A longtime actor turned director whose memorable turn as a suicidal drag queen endeared him to viewers of ER in the mid-'90s, Vondie Curtis-Hall would subsequently essay a role on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship as Dr. Dennis Hancock on ER rival series Chicago Hope. Though he would later step behind the camera, Curtis-Hall remained a recognizable fixture on both film and television with appearances in such high-profile films as Die Hard 2 (1990) and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996).
A native of Detroit, Curtis-Hall made his television debut in the short-lived Spenser: For Hire spin-off A Man Called Hawk. Though he had only a vocal role in the 1988 actioner Shakedown, his proper film debut came with a minor role in 1988's Coming to America, followed shortly thereafter with an appearance in director Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train (1989). A series of minor film roles, as well as an appearance in the short-lived television police musical Cop Rock followed, and through the mid-'90s Curtis-Hall's film roles were mostly of supporting status. Shortly after his sympathetic turn as troubled transvestite Roger McGrath on ER, he embarked on a four-year stint as a doctor on Chicago Hope. Simultaneously appearing in supporting roles in Broken Arrow and Heaven's Prisoners (both 1996), his eagerness to get on the other side of the camera would soon get the best of the struggling actor.
Though Curtis-Hall had warmed to the role of director by helming an episode of ER, he was soon putting pen to paper to write a gritty addiction comedy drama about two addicts attempting to kick heroin. A scathing attack on America's healthcare system, Gridlock'd (1997) offered solid performances by Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur and a smart script, but the film was ultimately relegated to obscurity due largely to the fact that its innovative story line proved extremely difficult to market. Though Gridlock'd didn't fare well at the box office, it would prove nowhere near as disastrous as Curtis-Hall's sophomore effort, the Mariah Carey vanity project Glitter (2001). Tanking immediately as it took unrelenting blows from critics and audiences alike, the film's flogging did little to help singer Carey's fragile mental state, let alone boost Curtis-Hall's fledgling directorial career. Undaunted by the failure of Glitter, he nevertheless soldiered on to helm an episode of the short-lived sci-fi television series Firefly the following year.
Back in front of the cameras, the tireless actor/director was in very high demand, and in addition to directing a pair of ER episodes in 2001, Hall made a notable impression as sympathetic transvestite on the long-running medical series. Additional roles on such shows as The Sopranos, Soul Food, LAX, and Law & Order proved that even when his directorial career was on shaky ground, he could always find firm footing on the small screen. In the years that followed it wouldn't appear that Curtis-Hall would be having too many concerns about either aspect of his career though, and after directing Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx in the role of Crips founding father Stan "Tookie" Williams in Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams story in 2004, the increasingly strong director turned his lens towards the action genre with Waist Deep two short years later. An urban Bonnie and Clyde tale for the gangster set, Waist Deep told the tale of an ex-con who, along with his girlfriend, sets out to get his kidnapped son back from a vicious gangster while simultaneously sparking a street war that will seriously diminish the ranks of the ruthless kingpin. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi