About the cast
Murder in Mississippi
LYNN WHITFIELD (Victoria)
The George McKenna Story
BORIS KODJOE (Frankie)
LISA ARRINDELL ANDERSON (Vanessa)
MAYA ANGELOU (May)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
ROCHELLE AYTES (Lisa)
KEKE PALMER (Nikki)
CICELY TYSON (Myrtle)
Final cast credits
CAMARA KAMBON (Music Supervisor)
Emmy Award winning composer /producer Camara Kambon has works featured in motion pictures, on network television and cable. Although recognized for writing Mary J. Blige’s #1 hit, ^ , Mr. Kambon has also written with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Xzibit, Macy Gray, just to name a few. He’s composed and produced music for Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Oliver Stone’s, Any Given Sunday, Citizen King and Dreamwork’s Biker Boyz. In addition to his film work, Camara also composed the themes for UPN’s Girlfriends, now in its fifth season and Lion’s Gate Films’ The Cookout featuring Queen Latifah, Danny Glover and Farah Fawcett.
Mr. Kambon received a BA degree with honors from Berklee College of Music’s prestigious Film Scoring and music production/engineering program. During high school, in Baltimore he earned an advanced diploma in jazz piano, classical piano and musical theory at the Peabody Preparatory, attended the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC, and the Walden School for Young Composers in Dublin, NH. Camara has performed professionally since age 12, including appearances with Dizzy Gillespie, Roberta Flack, Roy Hargrove, Will Downing, Dennis Chambers and Chuck Rainey.
BLAIR UNDERWOOD (Carlos)
Blair Underwood is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, and director.
He next stars in the romantic comedy “Something New” (February 3, 2006). His other feature film credits include Steven Soderbergh’s ^ (opposite Julia Roberts); William Friedkin’s Rules of Engagement (for which he won an NAACP Image Award); Mimi Leder’s blockbuster Deep Impact; F. Gary Gray’s Set It Off; Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca; Mario Van Peebles’ Posse; Arne Glimcher’s Just Cause (opposite Sean Connery).
Underwood also starred in and produced the independent film How Did It Feel?, which Daniel Faraldo adapted and directed from his play; and plans to star in and produce the supernatural thriller My Soul to Keep. His earlier filmmaking credits include writing, executive-producing, and directing The Second Coming, a short film in which he portrayed Jesus Christ returning to Earth; and producing and starring in the independent feature Asunder (directed by Tim Reid) and the short film Sister, I’m Sorry (directed by his brother, Frank Underwood). He has also directed several music videos.
Among Underwood’s series television work is a memorable recurring role opposite Cynthia Nixon on Sex and the City and his current star turn as the lead voice of the hit animated series Fatherhood (based on Bill Cosby’s book of the same name).
He has starred in several notable telefilms and miniseries. These include Roger Young’s ^ , for which he was honored with an NAACP Image Award for portraying real-life slain civil rights worker James Chaney; Mama Flora’s Family, for which he won an NAACP Image Award, directed by Peter Werner and based on Alex Haley’s book of the same name; Kevin Hooks’ award-winning Heat Wave; and Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s Soul of the Game, in which he starred as sports legend Jackie Robinson.
Underwood’s many stage credits include ^ ; Measure for Measure, at the New York Shakespeare Festival; Purlie, as part of City Center’s famed Encores! Series; and the one-man show IM4: From the Mountaintop to Hip Hop.
He recently had his nonfiction book Before I Got Here published. It is a collection of parents’ stories and anecdotes speaking to the existence of a child’s soul prior to birth.
Underwood is also among the founding members of ANSA (Artists for a New South Africa) in 1989.
Celebrated for her award winning portrayal of the world’s first black international star, Josephine Baker, in “The Josephine Baker Story” (1991), Lynn Whitfield has enjoyed a busy career in film, television, and theatre since beginning acting in the early 1980s.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lynn Whitfield admired Audrey Hepburn and Bette Davis as a child. After earning her bachelor’s degree at Howard University, she appeared in off-Broadway productions in New York City. In the early 1980s, Whitfield received early acclaim for her role on stage in Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.”
