Oscar Actors: Cheadle, Don–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Emmy, Tony Noms)

December 15, 2020
Don Cheadle Career Summary:

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Donald Frank Cheadle Jr. (born November 29, 1964) is an American actor, author, director, producer and writer.

After early roles in Hamburger Hill (1987), and as the gangster “Rocket” in the film Colors (1988), Cheadle built his career in the 1990s with roles in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (1996), Rosewood (1997), and Boogie Nights (1997).

His collaboration with director Soderbergh resulted in the films Out of Sight (1998), Traffic (2000), and The Ocean’s Trilogy (2001–2007).

Cheadle was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his lead role as Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in the historical genocide film Hotel Rwanda (2004).

From 2012 to 2016, he starred as Marty Kaan on the Showtime comedy series House of Lies; he won a Golden Globe Award in 2013 for the role.

Since 2019, Cheadle has starred as Maurice Monroe in the Showtime series Black Monday, a role which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2019.

Cheadle extended his global recognition with his role as the superhero War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, replacing Terrence Howard. He appeared as War Machine in Iron Man 2 (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), and Avengers: Endgame (2019). He will reprise the role in the upcoming Disney+ series, Armor Wars.

Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Bettye Cheadle (née North), a teacher, and Donald Frank Cheadle Sr., a clinical psychologist. He has a sister, Cindy, and a brother, Colin.

His family moved from city to city throughout his childhood. He attended Hartley Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, from 1970 to 1974. Cheadle graduated in 1982 from East High School in Denver, Colorado. During high school, he played saxophone in the jazz band, sang in the choirs and was active in the theater department, performing in musicals, plays, and mime shows under the direction of Catherine Davis.

Cheadle went on to attend the California Institute of the Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theater in 1986.

Cheadle became eligible for his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card when he appeared as a burger joint employee in the 1985 comedy Moving Violations.[5] In 1987, he received a small role in season 7, episode 19 of Hill Street Blues, where he played a teenager with learning difficulties. This was followed by an appearance in Hamburger Hill the same year; Cheadle secured the role of Jack in the April 1, 1988, “Jung and the Restless” episode of Night Court. Although his character was 16 years old, Cheadle was 23 at the time.

Cheadle then played the role of Rocket in the 1988 movie Colors. In 1989, he appeared in a video for Angela Winbush’s No. 2 hit single “It’s the Real Thing”, performing dance moves in an orange jumpsuit, working at a car wash.

In 1990, he appeared in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air titled “Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy”, playing Will Smith’s friend and Hilary’s first love interest, Ice Tray.

In 1992, he played a supporting role in The Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace. Cheadle subsequently played district attorney John Littleton on three seasons of Picket Fences.

Cheadle first received widespread notice for his portrayal of Mouse Alexander in the film Devil in a Blue Dress, for which he won Best Supporting Actor awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics and was nominated for similar awards from the Screen Actors Guild and the NAACP Image Awards.

He gave a good performance in the title role of the 1996 HBO TV movie Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault. He starred in the 1997 film Volcano, directed by Mick Jackson. He also starred in Rush Hour 2, with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

Cheadle’s TV credits include Emmy-nominated performances in the movies The Rat Pack, A Lesson Before Dying, Things Behind the Sun and in a guest appearance on ER. The last of these spanned four episodes during the show’s ninth season, in which he portrayed Paul Nathan, a medical student struggling to cope with Parkinson’s disease. He has made appearances in films including Rosewood, The Family Man, Boogie Nights, Out of Sight, Traffic, and Ocean’s Eleven. These last three were directed by Steven Soderbergh.

He made a cameo appearance in the film Abby Singer. In 2005, Cheadle was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina in the film Hotel Rwanda. He also starred in and co-produced Crash, which won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Picture. For his performance in Crash, Cheadle was nominated for the BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Supporting Actor. He played the main character in the movie Traitor.

