An inspirational drama, Akeelah and the Bee is the story of Akeelah Anderson a precocious 11-year old girl from South Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother, Akeelah enters various spelling contests, for which she is tutored by the forthright Dr. Larabee, her principal Mr. Welch, and the proud residents of her neighborhood. Akeelah's aptitude earns her an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee and in turn unites her neighborhood who witness the courage and inspiration from one amazing little girl.
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Angela BassettActorCaptivating, gifted, and sensational, Angela Bassett's presence has been felt in theaters and on stages and television screens throughout the world. Angela Evelyn Bassett was born on August 16, 1958 in New York City, to Betty Jane (Gilbert), a social worker, and Daniel Benjamin Bassett, a preacher's son. Bassett and her sister D'nette grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida with their mother. As a single mother, Betty stressed the importance of education for her children. With the assistance of an academic scholarship, Bassett matriculated into Yale University. In 1980, she received her B.A. in African-American studies from Yale University. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Yale School of Drama. It was at Yale that Bassett met her husband, Courtney B. Vance, a 1986 graduate of the Drama School. Bassett first appeared in small roles on The Cosby Show (1984) and Spenser: For Hire (1985), but it was not until 1990 that a spate of television roles brought her notice. Her breakthrough role, though, was playing Tina Turner, whom she had never seen perform before taking the role, in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993). Bassett's performance earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golded Globe Award for Best Actress.More
Keke PalmerActorKeke Palmer was born Lauren Keyana Palmer in Harvey, Illinois, a south suburb of Chicago, to Sharon and Larry Palmer, both former actors. Palmer showed vocal promise as a five-year-old, when she belted out "Jesus Loves Me" in her church choir. A year later the singer-actress had a solo in her kindergarten play but, to her mom's dismay, the mike had not been adjusted to suit her daughter's height. Without missing a beat, Palmer lowered the mike and moved the crowd with her heavenly voice. At that very moment, her family knew there was something special about Keke (a nickname given to her by her sister). Although music was still her passion, Palmer's first big break came via her acting skills, making her big-screen debut in Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004) as Queen Latifah's niece. Immediately recognizing her star potential, the film's producers encouraged her parents to take their daughter to California to explore other acting opportunities. Relocating required that Palmer's parents leave behind the security of their jobs, a newly purchased home and uproot their other three children. However, it didn't diminish the family's support of Palmer's aspirations. Once settled on the West Coast, Palmer did not waste any time. Within six weeks she had booked an episode of the critically acclaimed CBS series Cold Case (2003), a national K-Mart commercial and was chosen from a nationwide search to play opposite William H. Macy in a TNT movie, The Wool Cap (2004). Her performance was so amazing that it earned her a Screen Actors Guild nomination--to date, she is the youngest actress (then at age ten) ever to receive a nomination in a Lead Actress Category. In 2006 Palmer appeared as the lead character "Akeelah Anderson" in the critically acclaimed, award-winning film Akeelah and the Bee (2006). The film, about a young South Los Angeles girl who attempts to win a national spelling bee, won the hearts of audiences everywhere. Her breakthrough performance has received praise from many film critics and organizations. Among the list of nominations received, "Akeelah and the Bee" was listed as one of NBR's 2006 Top Independent Films of the Year, as well as four nominations from the NAACP Image Awards. Palmer, alone, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture by the Black Movie Awards. She has also received nominations for Most Promising Newcomer by the Chicago Film Critics, Best Actress by the Black Reel Awards, and Best Young Actress by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Keke held her own in scenes with veteran co-stars Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. That very same year, Palmer appeared in Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion (2006), which was #1 at the box office for two consecutive weeks. Palmer went on to win a 2007 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her breakout role in "Akeelah and the Bee". She also received a ShoWest Award for Rising Star of the Year. Shortly after, Palmer lit up the small screen starring in the Disney Channel's hit movie, Jump In! (2007). This one-two punch of big-screen success coupled with small screen ratings power made Keke Palmer a household name in Hollywood. Palmer contributed her first recording, which was featured on the "Akeelah and the Bee" soundtrack, titled "All My Girlz", and followed it up with the ever popular "My Turn Now" on the "Jump In!" soundtrack. As if two soundtracks were not enough, she was also asked to sing "Tonight", an end title song from the smash-hit Ben Stiller movie, Night at the Museum (2006). Her Atlantic Records debut album, "So Uncool", is jammed with up-tempo R&B tracks, inspirational moments, and love songs. In 2008, Palmer starred in the Weinstein Co. feature, The Longshots (2008). The film was based on the true story of a young female quarterback, played by Palmer, that makes Pop Warner history; she starred opposite Ice Cube, for first time director and Limp Bizkit front man, Fred Durst. Palmer also starred as the title character in the hit Nickelodeon series, True Jackson, VP (2008), for 68 episodes, she played a high-school student who becomes the head of a major fashion label. In the fall of 2008, "True Jackson" bowed with over 4.8 million viewers, setting a record for Nickelodeon's largest audience for a live-action premiere. She has received four NAACP Awards for Best Actress in Children's Television for her role as "True Jackson". Keke starred in the movie, Abducted: The Carlina White Story (2012), for the Lifetime Network. She had a voice role in the 20th Century Fox animated film, Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), as the character "Peaches". Her co-stars include Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah. Palmer was seen on the big screen in the Alcon/Warner Bros movie, Joyful Noise (2012), singing alongside legendary Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, however, it was Palmer who the critics singled out for her "young and inspiring" rendition of the Michael Jackson song, "Man in the Mirror". Palmer resides in Los Angeles, CA.More
