Facts about Aunjanue Ellis
Aunjanue Ellis Biography
Aunjanue Ellis is the actress who was Oscar-nominated for her role as Oracene Price — the mother of tennis stars Serena Williams and Venus Williams — in the 2021 film King Richard.
Aunjanue Ellis was raised on a farm in Mississippi, and started at Tougaloo College there before transferring to Brown University and graduating in 1992 with a degree in African-American Studies. She went on to get a graduate degree in theater at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 1995.
That same year, she made a splashy debut as Ariel opposite Patrick Stewart (as Prospero) in a Broadway production of The Tempest.
She began working in the movies immediately, taking small roles in movies like In Too Deep and Map of the World (both 1999).
In the 2000s, her high-profile films have included Game of Death (2010, with Wesley Snipes), The Help (2010, with Octavia Spencer and many others), the James Brown biopic Get On Up (2014) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018).
Ellis has also stayed busy in TV, first playing a cop in the TV series High Incident (1996-97) and going on to star in series like E-Ring (2005-06), The Mentalist (2010-13), and Quantico (2015-17). By 2021 she had twice been nominated for Emmy Awards: in 2019 for the crime miniseries When They See Us, and in 2021 for the freaky horror drama series Lovecraft Country (based on works of freaky author H.P. Lovecraft).
King Richard starred Will Smith as the hard-driving father of famed Black tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. Ellis played the stars’ mother, Oracene Price, and was celebrated for bringing to the fore a woman who often had been lost in Richard Williams’s shadow.
4 Good Links
- Wikipedia lists her impressive number of movies and TV shows
- 2021 Vanity Fair audio interview (with partial transcript)
- The two actresses compare notes in this 2022 Variety interview
- 2021 story from her home state of Mississippi