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August 2001
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"It's Cool To Walk Trough The Raindrops."

Don Cheadle

Real Name: Don Cheadle
Born: 29 November 1964
Place of Birth: Kansas City, Missouri
Sign: Sagittarius
Height: 5'8"
Relations: Companion is actress Bridget Coulter, they have two children born 1995 and 1997; Father is a psychologist; Mother has worked as a bank manager.
Education: California Insitute of the Arts, BA in Fine Arts

Awards Include:
>1999: Nominated – Emmy - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseriesor Movie for: Lesson Before Dying, A
>1999: Nominated – Emmy - Outstanding Supporting Actor in aMiniseries or a Movie for: Rat Pack,The
>1999: Won – GoldenGlobe - Best Performance by an Actor in aSupporting Role in a Series,Mini-Series or Motion Picture for: RatPack, The
>1999: Nominated - Image Award - Outstanding Lead Actor in a TelevisionMovie, Mini-Series or Drama Specialfor: Rat Pack, The
>1999: Nominated - Image Award - Outstanding Supporting Actor in aMotion Picture for: Bulworth
>1998: Nominated - Image Award - Outstanding Supporting Actor in aMotion Picture for: Rosewood
>1998: Nominated - SAG Award - Outstanding Performance by a Cast for:Boogie Nights
>1997: Nominated - Image Award - Outstanding Lead Actor in a TelevisionMovie, Mini-Series or Drama Specialfor: Rebound: The Legend of Earl 'TheGoat' Manigault
>1996: Nominated - Image Award - Outstanding Supporting Actor in aMotion Picture for: Devil in a BlueDress
>1996: Nominated - SAG Award - Outstanding Performance by a MaleActor in a Supporting Role for: Devilin a Blue Dress
>1995: Won – LAFCA Award - Best Supporting Actor for: Devil in aBlue Dress
>1995: Won - NSFC Award - Best Supporting Actor for: Devil in aBlue Dress

Film/Acting Credits Include:
>2001: Ocean's Eleven...Roscoe Means
>2001: Rush Hour 2
>2001: Swordfish...Agent A.D. Roberts
>2001: Manic...Dr. Monroe
>2001: Things Behind the Sun...Chuck
>2000: Traffic...Agent Montel Gordon
>2000: Family Man, The...Cash
>2000: Fail Safe (TV)...Lieutenant Jimmy Pierce, Copilot
>2000: Mission to Mars...Luke Graham
>1999: 51st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, The (TV)...Presenter/Grant Wiggins
>1999: Wings Against the Wind
>1999: Lesson Before Dying, A (TV)...Grant Wiggins
>1998: Rat Pack, The (TV)...Sammy Davis Jr.
>1998: Out of Sight...Maurice 'Snoopy' Miller
>1998: Bulworth...L.D.
>1997: Boogie Nights...Buck Swope
>1997: Volcano...Emmit Reese
>1997: Rosewood...Sylvester Carrier
>1996: Rebound: The Legend of Earl 'The Goat' Manigault (TV)...Earl Manigault
>1995: Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead...Rooster
>1995: Devil in a Blue Dress...Raymone "Mouse" Alexander
>1993: Lush Life (TV)...Jack
>1993: Meteor Man, The...Goldilocks
>1992: "Picket Fences" (TV)...D.A. John Littleton (1993-1995)
>1992: Roadside Prophets...Happy Days Manager
>1992: "Golden Palace, The" (TV)...Roland Wilson
>1988: Colors...Rocket
>1987: Hamburger Hill...Pvt. Washburn
>1985: Moving Violations...Juicy Burgers Worker


Born in Missouri, Don Cheadle spent most of his younger days growing up in Denver, Colorado where his father was a psychologist who dealt mainly with troubled youth. Although his father's offices were just down the street from his high school, Cheadle learned to stay away, and to avoid any discussion of his father's work.

"It was a 'don't ask, don't tell' kind of thing," he says, "but I know it was a strain." Despite the imposed silence, Cheadle credits his father with steering him toward acting. "Getting into different characters and playing so many people and figuring out their psychology and their motivation," he says, "I probably got a lot of that just by osmosis."