Laurence FishburneActorOne of Hollywood's most talented and versatile performers and the recipient of a truckload of NAACP Image awards, Laurence John Fishburne III was born in Augusta, Georgia on July 30, 1961, to Hattie Bell (Crawford), a teacher, and Laurence John Fishburne, Jr., a juvenile corrections officer. His mother transplanted her family to Brooklyn after his parents divorced. At the age of 10, he appeared in his first play, "In My Many Names and Days," at a cramped little theater space in Manhattan. He continued on but managed to avoid the trappings of a child star per se, considering himself more a working child actor at the time. Billing himself as Larry Fishburne during this early phase, he never studied or was trained in the technique of acting. In 1973, at the age of 12, Laurence won a recurring role on the daytime soap One Life to Live (1968) that lasted three seasons and subsequently made his film debut in the ghetto-themed Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975). At 14 Francis Ford Coppola cast him in Apocalypse Now (1979), which filmed for two years in the Philippines. Laurence didn't work for another year and a half after that long episode. A graduate of Lincoln Square Academy, Coppola was impressed enough with Laurence to hire him again down the line with featured roles in Rumble Fish (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), and Gardens of Stone (1987). Throughout the 1980s, he continued to build up his film and TV credit list with featured roles despite little fanfare. A recurring role as Cowboy Curtis on the kiddie show Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986) helped him through whatever lean patches there were at the time. With the new decade (1990s) came out-and-out stardom for Laurence. A choice lead in John Singleton's urban tale Boyz n the Hood (1991) catapulted him immediately into the front of the film ranks. Set in LA's turbulent South Central area, his potent role as a morally minded divorced father who strives to rise above the ignorance and violence of his surroundings, Laurence showed true command and the ability to hold up any film. On stage, he would become invariably linked to playwright August Wilson and his 20th Century epic African-American experience after starring for two years as the eruptive ex-con in "Two Training Running." For this powerful, mesmerizing performance, Laurence won nearly every prestigious theater award in the books (Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Theatre World). It was around the time of this career hallmark that he began billing himself as "Laurence" instead of "Larry." More awards and accolades came his way. In addition to an Emmy for the pilot episode of the series "Tribeca," he was nominated for his fine work in the quality mini-movies The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) and Miss Evers' Boys (1997). On the larger screen, both Laurence and Angela Bassett were given Oscar nominations for their raw, seething portrayals of rock stars Ike and Tina Turner in the film What's Love Got to Do with It (1993). To his credit, he managed to take an extremely repellent character and make it a sobering and captivating experience. A pulp box-office favorite as well, he originated the role of Morpheus, Keanu Reeves' mentor, in the exceedingly popular futuristic sci-fi The Matrix (1999), best known for its ground-breaking special effects. He wisely returned for its back-to-back sequels. Into the millennium, Laurence extended his talents by making his screenwriting and directorial debut in Once in the Life (2000), in which he also starred. The film is based on his own critically acclaimed play "Riff Raff," which he staged five years earlier. In 1999, he scored a major theater triumph with a multi-racial version of "The Lion in Winter" as Henry II opposite Stockard Channing's Eleanor of Acquitaine. On film, Fishburne has appeared in a variety of interesting roles in not-always-successful films. Never less than compelling, a few of his more notable parts include an urban speed chess player in Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993); a military prisoner in Cadence (1990); a college professor in Singleton's Higher Learning (1995); a CIA operative in Bad Company (1995); the title role in Othello (1995) (he was the first black actor to play the part on film); a spaceship rescue team leader in the sci-fi horror Event Horizon (1997); a Depression-era gangster in Hoodlum (1997); a dogged police sergeant in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River (2003); a spelling bee coach in Akeelah and the Bee (2006); and prominent roles in the mainstream films Predators (2010) and Contagion (2011). He returned occasionally to the theatre. In April 2008, he played Thurgood Marshall in the one-man show "Thurgood" and won a Drama Desk Award. It was later transferred to the screen. In the fall of 2008, Fishburne replaced William Petersen as the male lead investigator on the popular CBS drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000), but left the show in 2011 to refocus on films and was in turn replaced by Ted Danson. Since then Fishburne has appeared in the Superman film Man of Steel (2013) as Daily Planet chief Perry White. Fishburne has two children, Langston and Montana, from his first marriage to actress Hajna O. Moss. In September 2002, Fishburne married Cuban-American actress Gina Torres.More