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Diaspora Stars: Forest Steven Whitaker



Forest Steven Whitaker, born on July 15, 1961, is an American actor. He is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a British Academy Film Award, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

 

After making his film debut in Fast Times at Ridgemont High(1982), Whitaker went on to earn a reputation for intensive character study work for films, such as Platoon (1986), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Bird (1988), The Crying Game(1992), Phenomenon (1996), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), The Great Debaters (2007), The Butler(2013), Arrival (2016), and Respect (2021). He has also appeared in blockbusters, such as Panic Room (2002), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) as Saw Gerrera, and Black Panther (2018) as Zuri. For his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the British historical drama film The Last King of Scotland (2006), Whitaker won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Whitaker made his directorial debut with the television film Strapped (1993) and directed the films Waiting to Exhale(1995), Hope Floats (1998), and First Daughter (2004). Since 2019, he has starred as Bumpy Johnson in the Epix crime drama series Godfather of Harlem.



 

Apart from his acting career, Whitaker is also known for his humanitarian work and activism. In 2011, he was inducted as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, later receiving a promotion to Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, and serves as the CEO of Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), a non-profit outreach program.

Forest Steven Whitaker was born on July 15, 1961, in Longview, Texas, the son of Laura Francis (née Smith), a special education teacher who put herself through college and earned two master's degrees while raising her children, and Forest E. Whitaker Jr., an insurance salesman. A DNA test has shown that his mother had Akan ancestry, while his father was of Igbo descent. When Whitaker was in elementary school, his family moved to Carson, California. He has two younger brothers and an older sister.



His first role as an actor was the lead in Dylan Thomas's play Under Milk Wood. Whitaker attended Palisades Charter High School, where he played on the football team and sang in the choir, graduating in 1979. He entered California State Polytechnic University, Pomona on a football scholarship, but a back injury made him change his major to music (singing). He toured England with the Cal Poly Chamber Singers in 1980. While still at Cal Poly, he briefly changed his major to drama. He later transferred to the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California to study opera as a tenor and was subsequently accepted into the university's Drama Conservatory.

 

He graduated from USC with a BFA in acting in 1982. He then took a course at Drama Studio London at its now-defunct California branch. He was pursuing a degree in "The Core of Conflict: Studies in Peace and Reconciliation" at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2004.


 

 


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