Throughout the next few years, Whitfield maintained an active career in films and television. She appeared with Denzel Washington in ^ , (1986) and co-starred with Oprah Winfrey in the acclaimed miniseries, “The Women of Brewster Place” (1989). Her feature film roles included parts in The Slugger’s Wife (1985) and Dead Aim (1990).
1991 catapulted Lynn Whitfield to fame with her Emmy award winning performance in “The Josephine Baker Story.” Whitfield won the highly publicized search for the role of Baker, beating out more than 500 women worldwide. The competition rivaled that of the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She also received an NAACP Image Award in 1992 for her role in the drama series, “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” Whitfield has since appeared in the Martin Lawrence comedy A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, the ABC miniseries, “The Wedding” (1998), and the film Eve’s Bayou. Most recently Whitfield appeared in the film, Head of State (2003), with actors Chris Rock and Bernie Mac and Redemption with Jamie Foxx a film chronicling the life “The Crips,” (a Los Angeles street gang) founder Stan "Tookie" Williams.
Boris Kodjoe, was born in Vienna, Austria, to Ursula Kodjoe, a psychologist from Germany, and Eric Kodjoe, a physician from Ghana, West Africa. He grew up in Germany with brother Patrick and sister Nadja, where he went to school and where his parents exposed him to athletics and the arts early in his life. He became one of the best tennis players in the country and was amongst the top ten junior players in the world. In the fall of 1992 he accepted a Tennis scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
While studying in Richmond, he was approached by an agent of the Ford Modeling agency in New York, but went on to earn his marketing degree in May of 1996. After graduation in June, he joined Ford in New York and his career skyrocketed immediately when he booked twelve campaigns such as Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent, the GAP, within the first seven months. He worked with photographers like Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Mathew Rolston, and Marco Glaviano for all the major publications, such as Vogue, GQ, and Esquire, making him one of the few recognizable faces amongst male Supermodels. Boris' impressive track record was awarded with a Supermodel Award at the Fall '98 fashion shows.
Hollywood soon took notice in Boris. While studying with acting coach Janet Alhanti, he started guest starring on such sitcoms as "Steve Harvey" and "For Your Love", and he was featured in the Spike Lee produced feature film "Love and Basketball", starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.
Soon he was starring in "Brown Sugar", a film also starring Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, and Nicole Ari Parker (for which he was nominated for an NAACP Award for the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture) and in the Showtime series “Soul Food.” The roles prompted an instant onslaught of scripts from all major studios. He also starred in the feature film "The Playmaker", then sold a pitch, named "Papa was…", to Fox Searchlight. ‘Papa was..’ is currently in development. He also wrote and sold a Reality TV show, named "Undercover", to VH1.
In April 2004, Boris starred in the Sony/Screen Gems produced "Hard Time.” He then produced and starred, alongside Nicole Parker, in the Paramount/UPN pilot "Second Time Around." 2005 brought a starring role in “The Gospel.”
Lisa Arrindell Anderson was born and raised in New York City where she attended the exclusive High School of the Performing Arts and The Julliard School. Anderson also participated in the Alvin Ailey dance program, where she had a scholarship for six years.
One of Hollywood’s rising talents with a busy career in film and television, she is poised for a breakthrough year with starring roles in two diverse, high-profile film projects, scheduled for release in early 2006. Along with TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION, Anderson will appear as the female lead in the drama, THE SECOND CHANCE, the feature film debut of Christian music icon Michael W. Smith, which is scheduled for a February 17, 2006, release by Sony Pictures Classics.
Anderson’s previous credits include a starring role in the CBS telefilm “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” opposite Audra MacDonald, Diahann Carroll and Ruby Dee. Based on the book Having Our Say, written by New York Times journalist Amy Hill Hearth (adapted as a Broadway play that earned three TONY nominations), the film followed the inspirational lives of sisters Sadie and Bessie Delany, who lived well beyond the age of 100 after having built successful careers at a time when most women, and most African Americans, were being denied opportunities.
In addition, Anderson starred opposite Don Cheadle as ‘Vivian Baptiste,’ in HBO’s Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie, “A Lesson Before Dying,” based on the Ernest J. Gaines best-selling novel about ‘Jefferson,’ a young, wrongly accused black male who is put on death row for murder.