In March 2007, Cheadle starred with comedian Adam Sandler in Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me, a comedy-drama about a man who has slipped away from reality after the death of his wife and three daughters in 9/11. The film was a box office flop, earning a domestic gross of $22.2 million. Cheadle later starred in the 2009 DreamWorks Pictures film Hotel for Dogs.[8][9] Cheadle was to make his directorial debut with the adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Tishomingo Blues, but in July 2007 he stated, “‘Tishomingo’ is dead…”

Cheadle appeared in NFL commercials promoting the Super Bowl from 2002 to 2005. He so regularly appeared for the NFL in its Super Bowl advertising that in 2006, in a drive to get fans to submit their own advertising ideas, the NFL sought his permission to reference his previous commercials to portray themselves as having no new ideas: “he quickly signed off on the idea and found it funny.” Abe Sutton (along with Etan Bednarsh), one of the finalists in this NFL contest, played on this commercial by proposing an ad where every player on a football team is Don Cheadle.[11]

In 2009, Cheadle and Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder worked on a potential comedy show on NBC.[12] The “project revolve[d] around mismatched brothers who reunite to open a private security company.”[12] Cheadle and McGruder were slated to serve as executive producers, while McGruder was expected to write the script.[13]

Also in 2009, Cheadle performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

In 2010, Cheadle assumed the role of War Machine / James Rhodes in Iron Man 2 (2010), replacing Terrence Howard. Cheadle reprised this role in Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018),[15] and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

From 2012 to 2016, Cheadle starred in the Showtime TV series House of Lies. In 2013, he won the Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Comedy Series for his role on the show.[16]

Cheadle spent ten years writing and producing the film Miles Ahead (2016) based on the life of jazz musician Miles Davis. Cheadle also directed and starred in the film.[17] Locations for the movie were found in Cincinnati.[18]

In 2018, Cheadle guest-starred in the first-season finale of DuckTales, providing Donald Duck’s new voice box.[19] He later guest-starred again in 2020 during Season 3 after a wish Donald made to Gene the Genie had altered reality.[20]

Cheadle has campaigned to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Cheadle and John Prendergast co-authored a book about this issue entitled Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. With George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub, Cheadle co-founded the Not On Our Watch Project, an organization focusing global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities. Cheadle was awarded the BET Humanitarian award of the year in 2007 for his humanitarian work for the people of Darfur and Rwanda.[21]

At the 2007 World Series of Poker, Cheadle and poker player Annie Duke organized an annual charity poker tournament, Ante Up for Africa.[22][23]

On December 13, 2007, Cheadle and fellow actor George Clooney were presented with the Summit Peace Award by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Rome for their work to stop the genocide and relieve the suffering of the people of Darfur.[24]

Cheadle has worked with the United Nations on climate change concerns. He and Harrison Ford created a documentary event series entitled Years of Living Dangerously that provided first-hand reports on those affected by, and seeking solutions to climate change.[25] He is also on the Advisory Board of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.[26]

In 2010, Cheadle was named U.N. Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador.[27] Also in 2010, he and Prendergast published their second book: The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes.

On his 2019 Saturday Night Live appearance, he wore a T-shirt saying ‘protect trans kids’.

In 2008, Cheadle’s family history was profiled on the PBS series African American Lives 2. A DNA test revealed that Cheadle is of Cameroonian descent.[29] Another DNA test revealed that among his African ancestry, one-third comes from the region from Senegal to Liberia, just over one-quarter comes from the Congo-Angola region, and the rest comes from western Nigeria and Benin.[30]

Cheadle has two children with his long-term partner, actress and Rosewood co-star Bridgid Coulter.

Awards and nominations
Academy Awards
Year Nominated Work Categeory Results Ref
2005 Hotel Rwanda Best Actor Nominated [32]
Golden Globes
Year Nominated Work Category Results Ref
1999 The Rat Pack Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Won [33]
2005 Hotel Rwanda Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama Nominated
2013 House of Lies Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical Won
2014 Nominated
2015 Nominated
Grammy Awards
Year Nominated Work Category Results Ref
2003 Fear Itself (Walter Mosley) Best Spoken Word Album Nominated [34]
2016 Miles Ahead Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Won
Primetime Emmy Awards
Year Nominated Work Category Results Ref
1999 The Rat Pack Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated [35]
1999 A Lesson Before Dying Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2002 Things Behind the Sun Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2003 ER Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2012 House of Lies Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
2013 Nominated
2014 Nominated
2015 Nominated
2019 Black Monday Nominated
2020 Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Year Nominated Work Category Results Ref
1995 Picket Fences Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [36]
1996 Devil in a Blue Dress Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated [37]
Picket Fences Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
1998 Boogie Nights Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated [38]
2001 Traffic Won [39]
2005 Hotel Rwanda Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Nominated [40]
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2006 Crash Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated [41]
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won
2014 House of Lies Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated