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.
1994, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Winner
2002, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Nominee
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
2015, Directors Guild of America Awards — Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series: Nominee
2017, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Nominee
2018, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Winner
2015, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or A Movie: Nominee
2019, Emmy — Outstanding Narrator: Nominee
2020, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Nominee
2020, Emmy — Outstanding Narrator: Nominee
2001, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Nominee
Betty Bassett — Mother
Slater Josiah Vance — Son
Bronwyn Golden Vance — Daughter
D'nette Bassett — Sister
Courtney B. Vance — Husband
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States (BS in African-American Studies, 1980); Yale University, School of Drama, New Haven, Connecticut, United States (MFA, 1983)