Anderson’s feature film credits include “Clockers,” “Trial by Jury,” “Livin’ Large,” and “One Good Cop.” Television credits include guest-starring roles on numerous series including “The Practice,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Cosby Show,” “In the House,” and recurring roles in the daytime dramas “As the World Turns” and “One Life to Live.”
In her spare time, Anderson enjoys reading, home decorating, cooking, jogging and playing with her two children.
Dr. Maya Angelou is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. A remarkable Renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou is a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. She captivates her audiences lyrically with vigor, fire and perception, and possesses the unique ability to shatter the opaque prisms of race and class between reader and subject throughout her books of poetry and her autobiographies.
Dr. Angelou has authored numerous best-selling books, including ^ , Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Even The Stars Look Lonesome and Hallelujah, The Welcome Table.
In 1981, Dr. Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
Personally selected by President Bill Clinton, Dr. Maya Angelou became only the second poet in U.S. history to have the honor of writing and reciting an original work at the Presidential Inauguration where she delivered her dedicatory poem "On The Pulse of Morning" at the inaugural ceremony on January, 20 1993. She most recently visited the White House once again when, on December 1, 2005, she delivered her poem, “Amazing Peace” at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House.
Dr. Angelou continues to travel the world making appearances on college campuses, spreading her legendary wisdom to America’s future. A passionate and powerful speaker, Dr. Angelou challenges her audiences to invest their spirits and hearts in the elevation of the human condition. Considered one of our national treasures, her life represents the value of ethnic, economic and religious diversity in all undertakings. With compassion and candor, Dr. Angelou's works speak to the heart, encouraging us to love life, to persevere through its challenges and to share our gifts with others.
Rocehlle Aytes is quickly establishing herself as one of Hollywood’s brightest starlets with an impressive film and television career on the rise. Her ability to transition from theater to television to film is flawless and has given her the added boost to take her to the next level.
In 2004 she made her summer she made her big screen debut in a leading role playing the love interest of Shawn Wayans in the hit comedy ^ . Aytes plays “Denise” a reporter for Hamptons Magazine who gets caught up in the confusion of two FBI agents (Marlon and Shawn Wayans) who dress up in drag in order to protect “the Wilton Sisters” from being kidnapped. The film was directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. Recently Rochelle shot guest leads My Wife & Kids, for ABC, and in FOX’s Johnny Zero, for acclaimed director, Mimi Leder. She also just booked a lead in the horror film “Primal Scream” for “Purple Rain” director, Albert Magnoli.
A native of New York, Aytes’ first love was ballet. As a trained ballet dancer, Aytes appeared with Ballet Hispanico as well as the national tour and Broadway cast of Aida. Fueled by her growing passion to pursue acting, she quickly built up an impressive commercial resume by appearing in the advertising campaigns for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, L’Oreal and Mercedes Benz, to name a few. This past year, she was also featured in the campaigns for Dasani, Tylenol, Gillette, Johnson & Johnson, Heineken and Burger King.
But Aytes hardly put on the brakes at that point. She landed a guest starring role on the HBO series “Sex & The City,” and then moved to Los Angeles to land her role in ^ . Aytes has hit the ground running and has not looked back.
Rochelle currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
JENIFER LEWIS (Milay Jenay Lori)
Jenifer Lewis stars as Lana Hawkins, the no-nonsense receptionist who keeps order amidst the chaos in the clinic, in Sony Pictures Television’s hit drama series “Strong Medicine” for Lifetime. Lewis’ talent to captivate an audience stems from her incredibly versatile voice, her bawdy, well-developed sense of humor and her powerful acting performances.
Born on January 25, in St. Louis, Missouri, Lewis was the youngest of 7 children. After graduating from Webster College, she followed her heart and packed her bags for New York City. Once there, it wasn’t long before her gifted voice and talent as an actress were instantly noticed and put to use in consecutive hit Broadway musicals including “Eubie,” “Comin’ Uptown,” and “Dreamgirls.” Lewis has also performed in City Center Encores! Presentation of Neil Simon’s musical “Promises, Promises,” but it was her tour with Bette Midler as an infamous Harlotte that got Hollywood calling.
