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Harry J. Lennix

Actor Harry J. Lennix was born the last of three children in Chicago, Illinois, on November 16, 1964, to Harry and Lillian Lennix. He grew up in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, the youngest of three siblings, and was raised by a single mother. His father died when Lennix was only two years old. Lennix attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary where he studied to become a Dominican priest. He did well in school, and upon graduation attended Northwestern University.

At Northwestern University, Lennix became interested in theater. He majored in acting and directing and was a member of For Members Only, an African American student organization at Northwestern. He was also awarded the School of Communications’ Sandra Singer Scholarship for talented theater students. After graduation, Lennix spent eight years teaching in Chicago Public Schools, although he began to perform in prominent Chicago theaters, including the Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres.

Lennix's acting career began to take off in the late 1980s. His first film role was in 1989’s The Package, filmed on location in Chicago. Lennix continued working in theater, and the following year, he won an Obie award for his portrayal of Malcolm X in The Meeting. After relocating to New York City, Lennix performed in the play Titus Andronicus. He would reprise this role when the play became a film (Titus) in 1999. Lennix received both a Tree of Life Award from the NAACP and a Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy for his performance in that film. Lennix’s film and television credits are numerous. He has had significant roles in movies such as Ray, Love and Basketball, Get on the Bus, Barbershop 2: Back in Business and The Matrix: Revolutions, among others. His television credits included a major role on NBC’s acclaimed series Commander in Chief as well as parts in E.R., Diagnosis Murder and House, M.D..

Lennix is known for playing stern and stoic characters. He joined forces with Goodman Theatre director Chuck Smith to form Legacy Productions. The company has performed plays throughout the country. Although he resides in Los Angeles, Lennix is on the board of advisors at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, and continues to work as a stage actor, including a role in 2005 in the play Permanent Collection.

Accession Number

A2006.057

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/1/2006 |and| 5/3/2018

Last Name

Lennix

Middle Name

J.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Myra Bradwell Communications Arts & Sciences Elementary School

St. Bride Elementary School

Quigley Preparatory Seminary South

Northwestern University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LEN01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cancun, Mexico, Australia

Favorite Quote

It Is Worth More To Have A Little Bit Of Something You Love, Than A Lot Of Something You Don't Care About.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/16/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Italian, Japanese Food

Short Description

Stage actor and film actor Harry J. Lennix (1964 - ) received both a Tree of Life Award from the NAACP and a Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy for his performance as Aaron in the film, 'Titus'. He founded Legacy Productions with Goodman Theatre director Chuck Smith, and serves on the advisory board of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.

Employment

Actor

Favorite Color

Burgundy, Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry J. Lennix's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his family's background working on plantations

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes his Native American heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes the slave rebellions in America and Haiti

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's family and her move to Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix describes his father and uncle

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes his siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes his premature birth and childhood illness

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his earliest memories of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his elementary school teachers and friends, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his elementary school teachers and friends, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his childhood aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his acting roles in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the actors and actresses who influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix describes his affinity for languages

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his decision to attend Northwestern University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his decision to pursue acting

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his freshman year at Northwestern University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his first year at Northwestern University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes his siblings' college experiences

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his first year at Northwestern University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix describes his mother's life while he was in college

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his sophomore year at Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix remembers performing in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix recalls Northwestern University's SummerStage festival

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix describes his junior year at Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his confidence as a young actor

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his courses at Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes the politics of Chicago and Northwestern University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his family's opinion of his acting career

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix describes his senior year at Northwestern University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry J. Lennix' interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the Summer Academic Workshop at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about prominent professors at Northwestern University

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the 1970s arts scene in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the black theatres in Chicago in the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers seeing his first professional play, 'Fiorello!'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his first professional theatrical roles

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix talks about black theater and colorblind casting

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his first film roles in 'The Package' and 'A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story'

