Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 9, 1979, in New York City, Rosario Dawson is the daughter of Isabel Celeste and Patrick C. Harris. Isabel, who is a writer and singer of Puerto Rican and Cuban ancestry, gave birth to Rosario when she was 16 years old.
Her mother later married construction worker Greg Dawson, who not only gave Rosario his name but also raised her as his own daughter. She has a younger half-brother named Clay.
When Rosario was five years old, her mother decided to settle the family in an abandoned building, a squat on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She, along with her husband, renovated one of the apartments as well as fixed the plumbing and electric wiring for the building.
As a result, they created their own affordable housing where they could raise their children. According to Dawson, that incident taught her the valuable life lesson that "if you wanted something better, you had to do it all yourself.”
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Rosario Dawson made her first television appearance in an episode of the educational children's television series, ‘Sesame Street’. When she was 15 years old, photographer Larry Clark and filmmaker Harmony Korine saw her on her front-porch step. They approached her and told her that she would be perfect for a part in Korine’s next film.
In 1995, Dawson made her debut in the independent coming-of-age drama ‘Kids.’ It attracted a massive controversy upon its release with many critics labelling it exploitive, bordering on child pornography.
In 1997, she worked in the short film ‘Girls’ Night Out’ and a year later, she got the opportunity to share screen space with Denzel Washington in ‘He Got Game’. This was also her first collaboration with the acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee.
In 1998, she also worked with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory in their comedy-drama ‘Side Streets’. In the next few years, she appeared in several small films that were not commercially successful.
Dawson played Will Smith’s love interest, Laura Vasquez, in ‘Men in Black II,’ a science fiction action comedy released in 2002. The second instalment in the ‘Men in Black’ film series, the movie also starred Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Johnny Knoxville. This was Dawson’s first box office success. Made on a $140 million budget, the film garnered $441.8 million. It helped Dawson find a solid footing in the industry.
She also appeared in the critically acclaimed drama film ‘25th Hour’ in 2002. This was her second collaboration with Spike Lee. The film also starred Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Barry Pepper and was a critical and commercial success. It is often regarded as one of the best films of the decade.
In the 2003 biographical crime thriller, ‘Shattered Glass’, Dawson was cast as Andy Fox. Based on a September 1998 Vanity Fair article by H. G. Bissinger, the film revolves around the fast rise and the sharp fall of Stephen Glass' (Hayden Christensen) journalistic career at ‘The New Republic’ in the mid-1990s. While the film was a box-office failure, it earned rave reviews from the critics.
Her next major film was the 2004 historical epic ‘Alexander’, in which she portrayed the Sogdian princess Roxana, who became the wife of Alexander, the Great. The movie was a box office disappointment and it failed to impress the critics as well. While the film was praised for historical accuracy by western historians, their eastern counterparts were much less forgiving.
Dawson portrayed Gail, the leader of the prostitutes and the love interest of Clive Owen’s character, Dwight McCarthy, in the 2005 neo-noir crime anthology film ‘Sin City.’ Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the movie is based on Miller’s graphic novel of the same name.
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‘Sin City’ premiered on March 28, 2005, at Mann National Theater to substantial critical and commercial success. Critics praised the film for its innovative visual style and special effects. Dawson reprised the role in the film’s 2014 sequel, ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.’
One of Dawson’s most memorable roles is of Becky Scott in Kevin Smith’s 2006 comedy ‘Clerks II’. Smith introduces several stylistic changes in the sequel, for instance, it was shot in colour whereas the 1994 original was shot in black-and-white. However, like the original, ‘Clerks II’ has gained cult status since its release.
Dawson starred and produced the 2007 thriller ‘Descent’. This is the first film she ever produced. In 2008, she worked with Will Smith once more in the commercially successful film ‘Seven Pounds’.
She lent her voice to the comic book character Artemis in the animated film ‘Wonder Woman’ (2009). She would later provide the voice for Wonder Woman/Diana Prince herself in ‘Justice League: Throne of Atlantis’ (2015), ‘Justice League vs. Teen Titans’ (2016), ‘Justice League Dark’ (2017), and the upcoming ‘The Death of Superman’.
In Tony Scott’s disaster thriller ‘Unstoppable’ (2010), she was cast as railway yardmaster Connie Hooper. In 2011, she was part of the ensemble comedy film ‘Girl Walks into a Bar’, which was produced exclusively for online distribution.
She starred opposite Kevin James in ‘Zookeeper’ (2011) and Channing Tatum in ‘10 Years’ (2011). Dawson portrayed Mexican-American labour leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta in the 2014 Mexican-American biographical film ‘César Chávez’. She also appeared in Chris Rock’s 2014 directorial venture ‘Top Five’.
In the recent years, she has provided the voice for Elaris in the 2016 3D computer animated science fiction film ‘Ratchet & Clank’ and played the eponymous character in William H. Macy’s 2017 coming-of-age comedy-drama ‘Krystal’. She is set to appear in the romantic comedy ‘Someone Great’ which is slated for a 2019 release.
Dawson made her small screen debut as a voice-over artist on ‘Robot Chicken’ in 2007. A year later, she appeared in 50 episodes of the web series ‘Gemini Division’. She hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 2009 and acted in a telefilm called ‘Five’ in 2011. In 2018, she joined the cast of the CW’s comedy-drama television series ‘Jane the Virgin’.
Since 2015, Dawson has been playing Claire Temple in Marvel/Netflix TV shows. She first joined the cast of ‘Daredevil’ that year.
In May 2015, she signed a deal with Marvel that granted her the chance to appear on any Marvel show. Since then, Dawson has been part the main cast of all four Marvel shows on Netflix: ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Jessica Jones’, ‘Luke Cage’, and ‘Iron Fist’. She has also appeared in the 2017 miniseries ‘The Defenders’.