"I grew up in Kansas City, Mo., then Denver, Colo, and Nebraska for a while. My relatives have told me that I've wanted to act since I was 5. I've been shown pictures of myself at that age and in every picture I'm posing. So I guess it really was something I wanted to do." He admits, however, that he doesn't remember posing for the camera at that early stage in his career. He says he has been fortunate in that his parents have always been totally supportive of his choice of careers.

Cheadle's acting debut was in a fifth grade production of "Charlotte's Web," where he played Templeton, E.B. White's greedy rat. He jokes about trying out for the lead role of Wilbur the Pig, hanging his head in mock sadness saying, "they passed me over." But he quickly ends the lie with a chuckle. But even at age 10 he took his acting seriously. "I remember taking the mimeographed script pages, going to a donut shop, getting a donut and some milk and sitting there with a pencil going through the script." He was intent, he says, on discovering the rat's motivation. "I was thinking, 'Now why would Templeton want to eat the Slurpee at the fair and not the cotton candy?'"

Cheadle also studied jazz music in school and says, "When I graduated from high school, I had scholarships to go to jazz schools or acting schools." By graduation, Cheadle was tryingto decide whether to study jazz vocals at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, or the University of North Carolina, or pursue theater at Carnegie Mellon or CalArts. His final decision was less than scientific. "I picked CalArts because it was warmer," Cheadle says. "I was sick of those Colorado-type winters."

It was during his time studying classical drama at CalArts that he landed his first movie jobs. "I got my bar-mitzvah in acting at CalArts, and my first professional job playing the Juicy Burger worker in 'Moving Violations'," he recalls. It was during this time that he also landed his first

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Don Cheadle

character role in the film Hamburger Hill as one of a handful of U.S. soldiers who survives the climb to the top of the North Vietnamese stronghold.

After graduating from CalArts with a degree in fine arts, he continued to work in stage productions, and was also able to land a few film roles along the side. While the critics liked his performance his in the gang film Colors, it would be his work on the TV series "Picket Fences" that would finally get the attention of more directors and land him more movie roles. "I've been fortunate to have been able to support myself on acting, right out of school," he says about starting out in the business.

But during these early times, Cheadle wasn't about to turn down any firm acting offer for some other opportunity that might or might not materialize, so when offered parts at New York's Public Theater or the Guthrie in Minneapolis, Cheadle took them, leaving his agent in a spin.

"It gave my agents fits," he says. "I'd leave during pilot season, when something was just kicking up. But if I didn't have a job, it didn't make any sense for me not to do Shakespeare at the Public. I couldn't just wait around trying to get Doogie Howser II."

But even when he stuck around, Cheadle took on projects that didn't exactly endear him to agents. He loves theater and once even played Horatio in a production of "Hamlet" staged on a skid row parking lot.

"You'd say your lines and a homeless guy would be mouthing them with you," he recalls with a smile. "We did the whole thing, five whole acts, and people were staying for the whole time. They'd come up to you afterward, and say, 'I did "Hamlet" in high school. I was Rosencranz.' "

In 1995, Cheadle landed work off the streets of skid row and made everyone notice him as Mouse in the film Devil in a Blue Dress. Although a small role, Cheadle's performance won him Film Critic awards from around the country. He was passed over for a best supporting actor nomination that caused a furor among many in Hollywood. In retrospect he says, "I was disappointed for about an hour, then I had to go to work. But the fact that I didn't get nominated definitely got me a lot of attention and a lot of press. In fact, I got so much attention for not being nominated that it kind of worked out. In the end I got more buzz for being overlooked."

He finally became a member of the motion picture academy himself, but the nomination process continues to puzzle him. "You just wonder how some of these decisions are made," Cheadle says. "Are their sensibilities so similar that they decide, 'You know what? Paul Newman should get it this year. We didn't give it to him for 'Cool Hand Luke.' People have got to get together over tea or something to decide that. I can't see everyone just independently deciding that 'that's what we need to do.' It's like an electoral college."

Predictably, after Mouse, Cheadle has been offered a bushel of gangster parts but has turned down most of them. "Most of those roles are one-note, myopic, narrowly drawn, no surprises," he says. "You know what this idiot's going to do on Page 40. You know what he's going to do on Page 50. You look at it and you think, 'What can I really do? Not only does this part suck, but what am I going to give to this piece, and what is this piece going to give to the greater good of anybody?'"

