Thursday, January 8, 2009

Who's That Lady? - It's Jenifer Lewis!

It's been nearly five months since the second installment of my series Who's That Lady?. Remember this was inspired by Blog Cabins post Familiar Faces - Unknown Names where he catalogs the careers of That Guys. Here we spin the gender and focus on those women we love when we spot them, even if we have never stopped to ask:

Who's That Lady?
Jenifer Lewis

Born in Kinloch, Missouri, Jenifer Lewis began her career on Broadway in the musical Eubie, followed by Dreamgirls. She was also a back-up singer for Bette Midler, which led her into television and her array of talent launched her into films. She's credited with over eighty projects over at IMDB. She is usually cast as a mother, aunt or grandmother, but her serious and assertive demeanor always make her supporting performances memorable.

I chose Ms. Lewis for two reasons. She was the rare sparkling glimmer in Meet the Browns and she will hopefully brighten this week's new release Not Easily Broken as Taraji P. Henson's...mother!

3 Unforgettable Roles
Meet the Browns - Hell to the no! I can't believe what I'm about to say. For such a bad film, it's worth the rental to see Ms. Lewis portray outspoken Vera Brown. Her scenes aren't huge but she's larger than life whenever the camera lens puts her into focus.

TV: A Different World - During the final throes of the show, Jenifer played the role of Dean Dorothy Dandridge Davenport on eight different occasions. I don't recall much more than that. I'm reaching way back just to dig up memories of that show.

Mystery Men - I wanted to find one film where she wasn't cast as a mother. Jenifer was still a mother, but she was better known as Lucille, wife of the Shoveller, a.k.a. William H. Macy. Even as a wife, she cast a motherly disapproval on her husband's crime-fighting passions.

Honorable Mentions: Ms. Lewis has mothered Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) of Dead Presidents, Julia Biggs (Whitney Houston) of The Preacher's Wife and Tina Turner (Angela Bassett) in What's Love Got to Do with It. That last performance I find astounding considering she is not even two years older than Angela!

Saw it, but even I don't remember her in it!
At eighty films and counting, Jenifer Lewis has been in more than a few that I don't recall her role. Maybe it was a bit part or maybe I wasn't mature enough to appreciate it. Either way, these are a few of her films I'd watch again, if only to see her performance.

Films: Poetic Justice, Meteor Man, Girl 6, Panther, TV: The Temptations, TV: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

When the role calls for Mother, Dean, Aunt, Judge, Mama or any strict, no-nonsense woman others must always address by Mrs., you need look no further than Jenifer Lewis. If you want to know more about her career and accolades, be sure to check out her IMDB and Wikipedia

I'm not really in the mood for an inspirational melodrama so I won't be first in line for Not Easily Broken, though I'll catch it down the line to see what kind of mother she turns out to be this time.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. I was convinced I didn't know who she was, but I'm sure I've seen her in some of her TV roles, and I know I've seen her in the under-appreciated (yet still kinda bad) Mystery Men. A small but important role.

  2. She's one of my more obscure ladies to be sure. The next one will be far more recognizable. Sadly, it'll probably be late Feb that'll post.

  3. Jenifer Lewis is a HUGE talent. thanks for the profile

  4. No problem. I aim to get the under appreciated recognized.