THE LION KING
JAMES EARL JONES' (voice of Mufasa) voice is recognized
around the world. One
would never guess that he spent his childhood as a virtual mute due to a severe
stuttering problem. With the help of an extraordinary high school teacher, Jones
overcame his stutter and transformed his weakness into his greatest strength.
Today, Jones' voice is known by people of all ages and walks of life, from
fans who know him as the voice of Darth Vader to children who know him as Mufasa
from Disney's "The Lion King."
Born in Mississippi and raised in Michigan, James Earl Jones moved to New
after graduating from the University of Michigan and serving in the military.
himself by working as a janitor, he struggled to make it as an actor and made
Broadway debut in 1957.
Renowned Broadway producer Joseph Papp gave Jones one of his first major
breakthroughs, casting him as Michael Williams in Shakespeare's "Henry V." A
visionary, Papp was credited with injecting a "dash of social conscience" into
performance by casting an African American in the role. This marked the
Jones' long affiliation with the New York Shakespeare Festival, eventually
title roles of Othello, Macbeth and King Lear among his many distinguished
performances for the company.
Based on his success in the theater, he began to be cast in small television
roles. In the
1960s, Jones was one of the first African American actors to appear regularly in
soap operas (playing a doctor in both "The Guiding Light" and "As the World
and he made his film debut in 1964 in Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove."
In 1969, Jones won a Tony Award for his breakthrough role as boxer Jack
the Broadway hit "The Great White Hope" (which also garnered him an Oscar
nomination for the 1970 film adaptation). He won a second Tony Award in 1987 for
August Wilson's "Fences," in which he played a former baseball player who finds
difficult to communicate with his son.
Although he was cast in numerous leading roles in films in the 1970s,
Man" (1972), "Claudine" (1974), "The River Niger" (1975) and "The Bingo Long
Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings" (1976), Jones continued to make his biggest
impression on stage. In addition to his celebrated Shakespearean work, he began
long-standing collaboration with South African playwright Athol Fugard, acting
Blood Knot," "Boesman and Lena" and the critically acclaimed "Master Harold...and
Boys," among others.
His film performances of the 1980s included his work as the oppressed coal
John Sayles' "Matewan" (1987) and as the embittered writer in "Field of Dreams"
(1989), while the '90s found him in the thick of the Tom Clancy blockbuster
"The Hunt for Red October," "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger"-as
as in the film version of the classic Alan Paton novel "Cry, the Beloved
His career also includes a wide range of television work. He played Alex
"Roots: The Next Generations" (1979); Junius Johnson (an Emmy-winning
performance) in "Heat Wave," the 1990 TNT drama about the 1965 riots in Watts;
great number of guest roles in series ranging from "The Defenders" and "Dr.
more recently, "Two and a Half Men," "House" and "The Big Bang Theory." He also
earned an Emmy as Gabriel Bird, a disgraced cop turned private investigator, in
1990-92 series "Gabriel's Fire."
In addition to the many awards he has received as an actor-two Tonys, three
a Golden Globe, two Cable ACEs, two Obies, five Drama Desks and a GRAMMY-
Jones has been honored with the National Medal of Arts in 1992 and a John F.
Kennedy Center Honor in December 2002. He also was honored by the Screen Actors
Guild with the Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2009.
In the spring of 2005, James Earl Jones starred on Broadway in a critically
revival of "On Golden Pond," for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. In
starred as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the production of "Thurgood"
the Westport Country Playhouse, and in spring of 2008 he portrayed Big Daddy in
on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway with cast members Terrence Howard, Anika Noni
and Phylicia Rashad. That was followed by a second run of "Cat on a Hot Tin
stage in London with Adrian Lester, Sanaa Lathan and, again, Rashad. The
won an Olivier Award for best revival, and Jones was nominated for an Olivier in
best actor category. In 2011, Jones starred in the Broadway and London
"Driving Miss Daisy" with Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines, and in 2012 he
in the Broadway production of "The Best Man," for which he received a Tony
nomination. In 2013, Jones enjoyed a six-month tour of "Driving Miss Daisy" in
starring Angela Lansbury and Gaines. He also starred in "You Can't Take It With
and "The Gin Game"-both on Broadway as well.
In November 2011, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture
Sciences presented Jones with an Honorary Oscar in recognition of his long and
For more information on James Earl Jones' life and career, please see his
autobiography, "Voices and Silences," available through bookstores and online
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