- For 10 years, studied acting under Betty Bridges, mother of Diff'rent Strokes star Todd Bridges.
- When she was 13 years old, she had a small role in a play called 227. A year later, she was cast in the role of Brenda Jenkins in the NBC sitcom version of the play.
- In 1991, made film debut in the critically acclaimed Boyz n the Hood. This also marked the beginning of her work with director John Singleton. She would go on to appear in his films Poetic Justice (1993) and Higher Learning (1995).
- In 2004, received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in Ray.
- Has provided the voices for characters in the Cartoon Network series The Boondocks.
- 2018, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie: Winner
- 2015, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or A Movie: Winner
- 2004, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Nominee
- 2015, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Nominee
- 2016, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Nominee
- 2016, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series: Winner
- 2017, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or A Movie: Nominee
- 2017, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series: Nominee
- 2016, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or A Movie: Winner
- Ian Alexander Jr. — Son
- Thomas King — Father
- Malcolm-Jamal Warner — Ex-significant Other
- Ian Alexander Sr — Ex-husband
- Gloria Jean King — Mother
- Ian Alexander Sr. — Ex-husband
- Reina King — Sister
- Ian Alexander, Jr — Son
- Ian Alexander — Son
- Attended University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States