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix talks about being cast in 'The Five Heartbeats'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix recalls making 'The Five Heartbeats'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix talks about dance and vocal techniques for actors

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the differences between stage and film acting

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the voices of prominent black actors and singers

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes how new media platforms have reduced actors' compensation

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers substitute teaching in Chicago Public Schools

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his interest in the Nation of Islam

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the demographics of Chicago's South Shore neighborhood during his childhood

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the Nation of Islam's contributions

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his relationship to the Nation of Islam

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his connections to the North Side and South Side of Chicago

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his move to New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his role as Aaron the Moor in 'Titus Andronicus'

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix talks about playing Othello

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix describes the cultural impact of 'Othello'

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the impact of race on his career

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix recalls touring Jeff Stetson's play 'The Meeting'

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the play 'When Chickens Come Home To Roost'

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix recalls working with Spike Lee in the mid-1990s

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his approach to playing Malcolm X

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the assassination of Malcom X

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers the movie 'Get on the Bus'

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the television shows 'ER' and 'Diagnosis Murder'

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix remembers his television roles in the late 1990s

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his roles at the Goodman Theater in late 1990s Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the 2000 film 'Love and Basketball'

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix recalls performing in 'Cymbeline' in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix remembers learning about Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. for 'Keep the Faith, Baby'

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.'s legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon the range of characters he has played

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix talks about filming 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions' in 2003

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his interest in directing and producing

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers filming 'The Human Stain' in 2003

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix describes his role in the 2005 film 'Chrystal'

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix talks about Taylor Hackford's directing style

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls filming 'Barbershop 2: Back in Business' and 'Suspect Zero'

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his process as an actor

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix describes his perspective on improvisation

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix describes the premise of Thomas Gibbons' play 'Permanent Collection'

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the NAACP Image Awards' selection process

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix describes his 2007 production of 'Macbeth' in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his character in August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix remembers playwright August Wilson

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix recalls his relationship with August Wilson

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his early community in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix recalls the Broadway run of 'Radio Golf'

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix describes his roles in '24' and 'Resurrecting the Champ'

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his support for Hillary Rodham Clinton

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the portrayal of fictional black presidents

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Harry J. Lennix remembers directing his first film, 'Fly Like Mercury'

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Harry J. Lennix recalls working with Joss Whedon on the television show 'Dollhouse'

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Harry J. Lennix talks about watching his own films

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Harry J. Lennix remembers being cast on 'The Blacklist'

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Harry J. Lennix describes the impact of online streaming on the film industry

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Harry J. Lennix talks about his projects as a producer

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his life

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - Harry J. Lennix describes his plans for 'Revival!' and black faith-based media

Tape: 12 Story: 10 - Harry J. Lennix talks about the film 'Black Panther'

Tape: 12 Story: 11 - Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his favorite role, Jay Gatsby in 'The Great Gatsby'

