Lynn Whitfield (née Butler-Smith) is an American actress and producer born on February 8th, 1953. Her acting career began on television and theatre before progressing to supportive roles in film.
Lynn Whitfield Career Details
She earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. Her performance as Josephine Baker in the HBO biographical drama film The Josephine Baker Story (1991) earned her a nomination for Golden Globe Award. Josephine Baker Story revolutionary leading roles and was a big break for Lynn. In the 1990s, she had several lead roles in a number of television movies and in films. They include in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996), Gone Fishin’ (1997), Eve’s Bayou (1997), Stepmom (1998), Head of State (2003), Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) and The Women (2008). Whitfield also featured in a number of smaller movies in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2016, she began starring as wicked Lady Mae Greenleaf in the Greenleaf, a drama series in the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Let’s for a moment have a peep on the 1991’s Josephine Baker Story. This movie portrays an American who became a Folies Bergère star, a civil rights activist and a French Resistance fighter during World War II. The HBO films required an actress aged 18 to 68. Whitefield was selected over other hundreds of women in the auditions casting hall. In the film, she appeared nude on-screen. According to Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly, Whitfield is an outstanding legendary singer and dancer who emblemed into fame in the 20s for her throaty singing with her famed ‘banana dance.’ The great audacity exhibited by Whitfield though wearing nothing except a skirt of real bananas earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her role. According to Whitfield, it gave her the utmost sense of success and understanding of her vision. It called for all she believed she could do at that point. She was also awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film nomination and won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
In 1981, Whitfield made her professional debut on the screens in the NBC’s serial drama, Hill Street Blues as Jill Thomas. In 1983, she played the supporting role of Thelma Cleland in Doctor Detroit, a comedy film. She later co-starred other films including; The Slugger’s Wife, Silverado and Jaws: The Revenge. She also starred in the television films; The George McKenna Story with Denzel Washington, Johnnie Mae Gibson and in FBI as a title character.
Whitefield contributed in the ABC’s The Women of Brewster Place alongside Oprah Winfrey and Cicely Tyson. In 1988, Whitefield alongside Kate Mulgrew, Laura Johnson and Gail Strickland were a regular cast members in Heart Beat, a brief ABC female-driven medical drama series. After her big break as ‘Josephine Baker,’ Whitfield had the featured recurrently in Equal Justice, ABC legal drama featuring Joe Morton. She has starred in various customized television movies including A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story in 1991, Stompin’ at the Savoy with Vanessa L. Williams, Jasmine Guy, and Vanessa Bell Calloway in 1992, Taking the Heat with Tony Goldwyn in 1993, State of Emergency with Joe Mantegna in 1994, Sophie and the Moon hanger in 1996, The Wedding as Halle Berry’s mother and The Color of Courage alongside Linda Hamilton in 1998 and Deep in My Heart featuring Anne Bancroft in 1999.
From 1994 to 1995, Whitefield featured on The Cosby Mysteries, a transitory detective series in NBC, and later starred as a guest on Martin and Touched by an Angel. In 1996, Whitfield was cast as a female lead opposite Martin Lawrence in A Thin Line between Love and Hate, a dark romantic comedy film. Lawrence was 12 years younger than Whitfield, who was then 42 at the time of filming. The film made over $35 million against a budget of $8 million.
In 1997, she co-starred opposite Danny Glover and Rosanna Arquette in Gone Fishin’, comedy film. She featured in The Planet of Junior Brown Canadian drama in supporting role. Whitefield as well played the role of mother of Jurnee Smollett’s in Eve’s Bayou, a celebrated drama show. In 1998, Whitfield participated in the drama film Stepmom, in a supportive role of an oncologist.
2000s – Present: Whitfield on the set of Curveball, in 2014
In the 2000s, Whitfield had recurring roles on Boston Public and Without a Trace in addition to numerous other supporting roles on television and film. In 2003, she co-starred Head of State, a Chris Rock’s comedy film. In 2006, she featured in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion. In 2008, Whitfield appeared in The Women, The Rebound in 2009 and Mama, I Want to Sing in 2011. She more so had various roles in a low-profile B-Movies. Whitfield also featured in Disney Channel films including the two seasons of The Cheetah Girls as Dorothea Garibaldi.
From 2014 to 2015, she featured in How to Get Away with Murder, ABC’s legal drama. She played the role of the wicked Mary Walker. Whitfield had the recurring role on Hit the Floor and in Mistresses as April’s (Rochelle Aytes) abusive mother.
In 2015, Whitfield starred as the main villain in Greenleaf a scripted drama series in the Oprah Winfrey Network. Greenleaf is a story about unscrupulous world of the Greenleaf family and their straggly Memphis mega church. Whitfield plays the leading role of Lady Mae Greenleaf, the dictatorial Minister’s wife full of power and money hungry mama of the family. Some of the stars featuring in the Greenleaf series include Oprah Winfrey, Keith David, Merle Dandridge and Kim Hawthorne. Whitfield’s performance as Lady Mae has received positive reactions from her critiques. One critic stated “Whitfield has the superior sensation of a grand soap opera singer in the pattern of Joan Collins.”
Lynn Whitfield Awards And Nominations
Whitfield was prized Gracie Award for Outstanding Female Actor in a supportive role in a drama series in 2017, as well as 2019’s NAACP’s Image Award for the similar roles.. In 2018, she co-starred opposite Sanaa Lathan in the romantic comedy film Happily Ever After, the film that was released on Netflix.
Lynn Whitfield Bio: Age, Early Life, Parents
Whitfield was born on February 8th, 1953 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her dad is Jean (née Butler), an African-American officer of a finance agency. Her mother is Valerian Smith, Creole and dentist. She is the eldest amongst her four siblings. Whitfield is a third-generation BFA graduate from Howard University. Her dentist dad was instrumental towards Lynn’s initial passion for acting as he was the key figure in forming the community theater in her native Baton Rouge.
Whitfield garnered public attention for the first time on the stage by studying and performing with the Black Repertory Company in Washington, D.C. Whitfield got married to one of the company’s co-founders and forerunners of black theatre, playwright/director/actor Vantile Whitfield in 1974.
In due course, Whitfield moved to New York and appeared in several film arenas such as The Great Macdaddy and Showdown before being approved for the 1977 Los Angeles production of the landmark play ‘for colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf’. The shows co-starred Whitfield alongside Alfred Woodard.