Isiah Whitlock Jr., film, theater, and television artist, has the extraordinary gift of commanding any space he inhabits. A combination of physical presence, intense emotional investment, and sonorous voice all combine to create an arresting experience for any viewer or audience member.
As a young man hailing from South Bend, Indiana, he attended Southwest Minnesota State University through a football scholarship. Injuries compelled his athletic dream to be put on a shelf. One day, on a whim, he decided to walk into the university's drama department, where they were holding auditions for Arthur Miller's The Crucible. He was cast, and from then on, was proverbially shot out of a cannon. He became a dramatic staple at SMSU, which clearly appreciated and recognized his talents and groomed him for a life in the performing arts.
"From a little spark, may burst a flame."
Upon graduation from the university, he made the sojourn to San Francisco, becoming a valuable student, teacher and member of the prestigious American Conservatory Theater. Next stop, New York City, where he began to build a solid career based on talent and determination.
"I never asked whose cake it was, I just went in and cut myself a piece."
Isiah began to amass a wide variety of estimable roles. From his role as a sympathetic doctor in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, to his captivating portrayal of Joe in Christopher Shinn's renowned Off-Broadway play Four, for which he was nominated for the Lucille Lortelle Award as Outstanding Featured Actor. Isiah can boast memorable guest appearances on Law and Order, along with noteworthy characters developed in Spike Lee's 25th Hour, Peter Hedges' highly-acclaimed film Pieces of April, and the character Ronald Wilkes in Miguel Arteta's Cedar Rapids. His portrayal of Senator Clay Davis on HBO's superlative series The Wire is the epitome of an excellent actor living under the skin of his character.
His determination and perseverance stems from a youth lived without many creature comforts, but infinite examples of strength surrounding him. One of eleven children, he takes joy from a very loving and supportive (and large!) family. He has garnered numerous inspirational characters from his early life.
However, given his impressive power as an actor, Isiah can be seen as a proverbial Renaissance man: culinary artist, avid wine collector and wine maker, lover of jazz, and sports aficionado. In other words, Isiah Whitlock Jr. is a force to be reckoned with.
The end crowns all,
And that old common arbitrator,
Will one day end it.
So to him we leave it.