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Nicole Ari Parker Biography

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Birth Name: Nicole Ari Parker
Born: 10/07/1970
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Parker was born in Baltimore, MD on Oct. 7, 1970. Growing up the only child of divorced parents, Parker spent hours lost in her imagination and creating her own plays. At the private all-girls school where she was one of only a handful of non-white students, Parker was a notorious class clown but also excelled in her academics. She studied ballet and acted in local theater productions, and while still in high school, won a statewide acting competition. During her time attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Parker landed an agent, who spotted her while she was performing "King Lear" in drag. She went on to perform with well-known theater groups including Naked Angels and Circle Rep Laboratory, as well as make a daring big screen debut as a young lesbian in "The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love" in 1995.

Work in TV movies and more low budget films followed; in 1997, Parker landed a role in one of the year's favorite indie releases, Paul Thomas Anderson's porn epic "Boogie Nights," in which she played a young porn star and girlfriend of a country music-loving Don Cheadle. Coming of the success of the Oscar-nominated film, Parker landed a succession of small roles in indie comedies "200 Cigarettes" (1999) and "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" (1999), which was a winner at that year's Sundance Film Festival. Parker had further appearances in mainstream offerings "A Map of the World" and "Blue Streak" as well as a recurring role on "Cosby" (CBS, 1996-2000) that same year. Her rising status led to her breakthrough casting on the Showtime series "Soul Food." Based on the movie of the same name, "Soul Food" chronicled three African-American sisters and starred Parker as the eldest, conservative attorney Teri (played by Vanessa Williams in the film version).

Parker earned an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Drama series for her first season on the show, and was also nominated the same year for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her performance as the wife of a football coach (Denzel Washington) leading a newly integrated high school team in "Remember the Titans." After giving a strong leading performance as a television executive navigating the world of black entertainment in the HBO film "Dancing in September" (2000), Parker earned another Image Award nomination for "Soul Food" as well as an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Pictures nod for the romantic drama "Brown Sugar," (2002) starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. She enjoyed three more Image Award-nominated seasons on "Soul Food," which had made its mark as one of the few successful black dramas on television, before the series was cancelled in 2004. However, Parker returned to television immediately that fall as co-star to her husband, Boris Kodjoe, on the UPN comedy "Second Time Around" (2004-05), about a divorced couple's reconciliation and second marriage. Low ratings led to that show's cancellation after only 13 episodes.

Back on the movie screen, Parker had a supporting role in "King's Ransom" (2005), starring Anthony Anderson as a millionaire businessman whose plot to kidnap himself to avoid a messy divorce goes awry. When that film wrapped, Parker took some time off from her career to have two children and spend time with her new family. She returned to theaters in 2008 to give a warm performance opposite Martin Lawrence in the successful dramedy "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins." Pairing up to soften another big screen clown, Parker co-starred with Eddie Murphy in the family friendly misfire "Imagine That" (2009).

By Susan Clarke