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More Ossie Davis Bios & Profiles


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Biography #2

Ossie Davis is the stubborn elder statesman of the Lemur clan whose compassionate spirit is close to the surface of his tough exterior. He befriends Aladar and follows him on the dangerous journey to seek a new nesting ground.

"Yar is an old, irascible and self-opinionated Lemur who is used to being obeyed, says Davis. He's a charming character who tries to hide behind his authoritarian approach to things. The real character-revealing moment for Yar comes when Plio calls his bluff and tells him to get rid of the baby dinosaur if he wants to. Though he is big of mouth and senses that she is intruding on his authority, he is too warm-blooded and sympathetic to destroy it. Aladar becomes a member of the tribe and Var is a grandfatherly figure to him. As a grandfather myself, this part gave me no difficulty whatsoever. "The thing that intrigues me about this film is that it gives the actor a chance to go back to the roots of both dramatic and literary presentation, observes Davis. We are encouraged to use our imaginations to the fullest. The normal film medium tends to repress the actor because the camera and sound equipment are so sensitive. They don't want you to stretch out. 'Dinosaur' releases that imagination and has given me a chance to go back to that aspect of performance. Yar is an attitude, a way of looking at things, an extraordinary presentation of one aspect of what a human personality would be. Doing an animated voice gives you the freedom and the pleasure that you used to get when you were a child and played games. It's been a tremendous experience dealing with Yar and giving my childhood pleasures a chance to express themselves.

"The heart of Disney films is always deeply human and its always embracing and reaffirming. It makes the continued lesson that we are, in spite of our differences, weaknesses and separations, part of the same team and the same situation. And if we can set aside the differences and find a way to communicate and relate, we'll find that the world and the people in it are not nearly as threatening as we think they are. Disney films tend to reaffirm that and that's why it's such a joy to do one."

As a playwright, screenwriter, director, producer and actor, distinguished actor Davis has often been associated with works that celebrate black history in America. He remains an inspirational presence in contemporary African-American culture.

A native of Georgia, Davis attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. and moved to New York to join the Harlem theatre group, Rose McClendon Players, where he made his acting debut in Joy Exceeding Glory. He made his Broadway debut in Jeb. In 1961, he replaced Sidney Poitier in the Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. He is credited with writing and starring in Purlie Victorious, which was later adapted into the musical Purlie. Other stage credits include the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of I'm Not Rappaport, Anna Lucasta and Wisteria Trees.

Currently, Davis has recurring roles on the popular television dramas City of Angels and Third Watch. His other television credits include Touched By An Angel, Cosby, Evening Shade, Promised Land, B.L. Stryker; and movies-of-the-week such as The Soul Collector, A Vow to Cherish, Miss Evers' Boys for HBO; as well as the miniseries The Stand, King and Roots: The Next Generations. He has also appeared in the PBS special celebration Martin Luther King: The Dream and The Drum.

He made his film directing debut in Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and went on to helm Kongi's Harvest, Black Girl, Gordon's War and Countdown at Kusini. As an actor, he's appeared in No Way Out directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, The Cardinal and The Hill. He is a fixture in Spike Lee films including School Daze, Get on the Bus, Jungle Fever, Mo' Better Blues and Do the Right Thing. Other film credits include The Client, Grumpy Old Men, Twelve Angry Men, Her Alibi and Joe vs. the Volcano.

Davis is the recipient of the Neil Award for For Us, the Living, a biopic he wrote about assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers for PBS. He was awarded the NAACP Image Award in 1989, the National Medal of Arts Award in 1995 and in 1998 the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Promised Land, as well as the Frederick Douglass Award of the New York Urban League. In 1963, he served as master of ceremonies for the March on Washington and for the Solidarity Poor People's Campaign. In 1965 he delivered the eulogy at the funeral of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X.

He has been married to actress Ruby Dee, his constant collaborator and partner, since 1948.

updated 01-Jan-2000