April 17, 1967
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
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From an early age, Kimberly Elise exhibited a talent and propensity for the arts; by age seven, she was writing plays and short stories. It seemed inevitable that she would go on to study film and acting at the University of Minnesota. While enrolled, Elise began her professional career, appearing in television commercials and productions at a local black theater company and working behind-the-scenes at the Minneapolis public TV station. Her short film "The Joy of Mama's Recall" earned considerable attention and a slot in the American Film Institute's director's program.The attractive Elise then resumed acting, appearing in a small role in the NBC sitcom "In the House" in 1995 before landing her debut feature, "Set It Off" (1996). As Tisean, the single mother driven to crime by circumstance, she proved a strong screen presence, holding her own with seasoned co-stars Queen Latifah, Vivica A Fox and Jada Pinkett. The actress added to her growing reputation with an award-winning turn as one of the titular "The Ditchdigger's Daughters" (The Family Channel, 1997). Elise was then tapped to play Denver, the surviving daughter of an ex-slave (played by Oprah Winfrey), in "Beloved" (1998). Again, despite a formidable cast, she was singled out for her work, taking her character from insecure teen to self-assured woman. Surprisingly, Elise's strong work in "Beloved" did not immediately escalate her into Hollywood's A-list. She continued to give standout performances in telepics such as "The Loretta Claiborne Story" (2000) and as Fanny May opposite Gregory Hines in "Bojangles" (2001), the biopic of legendary song-and-dance man Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, but was relegated to lesser supporting roles on the big screen in "Bait" (2000) and "John Q" (2002). Elise had a second "breakthrough" turn opposite her previous co-star Denzel Washington when she was cast in director Jonathan Demme's creatively successful remake of the classic 1962 conspiracy thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" (2004) as a sympathetic woman trying to help Washington uncover the truth behind his conflicting memories. She followed up that turn with a powerful performance as a woman struggling to reconcile her life with her abusive, poverty-stricken history in the acclaimed adaptation of Bishop T.D. Jakes' self-help tome "Woman Thou Art Loosed" (2004). Elise's considerable screen charisma was the principal appeal of the too-slapsticky screen adaptation of Tyler Perry's play "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (2005), in which she played the jilted wife of an affluent husband who is forced to turn to her wacky family and their pro-Christian ideals after her marriage collapses.