Lisa Gay Hamilton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Lisa Gay Hamilton
Lisa Gay Hamilton 2010.jpg
Hamilton with her Peabody Award
Born(1964-03-25) March 25, 1964 (age 50)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, director
Years active1985–present
Spouse(s)Robin D. G. Kelley
(2009 – present)
Jump to: navigation, search
Lisa Gay Hamilton
Lisa Gay Hamilton 2010.jpg
Hamilton with her Peabody Award
Born(1964-03-25) March 25, 1964 (age 50)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, director
Years active1985–present
Spouse(s)Robin D. G. Kelley
(2009 – present)

Lisa Gay Hamilton (born March 25, 1964) is an American film, television, and theater actress known for her role as attorney Rebecca Washington on the ABC legal drama The Practice, and for her critically acclaimed performance as young Sethe in Jonathan Demme's film adaptation of Toni Morrison's Beloved. Her theater credits include Measure for Measure (Isabella), Henry IV Parts I & II (Lady Hotspur), Athol Fugard’s, Valley Song and The Ohio State Murders. Hamilton was also an original cast member in the Broadway productions of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and Gem of the Ocean.

Early life[edit]

Hamilton was born in Los Angeles, California but spent most of her childhood in Stony Brook, New York on Long Island. Her father, Ira Winslow Hamilton, Jr., hailed from Bessemer, Alabama, and her mother, the former Eleanor Albertine "Tina" Blackwell, was from Meridian, Mississippi. Both parents graduated from historically black colleges—Tina attended Talladega while Ira went to Morehouse—and they both became successful professionals. Ira worked for a while as an engineer and then went into business as a general contractor. Tina eventually earned a Masters degree in social work and worked for the Girl Scouts for many years.[1]

Hamilton fell in love with theater at an early age. During the 1970s, she saw several off-Broadway productions by the Negro Ensemble Company, including A Soldier's Story and The First Breeze of Summer.[2] She enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University to study theater, but after a year was accepted into New York University’s Tisch Drama School.[citation needed] After graduating in 1985, she earned a second BFA from The Juilliard School in 1989.[citation needed]


Early on, Hamilton set her sights on classical theater. In one of her first notable roles, she played opposite Kevin Kline in Measure for Measure in the New York Shakespeare Festival. Her performances in Much Ado About Nothing, Tartuffe, Reckless, Family of Mann, and Two Gentlemen of Verona, earned her a reputation as a serious dramatic actor.[citation needed] In 1995-96, her portrayal of a young, aspiring South African singer in Athol Fugard's Valley Song garnered an Obie Award, the Clarence Derwent Award, the Ovation nomination for best actress, and a Drama Desk nomination. More recently, Hamilton earned critical acclaim,[3] her second Obie, and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for her role as Suzanne Alexander in Adrienne Kennedy’s, The Ohio State Murders.[4]

Hamilton appeared in over two dozen films, including The Truth About Charlie and Beloved for director Jonathan Demme, Clint Eastwood’s True Crime, the independent films; Palookaville, Drunks, Showtime’s A House Divided, and as Ophelia in director Campbell Scott’s film version of Hamlet. She has worked on several projects with director Rodrigo García, notably his films Ten Tiny Love Stories, Nine Lives, and Mother and Child. Honeydripper directed by John Sayles and The Soloist, directed by Joe Wright.[4]

She directed the documentary film Beah: A Black Woman Speaks in 2003. This film, about pioneering black actress Beah Richards, dealt with Hamilton seeking out Richards, an African-American actress who had broken ground making inroads for black actresses. The two women met on the set of Beloved. Richards worked on stage and screen, taking small roles in several motion pictures during the 1950s and 1960s, earning an Oscar nomination for her role as Sidney Portier’s mother in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, despite being two years his junior. Richards worked in television as well, making memorable late-career appearances on the series Designing Women and The Practice. Hamilton's film explored Richards' political activism as well as her poetry (her volume, A Black Woman Speaks and Other Poems was published in 1974). After Richards died, Hamilton collaborated with illustrator R. Gregory Christie to turn one of her poems into a children's book. Keep Climbing Girls was published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.

Hamilton played the role of Melissa in Men of a Certain Age, an hour-long comedy-drama starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula that ran from 2009 to 2011.

In the fall of 2010, Hamilton took a faculty position in the School of Theater for the California Institute of the Arts.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2009, Hamilton married historian and writer Robin D. G. Kelley.[citation needed] They reside together in Los Angeles, California.


1985Krush GrooveAisha
1990Reversal of FortuneMary
1993Naked in New YorkMarty
1993Homicide: Life on the StreetLatoya KennedyEpisode: "A Dog and Pony Show"
1994New York UndercoverSukiEpisode: "To Protect and Serve"
1994All My ChildrenCeila Wilson #1Unknown episodes
1995Law & OrderDenise JohnsonEpisode: "Purple Heart"
1995Twelve MonkeysTeddy
1996One Life to LiveDr. Laura Reed5 episodes
1997Jackie BrownSheronda
1997–2003The PracticeRebecca Washington145 episodes
Nominated—Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1999-2001)
1998Ally McBealRebecca WashingtonEpisode: "The Inmates"
1998Halloween H20: 20 Years LaterShirley Jones
1998BelovedYounger Sethe
1999True CrimeBonnie BeechumNominated—Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
1999Swing VoteVirginia MapesTelevision movie
2001Ten Tiny Love StoriesThree
2002Sex and the CityKendallEpisode: "Critical Condition"
2002The Truth About CharlieLola Jansco
2002The Sum of All FearsCapt. Lorna Shiro
2003V-Day: Until the Violence StopsHerself
2003Beah: A Black Woman SpeaksDirectorDirector
Winner-Peabody Award[5]
Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Director
Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Original or Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Black Reel Award for Outstanding Miniseries or Television Film
2004The L WordArt Show AttendeeEpisode: "Losing It"
2005Nine LivesHollyNominated—Gotham Award for Best Cast
2005ERNadine HopkinsEpisode: "All About Christmas Eve"
2006Without a TraceSherise GibbsEpisode: "The Calm Before"
2006–2013Law & Order: Special Victims UnitTeresa Randall3 episodes
2007Numb3rsSari KinshasaEpisode: "Money for Nothing"
2008DeceptionDetective Russo
2009The SoloistJennifer Ayers
2009Mother and ChildLeticia
2009–2011Men of a Certain AgeMelissa20 episodes
2011Take ShelterKendraNominated—Gotham Award for Best Cast
2012SouthlandMelanieEpisode: "Identity"
2013Grey's AnatomyDr. Connie Ryan2 episodes
2013Go for SistersBernice
2014Life of a KingSheila King
2014GrimmDelores PittmanEpisode: "The Last Fight"


  1. ^ LisaGaye Hamilton, 'Growing Up Female is a Journey,' in Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female, ed. By Willa Shalit, (New York: Hyperion Books, 2006)
  2. ^ Robin D. G. Kelley, 'Freedom is Living': LisaGaye Hamilton’s Radical Imagination,' Transforming Anthropology 14, no. 1 (April 2006), 2-9.
  3. ^ - Charles Isherwood, 'A College is Stalked By Attitude,' New York Times, November 7, 2007
  4. ^ a b Hamilton's web site
  5. ^

External links[edit]