~Malcolm X~malcolmx]] (1992), [[Feature~V136809~Get on the Bus~getonthebus]] (1996), [[Feature~V162469~He Got Game~hegotgame]] (1998), and [[Feature~V180140~Summer of Sam~summerofsam]] (1999), all of which received considerable acclaim. Their actor-director working relationship culminated in the little-seen (but arguably brilliant) [[Feature~V244531~A Huey P. Newton Story~ahueypnewtonstory]] (2001) -- a [[Performer~P99175~Lee~spikelee]]-directed film of Smith's one-man stage show on the life of controversial Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton. The film preserves the original Smith-authored play, and stars the thespian as Newton; [[Performer~P99175~Lee~spikelee]] augments the film with visual pyrotechnics and interpolates archival footage to give the feature depth and dimension. Unfortunately, the project failed to receive even a limited theatrical release, and premiered instead on the Black Starz cable network.
Thereafter, Smith continued his theatrical work (albeit very infrequently) with such plays as the 2003 Iceland, a psychological drama about four unrelated characters that debuted in Philadelphia. He also continued his frequent film roles, with assignments including [[Feature~V288524~Shade~shade]] (2003), [[Feature~V345658~God's Waiting List~godswaitinglist]] (2006), [[Feature~V353437~Confessions of a Call Girl~confessionsofacallgirl]] (2006), and [[Performer~P110579~Ridley Scott~ridleyscott]]'s [[Feature~V358717~American Gangster~americangangster]] (2007). ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi