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Alfre  Woodard

Alfre Woodard

Emmy Award-Winning Actress

Alfre Woodard

Emmy Award-Winning Actress


Alfre Woodard’s work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, four Emmy Awards and seventeen Emmy nominations, three SAG Awards and a Golden Globe. The versatile Boston University School of Fine Arts graduate has portrayed doctors, judges, mothers high and low, queens, freedom fighters, suburban neighbors, POTUS and a comic book supervillain.

Woodard’s illustrious body of work includes an Oscar nominated performance in Martin Ritt’s Cross Creek; HBO’s Mandela, for which she earned an ACE award for her portrayal of Winnie Mandela; Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon; John Sayles’ Passion Fish; Joseph Sargent’s Miss Evers’ Boys, for which she won an Emmy, SAG and Golden Globe Awards; Spike Lee’s Crooklyn; Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love and Basketball; Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys; Maya Angelou’s Down in The Delta, and, most importantly, her intergalactic turn with Captain Picard in Star Trek: First Contact.

We’ve enjoyed Alfre’s astonishing range on screen over four decades, about which she advises “Google me!”

She played Betty Applewhite on the ABC drama Desperate Housewives and Ruby Jean Reynolds, mother to Lafayette Reynolds, on HBO’s True Blood. Woodard co-starred in Lifetime’s hit remake of Steel Magnolias, for which she was nominated for Screen Actors Guild and Emmy Awards, and won a NAACP Image Award for her performance as Ouiser.

Most recently, she appeared in the acclaimed drama 12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, plus New Line’s Annabelle, and the Netflix Original feature Juanita, as the title character. Somehow she also found time to star in Marvel’S Luke Cage as the diabolical Mariah Dillard, and she will next appear in the Apple series SEE, opposite Jason Momoa. This July, Woodard gives voice to Sarabi in Jon Favreau’s Live Action The Lion King. 

Coming in the fall is her riveting portrayal of a death row prison warden in Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency, which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Whilst building this illustrious career, Alfre co-founded Artists for a New South Africa, a nonprofit working to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and further the cause of democracy and human rights in South Africa and the U.S.  For this and her anti apartheid activism she was honored with the Order of Companions of Oliver Tambo, that country’s highest civilian medal. 

Alfre directed and produced, Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales, which won the 2010 Audiobook of the Year, and garnered a 2010 Grammy Award nomination for “Best Children’s Spoken Word Album.” The audiobook hosts a collaboration of talent both broad and diverse, featuring: Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Samuel L. Jackson.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her to his President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. As part of her work on the Committee, Woodard adopted several high poverty and under-performing public schools around the country.

She is an active advocate for the arts in education, largely through her work on the Committee’s “Turnaround Arts” initiative, which was launched in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council to narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts. Now based in the Kennedy Center, Turnaround Arts is spurring the creativity, expanding the scholarship, nurturing the citizenship, and introducing possibility in the lives of 50,000 kids, while turning around 80 formerly ‘at risk’ schools nationwide.

She says acting is her profession, but feels everyone’s real job “is to learn how to love each other — in our households, in our communities,” she has said. “We do that by working for justice.”

Woodard is unfazed by the glitz of celebrity, but is grateful for its opportunity to “get her to the mic”.  She remains fueled by the values she learned growing up in Tulsa.

In November 2014, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and took the opportunity to credit her parents in her acceptance remarks. Her parents, always mindful of the hardship of others, “planted the seed of humanity” in her as a child. 

“They allowed me artistic as well as personal freedom. They didn’t say ‘go out and conquer’ or ‘go out and accumulate,’ they just said ‘Go. Do it. Be it. Be yourself. Fill yourself all the way up, Alfre, and never, ever forget your neighbor.’”

Speech Topics

A Triumph of Talent: An Evening with Alfre Woodard

The Importance of Activism