In the late 1990s, Ealy started his career by appearing in a number of ‘off-Broadway’ stage productions. He appeared in the films such as ‘Killing Jessica Stein’ and ‘Bad Company’ in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
In 2002, He was offered to play the role of a reformed street thug ‘Ricky Nash’ in the American comedy film ‘Barbershop.’ This was his breakthrough role. The film revolved around the social life in a barbershop in Chicago. In 2004, he reprised the role of ‘Nash’ in the sequel, ‘Barbershop 2: Back in Business.’
In 2003, Ealy played the role of ‘Slap Jack’ in the second installment of the ‘Fast and the Furious’ film series, ‘2 Fast 2 Furious.’ In the movie, Ealy appeared as a street racer driving a gold ‘Toyota Supra.’
Later, in 2004, Ealy appeared in the crime thriller ‘Never Die Alone,’ with American rapper and actor Earl Simmons, professionally known as “DMX.” The movie featured Ealy in the role of a drug dealer’s henchman.
In 2005, he appeared in Maria Carey’s hit single video ‘Get Your Number’ from the album ‘The Emancipation of Mimi.’ Ealy played Carey’s love interest in the song.
The same year, Ealy co-starred in an ‘ABC’ telefilm series named ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ produced by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones and starring ‘Academy Award’-winner Halle Berry. It was based on Zora Neale Hurston's novel of the same name. He also starred in the independent film ‘Jellysmoke,’ directed by Mark Banning, and the ‘Showtime’ TV series ‘Sleeper Cell’ and ‘Sleeper Cell: American Terror.’
On December 14, 2006, Ealy was nominated for a ‘Golden Globe Award’ in the category ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television’ for his role in ‘Sleeper Cell: American Terror.’ The series featured Ealy in the role of an undercover federal agent spying on a group of Islamic extremist terrorists in Los Angeles.
In December 2008, he was featured in the American drama film ‘Seven Pounds,’ alongside Will Smith. The same year, he appeared as the male lead in Beyoncé's music video ‘Halo’ and as ‘CIA Field Officer Marshall Vogel’ in the ‘ABC’ TV series ‘FlashForward.’
In 2009, Ealy appeared in an American documentary feature film named ‘The People Speak.’ The film focussed on issues such as equality and justice in the US.
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In 2010, he starred in the action thriller ‘Takers’ and in the drama ‘For Colored Girls.’ The same year, Ealy was signed on to play an attorney, ‘Derrick Bond,’ in the American legal and political drama TV series ‘The Good Wife.’
In 2012, Ealy appeared as ‘Dominic’ in the ensemble romantic comedy titled ‘Think Like a Man.’ The same year, he also starred as ‘Papa Joe’ in the inspirational film ‘Unconditional.’
In 2013, he played the co-lead, ‘Dorian,’ in the ‘Fox’ futuristic TV series ‘Almost Human.’ Ealy’s character, ‘Dorian,’ was an old ‘DRN’ android model considered to be less reliable due to its artificial emotions and responsible for protecting his partner, ‘John Kennex,’ played by Karl Urban. The show ran for one season on ‘Fox,’ from 2013 to 2014.
In 2014, Ealy again appeared as ‘Dominic’ in the sequel, ‘Think Like a Man Too.’ The same year, he starred opposite Kevin Hart in the remake of the romantic comedy ‘About Last Night.’
In 2015, he played the role of a serial killer named ‘Theo’ in season 3 of the ‘Fox’ TV series ‘The Following.’ The same year, he appeared in the American romantic thriller film ‘The Perfect Guy.’ He starred as ‘Eric Warner’ in the second season of the ‘ABC’ mystery crime series ‘Secrets and Lies,’ which aired in the fall of 2016.
In 2017, Ealy starred in the fourth season of the American drama TV series ‘Being Mary Jane,’ opposite Gabrielle Union.
Ealy’s upcoming projects include the thrillers ‘The Intruder’ and ‘Fatale,’ both directed by Deon Taylor. In ‘Fatale,’ Ealy will play a married man tricked into a murder scheme by a seductive police detective, played by ‘Hillary Swank.’ Both the movies are scheduled to release in 2019.