It wasn’t long before she began making her mark in Hollywood as well, garnering two Image Award nominations as Best Supporting Actress for her brilliant performances in the Tina Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” portraying Turner’s mother, Zelma Bullock, and in the romantic comedy, “The Preacher’s Wife,” with Denzel Washington, both of which earning her the endearing title of “The Black Mother of Hollywood”.
Since her arrival in Los Angeles, Lewis has appeared in over 45 feature films and over 65 Television dramas/sitcoms, displaying her talented versatility as both a dramatic actress and comedic star. Her film work includes “The Antwone Fisher Story” directed by Denzel Washington, “Corinna Corinna” with Whoopi Goldberg, “The Mighty”, “Renaissance Man”, Sister Act I & II”, “Dead Presidents” , “Blast From the Past”, “The Brothers”, “Mystery Men”, and “Poetic Justice” and “Castaway” with Tom Hanks. She‘s lent her voice to such animated features as “Shark Tales” and will soon be heard as “Flo” in Pixar’s new animation film “Cars.”
In television, critics praised her for her role as the controversial lesbian Judge Rosetta Reide in the CBS television series “Courthouse,” but it was her unforgettable role as “Jackie Washington” in Lifetime Television’s “Jackie’s Back!” that gave her a cult following recognizing her as a genuine ‘Diva’ and an Icon. Her television credits include starring roles in such hit shows as “The Temptations”, “Friends”, “Touched By An Angel”, “The Cosby Show” “Murphy Brown”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Girlfriends”.
Lewis has had the added distinction of being Johnny Carson’s final guest with her friend Bette Midler on the historic final taping of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” Lewis resides in Los Angeles with her adopted daughter Charmaine and is a relentless supporter and activist for Breast Cancer and HIV/Aids research.
It is rumored Lewis’ first words at birth were ‘It’s showtime”!
Keke Palmer is an actress/singer who won a small role in the feature film BARBERSHOP 2 – BACK IN BUSINESS at the tender age of nine. The role of “Gina's Niece,” though small, was significant in the movie because “Gina” was none other that the sensational Queen Latifah. Keke more than held her own against the likes of comic Cedric the Entertainer--arguably she stole the scene!
That role led to a series of guest-starring roles on television shows like “Strong Medicine,” “Cold Case,” “ER,” and “Law & Order.” Keke later went on to star in an Emmy-nominated made for TV movie entitled, “The Wool Cap,” where she worked alongside one of her favorite actors William H. Macy. Her amazing performance in “The Wool Cap” was so remarkable that it earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Nomination in the Best Leading Actress category. Her fellow nominees? None other than Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Glenn Close and Patricia Heaton. Close went on to take home the statue. But Keke was a winner that night too, becoming the youngest actor to ever be nominated by the Guild in a Lead Actor Category. Pretty impressive for a kid who had only been acting for one year!
Recently, Keke had the pleasure of co-starring in the made for television movie, “Knights of the South Bronx” with former “Cheers” star Ted Danson. In less than two years, Keke has done several national commercials, made-for-TV movies and television guest starring appearances; shot a pilot for her own show on Disney Channel, “Keke & Jamal;” and wrapped not one but two Lionsgate films—AKEELAH AND THE BEE starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, and MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION.
Keke is also an accomplished singer/songwriter and just recently signed a major recording contract with Atlantic Records. Although she had offers from three other major labels, Keke felt strongly that Atlantic was the right place for her, after all, it is the label that launched the careers of legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. At the age of twelve, Keke has a long way to go, but no one can argue the fact that she is off to a fantastic start!
Cicely Tyson’s life and career tell a story of personal excellence and profound choices. She is perhaps best known for her performances in roles that not only challenge universal stereotypes, but also raise the consciousness of audiences to our common humanity. This she consciously set out to do in groundbreaking award winning films and television dramas.
