A versatile actress, Taylor began her acting career in college after she was offered a part on the CBS made-for-TV movie Crisis at Central High. From there, her success took off and she found herself enjoying a prolific creative life. In the '80s, she honed her craft off-Broadway and on Broadway, with performances in productions of As You Like It, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. While pursuing theater gigs, she made her film debut with a small role as a parent in the Morgan Freeman drama Lean on Me. In the '90s, she made an impression with her pivotal role as a conflicted nanny on the critically acclaimed Civil Rights-era drama I'll Fly Away, earning Golden Globe and Emmy nods for her lauded performance. The silver screen also beckoned, and after a small role in the custody drama Losing Isaiah, she played domestic characters in the crime drama The Keeper, the military drama Courage Under Fire, and the drama A Family Thing. Meanwhile, she continued to write and saw a pair of one-act plays, Watermelon Rinds and Jeanine’s Diary, produced by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, the start of a dynamic playwriting career. In the ‘00s, she focused her attention mainly on the stage, churning out Crowns, Drowning Crow, A Night in Tunisia, Oo-Bla-Dee and The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove. Though her focus was on theater, she remained on TV with supporting roles as a college president on the short-lived CBS series The Education of Max Bickford and then as a supportive wife of a military man on CBS’s The Unit. In 2009, her play, Magnolia, premiered at the famed Goodman Theater in Chicago, where she served as part of the Goodman Artistic Collective. A year later, she wrote Rain, about an emotional homecoming, and then took to the small screen as an FBI agent helping to locate a missing child on the Lifetime made-for-TV movie Who is Clark Rockefeller? When not busy writing and performing, she pursues various creative endeavors and avidly supports the nonprofits Soldiers’ Angel and the Jenesse Center.
- Intended to become a journalist, but switched her focus to theater after taking her first acting class in college.
- Landed her first professional acting job while still a college student in the TV-movie Crisis at Central High (1981).
- Was the first black woman to play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway.
- An artistic associate of the famed Goodman Theater in Chicago, she has written a number of plays including Oo-Bla-Dee, A Night in Tunisia, Escape from Paradise, Watermelon Rinds, Inside the Belly of the Beast,Crowns, The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, and the Broadway show, Drowning Crow, her adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.
- In 2000, her play, Oo-Bla-Dee, won the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award.
- Her musical, Crowns, was the most performed musical in the country in 2006.
- In 2009, she premiered her play, Magnolia, at the famed Goodman Theater in Chicago.
- 1993, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama: Winner
- 1992, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Nominee
- 1993, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Nominee
- Leannell 'Nell' Taylor — Mother
- Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, United States (1981)
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