Kimberly Elise
(Sonya Carson)

Award winning and celebrated actress Kimberly Elise, a performer whose eyes seem able to peer directly into the souls of audience members, has garnered notable critical acclaim for her roles in such features as Beloved, The Manchurian Candidate and Diary of a Mad Black Woman.

Elise began acting professionally on the theatrical stages of her native town Minneapolis, and though she graduated from University of Minnesota with a degree in communications, the prospect of becoming an actress full-time was always at the forefront of her intentions. Her dreams became a reality when a short film she wrote and directed served as her entrance into the American Film Institute. The experience of moving to Los Angeles and studying at the prestigious and fiercely competitive school gave Elise all the confidence needed to make a name for herself in Hollywood. Shortly after making her debut in the comedy television series In the House, Elise made the leap to feature films as a down-on-her-luck young mother who participates in a robbery as co-lead in the action drama Set it Off opposite Queen Latifah. Elise made quite an impression with her feature debut, and soon received critical acclaim and a Best Supporting Actress Cable Ace award for her work in The Ditchdigger’s Daughters. Her performance in Beloved opposite Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover shortly thereafter garnered her several awards, including The Chicago Film Critic’s “Most Promising Actress” Award, an NAACP Image Award nomination as well as the Best Supporting Actress Golden Satellite Award. In 2000, Elise stepped into the lead for the made-for-television feature The Loretta Claiborne Story, playing the mentally and physically disabled athlete who made a name for herself by overcoming tremendous odds and becoming a competitor in the Special Olympics. Not only did the film provide an excellent showcase for the versatile young actress, but it was also close to her heart because of her love for sports and respect for people with special needs. Itching to return to the stage, Elise took on the role of Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Upon closing the play, lead roles in Bait with Jamie Foxx and Bojangles with Gregory Hines quickly followed. By the time she appeared in John Q as a financially strained mother whose husband's insurance wouldn't cover their son's heart transplant, Elise had been singled out by many critics to be one of Hollywood's brightest young stars, and her strong performance in the film opposite Denzel Washington only helped to strengthen that sentiment and earn her two more NAACP Image Award nominations. In 2004, Elise would once again appear with Washington in the Jonathon Demme remake The Manchurian Candidate. The provocative story line that spoke to many and the artistic challenge required led her to her next project, the independent film Woman Thou Art Loosed, where her performance earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress and her fourth NAACP Image Award nomination. This was swiftly followed by Elise’s powerhouse lead performance in, Diary of a Mad Black Woman a project to which Elise was drawn for totally different reasons; it was the opportunity to meld her dramatic finesse with her comedic side and to delve into something light and funny yet moving. Following her instinct proved again the right move when, to the critic’s surprise, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, a small independent, opened at number one at the box office and went on to earn nearly 60 million dollars making Elise a rarity - an African American actress able to open a movie at number one. Her performance in Diary of a Mad Black Woman garnered Elise the “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Theatrical Film” BET Comedy Award and the “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” NAACP Image Award. In addition, the 2006 Pan African Film and Arts Festival honored Elise with the “Beah Richards Award” for her outstanding contributions to American film and she was the of Recipient of the 2005 “Rising Star” Black Movie Award. Most recently Elise earned her second NAACP Best Actress Image Award for her portrayal of prosecutor Maureen Scofield on Jerry Bruckheimer’s CBS television show Close To Home. In 2007 Elise starred opposite Terrence Howard in Lion’s Gate film Pride as well as The Great Debaters where she is starred opposite Forest Whitaker with Denzel Washington. This spring, audiences will be able to see Elise’s extraordinary performance in the TNT presentation of Gifted Hands-The Ben Carson Story opposite Cuba Gooding Jr.