Spike Lee doesn’t get all recognition he deserves for helping the careers of so many extremely successful actors. And he for sure doesn’t get the accolades and awards he rightfully deserves for directing such masterpieces.
If it wasn’t for Lee’s classic films like Do The Right Thing, School Daze; many actors wouldn’t have had their first roles and some of their breakthrough roles that took their careers to the next level. Check out 15 actors whose careers rose after starring in a Spike Lee joint.
Esposito is one of the greatest actors ever and thanks to a Spike Lee joint, the rest of the world began to take notice of just how talented he truly was. In 1988 he had his breakout role as Dean Big Brother Almighty of the black fraternity “Gamma Phi Gamma” in School Daze, and from there his career began to flourish.
Martin’s first role was as Maurice Warfield in What’s Happening Now! However, it was a Spike Lee joint that gave the actor/comedian his breakthrough role. That was as Cee in Do the Right Thing.
Samuel L. Jackson
Jackson had a fairly unknown career prior to his breakthrough role was Gator, a crack addict, in the Spike Lee-directed Jungle Fever. Jackson won a special jury prize for the best supporting actor at the Cannes Film Festival — an award they created just for him. His career flourished after that making him one of the highest-paid actors of all time.
Perez’s first major acting role was in Do the Right Thing in which she brought her dance moves to the opening of the movie, making it one of the most iconic movie openings to date.
Delroy Lindo is a stage actor who had many years on the stage, TV, and movies under his belt. But it wasn’t until his role Woody Carmichael in Crooklyn that many in Hollywood began taking notice. Interestingly enough, that wasn’t the first Spike Lee joint Lindo was offered. He turned down Spike Lee for a role in Do the Right Thing.
Berry had a small TV show career prior to Spike Lee reluctantly giving her a small role in Jungle Fever, which helped launch her film career which eventually landed her an Academy Award.
John David Washington
Washington starred in the HBO comedy series Ballers before his breakthrough role as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. In that role, he received both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.
Roger Guenveur Smith
Smith has starred in many Spike Lee joints but it was also his role in School Daze that helped elevate Roger Guenveur Smith’s career.
Washington made his feature film debut in 1991’s Strictly Business but made his film career starring in a slew of Spike Lee joints like Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, and Get on the Bus. Those roles helped Washington’s career which eventually landed him a regular role on Grey’s Anatomy…and you know the rest.
Phifer beat out thousands of other actors to get the lead role in Clockers, helping launch his, at that time, unknown career.
Lee gave Washington her first lead role in a film with She Hate Me, a role she received high recognition for.
Lee gave Harper his first acting role in a feature film. That film was Get on the Bus where Hill Harper played a UCLA film student riding a bus to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C.
S. Epatha Merkerson
She’s Gotta Have was Merkerson’s first film role and it helped launch her career.
Guy’s career began as a dancer in seven episodes of the TV series Fame. However, she didn’t have a speaking role in the show. It wasn’t until the Spike Lee joint School Daze did we hear Jasmine Guy. And following her role in this film she joined A Different World, which became her most noted role to date.
Reginald Hudlin isn’t known as an actor but as a director. However, after starring in She’s Gotta Have It as Dog #4, four years later he went on to direct the classic House Party. He’s also directed films such as Boomerang, The Ladies Man, Marshall, and more.