Jeffrey Wright is an American actor, best known for playing ‘Felix Leiter’ in ‘James Bond’ films such as ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘Casino Royale.’ Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Jeffrey became interested in performing arts during his late teenage years. Following his high-school graduation, he planned to study law but chose acting instead. He enrolled at the ‘New York University’ to learn acting. He dropped out just 2 months later and began auditioning for film and TV roles. He made his acting debut in 1990, with a small role as an attorney in the film titled ‘Presumed Innocent.’ He also made his TV debut in the early 1990s and appeared in a small role in the series ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.’ He then focused more on his film career and appeared in many notable films in the 1990s, such as ‘Faithful,’ ‘Critical Care,’ and ‘Celebrity.’ He was exposed to wider fame when he appeared as ‘Felix Leiter’ in the 2006 ‘Bond’ film ‘Casino Royale.’ He also appeared in key roles in films such as ‘Source Code’ and ‘Only Lovers Left Alive.’ He also served as a producer for films such as ‘Blackout’ and ‘One Blood.’
Childhood & Early Life
Jeffrey Wright was born on December 7, 1965, in Washington, D.C., US. His father died when he was a year old. Following this, his mother raised him singlehandedly. She worked as a lawyer. However, Jeffrey was also partly raised by his aunt, who worked as a nurse.
He was an athletic kid. Due to the lack of any family connections in Hollywood, he had never even thought about building a career in the field. He wanted to become a lawyer instead, following in his mother’s footsteps. He was also academically brilliant.
He enrolled at ‘St. Albans School’ in Washington, D.C., and played as part of his school’s lacrosse team. He was one of the leading goal-scorers of the team.
Following his high-school graduation, he moved to Amherst, Massachusetts. He then joined ‘Amherst College’ to study political science. Simultaneously, he was also gearing up to make a professional career in lacrosse. However, around his first year in college, he became attracted to acting after participating in a few plays.
He also did part-time jobs when he was in college. An injury had him taking a break from playing lacrosse. Soon, he started focusing more on his passion for acting.
In 1987, following his graduation from ‘Amherst College,’ he thought about entering law school to become a lawyer. However, he opted for acting instead. By then, he had also become a decent actor and earned a scholarship to study at the highly prestigious ‘Tisch School of Arts’ at the ‘New York University.’ Two months after entering the program, he dropped out and began auditioning for TV and film roles.
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Jeffrey started appearing in ‘off-Broadway’ plays in New York City and Washington, D.C., before he appeared in on-screen projects. After auditioning for a while, he made his screen debut with a small role as a prosecuting attorney in the 1990 legal drama ‘Presumed Innocent.’ The film was a big critical and commercial success.
Jeffrey made his TV debut in 1991, playing the supporting role of ‘William Coleman’ in the TV film titled ‘Separate but Equal.’ He then appeared in a small two-episode-long role in the action–adventure series titled ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.’
In 1996, he received a big break when he was cast in a supporting role in the black crime-comedy film titled ‘Faithful.’ However, the film was panned by critics and was also a box-office failure.
The same year, Jeffrey had his first major career breakthrough when he appeared as famous artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in the biographical film titled ‘Basquiat.’ The film was appreciated at many film festivals and also turned out to be a critical success when it was released in theaters. However, the film failed at the box office.
The film’s success had Jeffrey earning better roles in many critically acclaimed films in the late 1990s, such as ‘Ride with the Devil,’ ‘Critical Care,’ and ‘Too Tired to Die.’
In 2001, he received widespread praises for portraying ‘Howard Bingham’ in the biographical film ‘Ali,’ based on boxer Muhammad Ali’s life. Starring Will Smith in the lead role, the film was a huge critical success. However, its box-office performance was not too exciting.
He also played supporting roles in films such as ‘D-Tox,’ ‘Sin’s Kitchen,’ and ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’
In 2005, he appeared in one of the lead roles in the French––American comedy–drama film titled ‘Broken Flowers.’ She delivered critically acclaimed performances in films such as ‘Lady in the Water’ and ‘Cadillac Records.’
In the mid-2000s, he was seen playing the key role of ‘Felix Leiter’ in two ‘James Bond’ films, ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace.’ He will be reprising his role in the upcoming ‘Bond’ film ‘No Time to Die.’
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Additionally, he is also known for playing supporting roles in international blockbuster films such as ‘Source Code’ and ‘The Invasion.’
In 2007, he turned producer with the TV film titled ‘Blackout.’ In 2009, he produced another film, ‘One Blood.’
In the more recent years, he was seen playing the supporting role of ‘Beetee Latier’ in three films from the ‘The Hunger Game’ franchise.
He is also known for his role in the ‘HBO’ miniseries ‘Angels in America.’
Since 2016, he has been playing the supporting role of ‘Bernard Lowe’ in the science-fiction drama series ‘Westworld.’
He has voiced characters in animated movies such as ‘Ernest & Celestine’ and ‘The Good Dinosaur.’
Jeffrey has delivered many critically and commercially acclaimed performances during the course of his career. His best performance to date was perhaps in the ‘off-Broadway’ show and the TV miniseries ‘Angels in America,’ for which he won an ‘Emmy Award,’ a ‘Golden Globe,’ and a ‘Black Reel Award.’
He has also won ‘Black Reel Awards’ for ‘Cadillac Records’ and ‘Lackawanna Blues.’ Additionally, he received a ‘Career Achievement Award’ at the ‘Chicago International Film Festival’ in 2007.
Family & Personal Life
Jeffrey got married to actor Carmen Ejogo in 2000. They had two children before they divorced in 2014.
Jeffrey runs a mining company named ‘Taia Lion Resources.’ The company is focused on finding conflict-free ways of mining in Sierra Leone. He has also been working as an activist, to end the resource-related conflicts.