Aunjanue Ellis was born on 21 February 1969 in San Francisco, California. She was brought on a farm owned by her grandmother in McComb, Mississippi. Her sister Sasha Ellis is also an actor. From Brown University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American studies, prior to joining Brown she attended Tougaloo College.
Ellis began her career in acting while still studying at Brown, when she performed in a play. This brought out the actress in her and she wanted to pursue acting and thereby joined the New York University’s Graduate Acting Program in Tisch School of the Arts. Ellis is a part of the college sorority, Delta Sigma Theta.
Aunjanue Ellis’s first professional acting role was in the Broadway’s new version of William Shakespeare’s famous play The Tempest, as Ariel. She first appeared on screen for a single episode of the 1995 series New York Undercover as Claudia.
1996, she co-starred in Girls Town. In the 90’s she played a supporting cast member in In Too Deep, Desert Blue, A Map of the World and Ed’s Next Move. She was nominated for her role as Jo Brashear in the award-winning drama Men of Honor. In 2004, Ellis acted opposite Eddie Griffin in the comedy Undercover Brother. The movie Ray was her next big achievement, for which she was nominated for Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Ellis’s other movies include The Express, Freedomland, Notorious, and Cover. ABC’s ‘MDs’, a medical drama cast her as a regular in 2002. She was on other TV series including 100 Centre Street, Third Watch, Jonny Zero and True Blood. In 2004, she was cast in the play ‘Drowning Crow’ written and directed by Regina Taylor. She has been a part of many on and off-Broadway shows. For a brief period in 2012, she was at the Hampton University, teaching entertainment courses. She was the lead in the 2005 award-winning short film The Tested.
In 2011, Ellis played the role of a maid named Yule May Davis in the Tate Taylor directed critically acclaimed film ‘The Help’ for which she won numerous nominations and awards. From 2011 to 2014, she acted in Money Matters as Pamela Matters, The Volunteer as Leigh, Romeo, and Juliet in Harlem as Lady Capulet and in getting on Up as Vicki Anderson.
For her 2014 movie Of Mind and Music, Aunjanue won two awards, Newport Beach Film Festival Award for Best Actress and American Black Film Festival Award for Best Actress. In the famous series Sleep Hollow, she played the role of Lori Mills. Ellis delivered a phenomenal performance in the 201miniseries The Book of Negroes, she received a Critics Choice Television Award nomination for her acting. Ellis was cast in the main role in 2015, ABC series Quantico.
Last Modified: Mar 6, 2020