In 1962, she became the first black actress to co-star in a television drama series, EAST SIDE – WEST SIDE. It was in the role of George C. Scott’s secretary, Jane, that Ms. Tyson set the “natural trend” by daring to wear he hair in its natural state and in so doing challenged the soul of African Americans to recognize the beauty in their own hair. In the role of Rebecca, her character in the feature film SOUNDER, for which she received an Oscar nomination, she once again validated African American beauty by wearing her hair in cornrow fashion.
A gifted actress, she represents success without compromise. She has been noted as being serious, soul stirring, powerful and majestic with extraordinary range. Over the span of her career, she has defied stereotypes. She sets standards and makes others rise to them. She is self-assured, knowing, and perceptive and has been credited by critics as having helped shape and elevate an entire generation.
All of these attributes have lead to her award winning career. Ms. Tyson has received numerous Emmy nominations and received an Emmy for her performance in the role of Castalia in THE OLDEST CONFEDERATE WIDOW TELLS ALL, an Ace award for the TV DOCUDRAMA on Watts, HEATWAVE and holds an unprecedented two Emmys for her performance as Jane, the title character in THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN.
Among some of her other awarded films are, A WOMAN CALLED MOSES, THE MARVA COLLINS STORY, THE WOMAN OF BREWSTER PLACE, BLESSED ASSURANCE, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, KING, MAMA FLORA’S FAMILY and A LESSON BEFORE DYING, based on the novel written by Ernest Gaines. Additional recognition of her talent have come from THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN, PUSH, SOLO, CORE, THE MARTIN LUTHER KING CENTER and a record thirteen Image awards from the NAACP.
Ms. Tyson has served as World Ambassador for UNICEF, calling her attention to the plight of children throughout the world and is currently involved with Save The Children. Along with Arthur Mitchell, its artistic director and actor Brock Peters, Cicely Tyson co-founded The Dance Theater of Harlem. She also co-chaired the first and second National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta with Harry Belafonte.
On the occasion of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Mandela’s first visit to America, Cicely Tyson served as Mistress of Ceremony for the tribute to Winnie Mandela held at BAM and was asked by Mayor Bradley to speak at the Tribute to Nelson Mandela in Los Angeles.
At the 1988 economic summit of world leaders in Texas, Ms. Tyson was selected by President Bush, Sr. to serve as Mistress of Ceremony. She was invited by President Carter to perform for President Shagari of Nigeria at a White House dinner and has served on the Kennedy Center Honors Board since his administration.
In 1994, Cicely Tyson co-starred in the TV drama series SWEET JUSTICE and received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 21, 1997.
In 2001, Ms. Tyson was called upon to serve as Mistress of Ceremony for President Clinton’s “Welcome to Harlem.” She also served as Emcee for the Democratic National Committee’s “A Night at the Apollo” fund raiser for voter registration.
In 2003, Cicely Tyson was appointed Commissioner by President George W. Bush, and acknowledged as a driving force in creating the National Museum of African History and Culture which will be located in Washington, D.C.
Her deep concern for young people led her to set aside one month out of the year to communicate with them on campuses, in churches and other organizations across the country. On November 3, 1996, the New Jersey Board of Education unanimously voted to change the name of a public middle school to the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts. Within a year it was expanded to a high school. The school located in East Orange, N.J., has a student body close to 800 primarily underprivileged students. Among her many accolades, Ms. Tyson acknowledges this to be one of the most meaningful and is involved in many aspects of the students’ education.
Ms. Tyson believes that in an age of brokenness, self-aggrandizement, polarization and the increasing breakdown of family life, that each one of us is an embodiment of an indomitable life giving spirit and must be involved in some voluntary capacity ministering to the lives of those less fortunate than others. In this regard, over the years, she has solicited, collected and distributed clothing, food and toys to homes and shelters in the New York and New Jersey areas. In January, 2005, she visited Phuket, Thailand, to assist in the planning and rebuilding of an elementary school that was devastated by the Tsunami.
Cicely Tyson is a founding member of CHAA (Coalition for a Healthy and Active America), FuturePac, an organization dedicated to raising funds to support women with political aspirations, and spokesperson for the anti-smoking organization the American Legacy Foundation.
Ms Tyson’s latest works “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and “Because of Winn-Dixie” debuted in first and third place on the list of highest grossing movies of the week.