Typically, Cheadle studies his characters relentlessly. He is well known for the preparation he puts into the roles he undertakes.

Although his own personality seems to disappear when he takes on the role of a gangster or cowboy porn-star or piano teacher, Cheadle always trys to remember, "It's still me doing it," he says. "If you ever totally forget, you are gone; you are not an actor anymore. You need to be checked into the hospital."

For some of his characters, Cheadle has created his own elaborate unwritten histories. His reasoning is that it prevents him from becoming lost in a role as much as it gives the character depth. "It's a self-defense mechanism against getting lost," he says. "I don't want to come home damaged and depressed and wanting to shoot heroin. I have two kids and a family that I care about. I've got to create strong characters so that I'm not taking too much of me."

He concedes, however, that many roles don't require that kind of in depth research. An example was when Cheadle played Emmit Reese, the computer geek in "Volcano." "Once I got on the set I realized, 'It ain't about you. The movie's called "Volcano," and it ain't called "look at Don discover beats." No, no, no. You're going to say what you're going to say, and then they're going to look at the lava.'"

Sometimes his preparation and research migt be seen as a little over the top. "For Boogie Nights, I rehearsed everything in the nude," he says with a laugh. "It's about the porno industry in the 1970s and the '80s, when it went from film to video. It follows a misfit, dysfunctional family of pornographers through these 10, 15 years. I played a porno actor."

"The work was grueling," he recalls. "Late-night, long, long, long hours. But it made Demi Moore's 'Striptease' look tame. It's really an out-there movie. Director Paul Thomas made it like Coltrane playing. I mean, it's waaaay out, but kind of brilliant."

"I had a lot of qualms about doing it," he says squirming just a bit. "Julianne Moore is in it. I'd worked with her at the Guthrie Theatre before, I knew she had signed on to do it, so I called her a couple of times. She really had to convince me to come on board. I was really reticent to do it. I objected to the subject matter, and I wasn't sure it was going to be done in a way that I thought really looked at these people's lives. I didn't want it to be a sensationalist look at these people, but to truly investigate why these people are the way they are.

"I knew Paul didn't want to come out saying bluntly, "Porno is bad", but I was going to make sure that he showed the result of that disjointed lifestyle, and he definitely did."

About working with director John Singleton, Cheadle says, "He is a real take-charge person. And then he takes the drugs that he's been prescribed and it levels off. (He laughs.) No, seriously. He knows what he wants, knows how to get it, and it's always good to have him at the helm."

When asked about his work with Warren Beatty in Bulworth, and in particular the African-American street slang used in that picture, Cheadle says, "Warren worked at it. He tried to get it right, and did."

"I don't attack people for ignorance, I attack people for not getting rid of their ignorance. I get frustrated because most white writers don't do their research on the black experience. Most screenwriters write for the big money, and the big money actors. And most of them are white." He smiles and adds, "And what I know they aren't doing is writing for Don Cheadle. It's a bitch of a paradox trying to make my art and make my livelihood at the same time. The best I can do is keep both interesting."

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Don Cheadle

And keeping the public's interest is important to Cheadle. He knows that can be almost impossible if an actor gets stuck doing basically only one type of role, but he says he's not worried about becoming stereotyped. "There are not enough roles out there for me to get stereotyped," he says. "There's just not a lot, period. There's not a lot of well written, fully realized material to jump into. So, it's a challenge really, to find those things that you want to do, that are interesting, that are different. It's a numbers game and when you get down to it, there are about two or three scripts a year that you really want to do. And hopefully you get a chance to do them, if they aren't already being done by somebody else."

Cheadle finds it easy to explain the dearth of decent roles available to him. "The majority of scripts out there I don't believe are written for me, or written for my type," he says. "Without there being black writers and producers en masse out there, people are going to write about their perspective, from their points of view. It would be as if I were writing about a bar mitzvah. I could educate myself, but I don't know the culture. So I could only write so much. When white screenwriters develop black characters," he explains, "they're not even investigating the culture, other than seeing a couple of videos, listening to rap music and going, 'I can write this guy now.'"

Cheadle doesn't blame screenwriters for focusing on characters they can best understand, but he is disappointed by how narrow the Hollywood spectrum of characters actually is. "I don't claim racism, though it is racist," Cheadle says. "It's just a sort of an institutionalized overlooking." While he is glad that people do try to write roles that a person of any color can do, he also says, "I don't ever want to end up in movies where the fact that I'm a black man is a nonissue. In America, it's always an issue."

