Worked With:

Paula Patton


Keri Russell


Jordin Sparks


Steve Carell


Jada Pinkett Smith


Chris Evans


Aimee Garcia


Jamal Woolard


Tyler Perry


Michael Ealy


Ryan Reynolds


Robert Redford

Derek Luke Biography


Home > Actors > L > Luke, Derek > Biography


Birth Name: Derek Luke
Born: 04/24/1974
Birth Place: Jersey City, New Jersey, USA


Born on April 24, 1974 and reared in Jersey City, N.J., where his father, Maurice, a native of Guyana and former actor in London, settled and married pianist Marjorie Dixon. The couple divorced when Luke was in the third grade, leaving his mom to raise three boys-including eldest Maurice Jr. and youngest Daniel-on her own. She struggled to make ends meet and frequently moved the family from one tough neighborhood to another-at last count, Luke attended six different schools before graduating high school in Linden, N.J. in 1992. Because of his rough-and-tumble environment, Luke learned how to fight. He also learned how to act tough-a key ingredient to avoiding entanglements. After high school, he studied acting at Jersey State College for a semester, became antsy and moved to Los Angeles to start his career in earnest.

Luke did what he could to make a buck-selling cologne out the back of his car or ushering at the studios-struggling like most aspiring actors are wont to do. Though he managed to score a few walk-on roles in episodes of "M sha" (UPN, 1995-2001) and "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998- ), nothing seemed to transpire for the actor. His fortunes changed for the best, however, when he was working behind the counter at a Paramount Studios gift shop. Luke was invited to lunch by a friend who knew Antwone Fisher and learned that the former sailor had a script based on his life set up with first-time director Denzel Washington. The actor became friends with Fisher and managed to finagle an audition for the lead. It was a disaster. Mustering a little gumption, Luke asked for a second audition and got one. He would have to audition three more times before he landed the part. Washington broke the news personally by coming to the gift shop where a grateful Luke hugged and kissed the Oscar winner in a joyous outburst of thank yous.

"Antwone Fisher" told the tale of a volatile and emotionally-closed young sailor who gets into trouble for fighting and is ordered to see a Naval psychiatrist (Washington). What starts as an exercise in futility soon turns to an emotional outpouring that reveals a horrific childhood rife with abuse. With the help of the psychiatrist, Fisher turns his life around and decides to confront his past head-on by searching out the family that abandoned him as a baby. Luke was recognized for his vulnerable and mature performance, earning the 2002 National Board of Review Award and the 2003 Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Actor. Luke was next cast in "Biker Boyz" (2003) starring opposite Laurence Fishburne and Kid Rock as a rookie African American motorcycle street racer hoping to dethrone the reigning champ, then played the supportive boyfriend of a young woman (Katie Holmes) cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her estranged family in "Pieces of April" (2003).

Luke next starred in Peter Berg's understated sports drama, "Friday Night Lights" (2004), playing the cocky star tailback on a small town high school team whose season-ending injury jeopardizes his chance at making it to the college level. He then gave a standout performance in another inspirational sports story, "Glory Road" (2006), the true-life telling of the 1966 Texas Western Miners who made NCAA history thanks to their charismatic coach (Josh Lucas), whose will to win with heart, determination and self-respect helped break down racial barriers. After an understated role as a young trainee assisting a Special Ops officer (Val Kilmer) in trying to find the president's kidnapped daughter in David Mamet's "Spartan" (2004), Luke gave a dynamic performance in "Catch a Fire" (2006), playing real-life South African hero Patrick Chamusso, an oil refinery worker accused by a security officer (Tim Robbins) of being a terrorist. When beaten and threatened, Chamusso admits to crimes he didn't commit, but nonetheless joins the anti-Apartheid movement upon his release from prison. Luke earned praise for his strong portrayal, positioning the actor for an Oscar run in early 2007.