- First thought about becoming an actress when she saw James Earl Jones in a Kennedy Center production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men while on a school trip in 1974.
- Met husband Courtney B. Vance at the Yale Drama School.
- In addition to Boyz N the Hood and her breakout role in 1993's What's Love Got to Do With It, has appeared with Laurence Fishburne in Akeelah and the Bee and a Pasadena Playhouse production of August Wilson's Fences (both in 2006).
- Beat out Halle Berry and Robin Givens for the role of Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It.
- Played Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz, twice: in Spike Lee's Malcolm X and in Mario Van Peebles' Panther.
- Turned down the role in 2001's Monster's Ball for which Halle Berry won an Oscar.
- She and her husband coauthored Friends: A Love Story, a memoir about their relationship and struggle to become parents.
- Was named a UNICEF ambassador in 2003; is also a supporter of the charity Royal Theater's Boys & Girls Club.
- 2002, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Nominee
- 1994, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Winner
- 1993, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Nominee
- 2014, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Nominee
- 2013, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Nominee
- 2001, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Nominee
- D'nette Bassett — Sister
- Betty Bassett — Mother
- Slater Josiah Vance — Son
- Bronwyn Golden Vance — Daughter
- Courtney B. Vance — Husband
- Yale University, New Haven, CT (BS in African-American Studies, 1980); Yale University, School of Drama, New Haven, CT (MFA, 1983)
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