Pragmatically, though, Cheadle says he also knows the business is really more about making money than the quality of characters or acting. Take, for example, the Hollywood blockbuster movie. Typically, he says, it's a "weird beast." "It resembles acting enough to confuse you, but this business is about making money." With a laugh he says, "You know, they'd put a shoe up there on screen for two hours if people would pay to see it."

Amid the dearth of really good roles for black actors and the lack of art in most blockbuster films, Cheadle remains grateful for the comforts of character roles. "It's not all riding on your shoulders," Cheadle says. "Usually, the person who's a step down--who's an obstacle character or antagonist--they're always going to have more fun because they don't necessarily have to hit the same beats as the hero does. You just get to hit more curves."

With recent big-ticket movies like Swordfish and Traffic, Cheadle says he enjoys his success in the business and says that being successful, "Basically means more jobs, and hopefully better jobs. The worst part is being away from my family. The best part is... being away from my family. (He laughs.) No, it's being able to pick and choose a little bit, you know. I'm seeing more scripts now. I am by no means set up, by no means I'm made - the main man in Hollywood who gets tons of scripts and nothing but the best. But I've been offered a few interesting things. And to have people like John Singleton contact me after seeing my work, then after I've worked with him, another director contacting me that want to work with me is, you know, cool."

A real concern Cheadle has with his success surrounds his family life. "I have two children," he says. "You miss a day in a child's life, or two days, you've missed something. Something they weren't doing two days ago. So hopefully, there'll be one big movie, I'll make seven quabillion dollars and then not have to work. I'll be able to stay home and watch Oscar night on TV with a bucket of the old Haagen Dasz."

Another concern Cheadle has for his children is racism. He hopes his kids won't have to experience the same extremes he has lived through. "I definitely sensed it, growing up in the Midwest, being black," he says. "We were a middle-class family, but yeah, there was racism all the time." But he says the racism of his youth was mild compared to when he moved to LA.

"Actually, I experienced it more in my later years, moving to LA, having guns put on me by the LAPD... That's the most violence I've ever been the unfortunate subject of: at the hands of the LAPD, having guns put to my head.

"For what? For walking down the street. Or driving. Wesley Snipes calls it D.W.B. 'Driving While Black'. And it's the same story every time. 'You match the description'. You always match the description! You ALWAYS match the description in something that just went down. So, yeah, I've had guns pulled on me by police for, literally, no exaggeration, walking down the street. A car would tilt up on the sidewalk, cops get out and say , 'Get against the wall'.

"When Darryl Gates was the police chief, they had this program called 'The Hammer', I think. And that was basically him saying go harass young black men. I was stopped... I can't even count how many times … generally by white cops. But it's not like black cops won't do it. The black cops are worse than white cops: they have to show them they can be just as hard on you."

If you ask Cheadle if this country is in a better or worse place racially these days he says, "It depends on who you ask."

"I'm sure the people whose churches were burnt down would say nothing has changed. We obviously have made some strides, it would be ignorance to say the contrary." But he says he and fellow actor Jon Voight discussed racism one night and it brought up several points. "Jon says he can't work from a place of guilt. He said, 'I can't think, 'I'm a white man, I'm guilty'; that doesn't work for me.'"

But Cheadle says that, "In a free nation, if some people are guilty, everybody is responsible. We are all responsible to this legacy that WE didn't want, but got dropped in our laps. And we have to put as much energy into trying to dismantle that part as we do into trying to own a big house, have a good job, live a good life. That kind of xenophobia between people just retards our development and makes things like burning churches down or killing your kids and blaming it on a black guy always possible."

Getting back to the movie business, Cheadle says that while he has truly enjoyed his near-twenty years in the business, he also enjoys the fact that his success hasn't disrupted his daily life with mobs of fans. He still enjoys a certain amount of anonymity.

"I like to walk the dog," he says. "It's nice when nobody knows who I am, and if they do, it's just a honk and they drive on. I don't have to worry about--'Is this guy going to follow me home and think I've got $80 million under my couch?' So it's cool to walk through the raindrops like that."

Keep walking, Don. We'll keep honking and waving and going to see your films.