Marianne Jean-Baptiste Biography

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Birth Name: Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Born: 04/26/1967
Birth Place: London, England, GB

Born Marianne Raigipcien Jean-Baptiste on April 26, 1967 in London, England, she was the daughter of a construction worker and psychiatric nurse, from who she inherited her Antiguan and St. Lucian lineage. Determined to become a performer from an early age, Jean-Baptiste enrolled in London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she received her classical training and performed at the Royal National Theatre. While attending the Royal Academy, the ambitious student wrote and performed a one-woman show titled "Ave Africa" in 1991. That same year, Jean-Baptiste made her feature film debut with a bit part in the independent UK effort "London Kills Me" (1991), a black comedy about drug-abusing youths in London's underground. Prefacing her future collaboration with the director, she appeared on stage in Mike Leigh's production of "It's a Great Big Shame" in 1993. Other theatrical work at the time included portraying Mariana and Mistress Overdone in a 1994 production of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" with the Cheek by Jowl Theatre Company. Jean-Baptiste's breakthrough film role came with the release of Mike Leigh's acclaimed "Secrets & Lies" (1996). In the film she played Hortense, a successful Afro-British woman who seeks out her birth mother, only to be stunned when she discovers her to be a lower-class alcoholic white lady (Brenda Blethyn). As Hortense is slowly introduced to her birth mother's other relations, she is confronted by a fractured family unit stifled by unaired emotions and buried truths, all of which manifest in anger and hostility.

"Secrets & Lies" went on to become a darling with the critics, winning the Palme d'Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival and garnering several Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Supporting Actress for Jean-Baptiste. An accomplished musician and singer, she composed the score for Leigh's next film, the comedy-drama "Career Girls" (1997). Jean-Baptiste followed with a role in writer-director Noah Baumbach's third film, "Mr. Jealousy" (1998), a dysfunctional romantic comedy starring Eric Stoltz and Annabella Sciorra. On television, she appeared as Halle Berry's sister in the Oprah Winfrey-produced "The Wedding" (ABC, 1998), a drama delving into matters of racial pride and social status for an African-American family on the affluent East Coast conclave of Martha's Vineyard in 1953. Jean-Baptiste next played the friend of Cuba Gooding, Jr., a man framed for murder via a novel that he stole credit for writing, in the made-for-cable thriller "A Murder of Crows" (Cinemax, 1999). She also appeared as a frazzled working mother in the comedy-drama "The 24 Hour Woman" (1999), starring Rosie Perez as a radio show producer expecting a child of her own. She quickly followed with a turn as a mother trying to get sober for the sake of her children in the Sandra Bullock dramatic vehicle "28 Days" (2000), as well as a supporting role in the visually arresting, albeit poorly received, science-fiction thriller "The Cell" (2000), starring Jennifer Lopez.

Jean-Baptiste began the new decade with a small role as Robert Redford's secretary in the espionage thriller, "Spy Game" (2001), which co-starred Brad Pitt as Redford's young spy-in-training. It was in the British made-for-television movie "The Murder of Stephen Lawrence" (PBS, 2002), however, where the actress was truly given an opportunity to shine for the first time since "Secrets & Lies." Written and directed by Paul Greengrass for "Masterpiece Theater," the based-in-fact film took an almost documentarian approach to the tragic events leading up to and after the murder of a black UK youth (Leon Black) by a group of white street thugs. As Lawrence's parents (Jean-Baptiste and Hugh Quarshie) sought justice, they were stonewalled by a police force rife with racial bias. On American airwaves, Jean-Baptiste made her debut as a regular cast member on the police procedural "Without a Trace" (CBS, 2002-09). For seven seasons, she played FBI Agent Vivian Johnson, second in command of the New York City missing persons case squad. A devoted wife and mother coping with a serious heart condition, Jean-Baptiste's character marked an all-too-rare depiction of a strong, relatable woman on television. During the final season of the series, she returned to feature films with a small role as a kindly gardener in the futuristic fable "City of Ember" (2008), and returned post-"Without a Trace" as the drug addict sister of a professional bank robber in the heist movie "Takers" (2010).




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