Forest Whitaker, a talented and prepared actor
*The birth of Forest Whitaker in 1961 is marked on this date. He is an African American actor, producer and director of film, stage and television.
Forest Steven Whitaker was born in Longview, Texas. One of four children, his father Forest Whitaker, Jr. was an insurance man and his mother Laura Francis Smith was a teacher. His mother put herself through college and earned two Masters Degrees while raising her children. Forest has two younger brothers, Kenn and Damon, an older sister Deborah and his grandfather was novelist Forest Whitaker, Sr.
The family moved to the Los Angeles area when Whitaker was a toddler. Whitaker attended Palisades High School, where he was all-league defensive tackle on the football team. Whitaker attended California State Poly Pomona on a football scholarship, but left due to a debilitating back injury. He was accepted to the Music Conservatory at the University of Southern California to study opera as a tenor, and was then accepted into the Drama Conservatory. He graduated from USC in 1982. He also earned a scholarship to the Berkeley, California branch of the Drama Studio London.
His first on screen role was in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Others followed including in Platoon, Good Morning, Vietnam, and The Color of Money. In 1988, he played musician Charlie Parker in Bird, for which he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. Whitaker was originally asked to write and direct a live-action movie adaptation of Bill Cosby's cartoon, Fat Albert, but differences led to him leaving production. Whitaker co-produced and co-starred in A Rage in Harlem in 1991. He executive produced the 2002 Emmy-award winning made-for-television movie, Door to Door. He directed Strapped, for HBO in 1993. In 1995, he directed Waiting to Exhale, and also directed co-star Whitney Houston's music video of the movie's theme song ("Shoop Shoop").
In 1996, Whitaker married fellow actress Keisha Whitaker. They have two daughters, Sonnet and True. He has a son named Ocean from a previous relationship and a stepdaughter, Autumn from a previous relationship of Keisha's. He is a vegetarian and a 1st Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate. He recently opened a raw food/vegan restaurant in West Los Angeles called Taste of the Goddess.
In 2002, Whitaker was the host and narrator of The Twilight Zone, which lasted one season. In 2004, he directed First Daughter. In 2006, he acted in The Shield. In 2006, Whitaker started on ER. He also had a small role in the BMW Film from Season 1, and Rapper T.I.'s video "Live in the Sky". Whitaker received critical acclaim for his performance as Dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, winning many awards including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. For this role he was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award, Best Actor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and Whitaker won the Screen Actors Guild Award for this role. He also played James Farmer Sr. in the feature film the Great Debaters (2007). Recently (2013) he was cast in the feature film "The Butler" with Oprah Winfrey.
Author, playwright and actor Carlyle Brown offers his view of the difference between acting for media verses acting for the stage