Actress Lynn Whitfield to give spring commencement speech




Emmy award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield will be the keynote speaker for University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Spring 2016 graduates. The free, public event will be held Saturday, May 7 at 3:00 p.m. in the Pine Bluff Convention Center Arena.

One of the most respected members of the African American acting community, Lynn Whitfield was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She credits watching classic movies on television with her grandmother as the inspiration for her career. She loved storytelling and creating characters as memorable as those performances she admired on screen. Today, the Emmy Award-winning actress has established a solid reputation for the authenticity she brings to her portrayal of women from all walks of life.

Whitfield began her study in drama at Southern University in Baton Rouge. The next year she transferred to Howard University in Washington, DC, where she received a BFA in theatre as a third generation graduate and later a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. She also gained stage experience with the DC Black Repertory Company.

Relocating to New York, she joined the Negro Ensemble Company and toured in national companies of “The Great MacDaddy Musical” and Ntozake Shange’s award-winning play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” Hollywood soon took notice and Whitfield was signed to Columbia Pictures, making her big screen debut in “Doctor Detroit”, “The Slugger’s Wife”, and “Silverado”, followed by the CBS televised movies “The George McKenna Story” and “Johnnie Mae Gibson: FBI”, and the Oprah Winfrey-produced miniseries “The Women of Brewster Place”.

Whitfield vaulted to international fame in “The Josephine Baker Story”, the acclaimed HBO biopic, portraying the legendary St. Louis-born and Paris-based entertainer turned civil rights fighter. Her performance earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special or Miniseries, giving her “the greatest sense of accomplishment and realization of [her] vision,” she says. Whitfield then starred opposite Bill Cosby in “The Cosby Mysteries”.

Returning to the big screen as the unforgettable “Brandi” in Martin Lawrence’s popular urban revenge saga, “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate”, Whitfield went on to score critical success as the beleaguered wife of Samuel L. Jackson in “Eve’s Bayou”, the story of a prominent black Louisiana family. She returned to a similar dramatic milieu in the ABC miniseries “The Wedding”, also executive produced by Winfrey.

Whitfield has won five NAACP Image Awards and received four nominations for her work in film and television. She attracted a new generation of fans in two of the Disney Channel’s highest rated movies, “The Cheetah Girls” and “The Cheetah Girls 2”. Other feature films she has appeared in include “Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story”, co-starring Jamie Foxx; Chris Rock’s “Head of State;” “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion”; “Mama I Want to Sing”, a remake of the off-Broadway musical; “Kings of the Evening”; “The Rebound”; “Things Fall Apart”, produced by and co-starring rapper-actor 50 Cent; and “Battlefield America.”

In addition to her film and television career, Whitfield is currently developing projects for her production company that will tell compelling stories from the rich Louisiana culture, as well as those from common experience told with uncommon honesty.

For more information about the event, please contact the Registrar’s office at (870) 575-8491.


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