Tape: 12 Story: 12 - Harry J. Lennix describes his advice to young black actors

Tape: 12 Story: 13 - Harry J. Lennix describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Harry J. Lennix recalls the actors and actresses who influenced him
Harry J. Lennix reflects upon his first year at Northwestern University, pt. 2
Transcript
Sophomore year [at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South, Chicago, Illinois], some friends of mine were auditioning for the play, and I saw a bunch of girls that were auditioning for the play, too. These girls were from surrounding sister schools, like Elizabeth Seton [Elizabeth Seton High School, South Holland, Illinois], Mother McAuley [Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, Chicago, Illinois] and you know, Our Lady of Peace [Our Lady of Peace Catholic School, Chicago, Illinois], and things. And I auditioned, and I got a small part in it. It was 'Guys and Dolls,' and the priest, his name was Father Robert Bridge [Robert Emmett Bridge]. He was a librarian, but was a lover of the theater. He put me in it and I sang a song and met some wonderful people, and just fell in love with this life, with this thing. I saw, on some snowy day when everybody couldn't get there, I saw 'Guys and Dolls,' the movie, and I remember at that same time I had read a book by Mario Puzo, called 'The Godfather.' And I had seen that at the Cheltenham Theatre [Chicago, Illinois], you know, where we would go watch movies with that big box of popcorn. And I couldn't believe, I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that that was the same guy from 'The Godfather' that was in this 'Guys and Dolls' thing. Not Sinatra [Frank Sinatra], but Marlon Brando. And I became fascinated with Brando, and I just started watching everything I could. I would get the movie--the TV Guide every week. This was before, you know, VCRs and all that stuff. And I would find Brando movies, and then I would read about him, from books in the library. I would even find out about the people he liked, you know, and watch those movies. I would watch Olivier [Laurence Olivier] and Alec Guinness, and then from Guinness I would watch people like Charlie Laughton [Charles Laughton], and from Laughton, I would watch people like Robert Donat, and Peter O'Toole, and Richard Burton. You know, like there were all these tangential lines, these connecting threads of amazing performers. And then, you know, we were reading in high school, 'A Raisin in the Sun' [Lorraine Hansberry], and I saw this guy, this Sidney Poitier guy, and I thought that he was amazing, just amazing. And Paul Newman, and Ivan Dixon, and you know there were these amazing actors, wonderful actors, and wonderful actresses, like Bette Davis and Piper Laurie, and Eva Marie Saint, and Kim Hunter and Vivien Leigh, the Hepburns [Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn], you know, just like amazing actors.$$Right, right.$$And Cicely Tyson, I remember seeing the 'Autobiography of Jane Pittman' ['The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman'], and I remember her in this tour de force performance. But there was also a guy who played a small role in it, and they were trying to get people to move off the plantation and settle in other places. And some people were trying to get them to stay, and this young black man, this actor, said, "There's lots of places we can go, there's gold in California." And I remember him saying that and thinking, "He's a wonderful actor."$$Right.$$And that's the only line that he had. He was a wonderful actor, and authentic, and just real. And this thing, this 'Roots' thing came on man. And I was shocked at that story. I had never heard that story in the Catholic schools. I didn't know that.$$So they were making a tremendous impact.$$Yeah, actors were opening up the world for me, through theater and movies and books. We were opening up--my mother [Lillian Vines Lennix], like I said, always read books. And she read things like you know Reader's Digest. I remember I would thumb through Reader's Digest or National Geographic or the encyclopedias that she would buy. When I was a kid like in the fifth, sixth, seventh grade, I would read the encyclopedia. I was fascinated, it was like, Nicolaus Copernicus and people like that, and Isaac Newton, the fundamentals laws of physics and, you know, it was watching things like 'Nova' with Carl Sagan. It was just a wonderful, open, insane, limitless world out there.$$Right.$$And actors were like, they were like cowboys. You know, they were like, they could rope the thing together and they could put a lasso around it and could yield and yank it back. They were able to do--the actors in the theaters and movies can, can for a little while reign in the radical wild universe that we live in. And they can tell a story.$We are still in our freshman year there at Northwestern [Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois] and what was that freshman year like?$$Freshman year was, it too was, was you know, I call my childhood Gothic. This was pure Russian Romanticism. This was (laughter) this was Rachmaninoff [Sergei Rachmaninoff], my freshman year. It was Tchaikovsky [Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky], it was insane, it was a whirlwind of information, of academic excellence, of challenge, of sometimes physical duress. Because of the requirements of being a theater major, you had to do a certain amount of crew. Those hours could be grueling. And, you had to get your coursework done and you had to do the work study, and you had social life, such as it was. And I was a shy boy, and wanted desperately to have a girlfriend, and I managed from time to time to get a smooch in from here and there. So, you know, you just, as I look back at that boy, I have tremendous affection for him and for his innocence, and how humble and a little over his head he was. But that the kid had some moxie (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) He had guts.$$He had some guts. And, and I like him, I like that kid.