Since his award-winning performance opposite [Denzel Washington] in 1995's Devil In A Blue Dress, Don Cheadle has dazzled audiences with powerful performances on both big and small screens. "I like variety, that's why I wanted to be an actor," he says. "To wear a bunch of different people, and to be in a bunch of different things. That's one of the best things about being an actor."
Bringing an intensity and laid-back charisma to his roles, Don strives to complement rather than overshadow co-stars. That hasn't prevented him distinguishing himself, however, in such star-studded box-office hits such as Boogie Nights, Traffic and both instalments of Ocean's Eleven.
Born on November 29, 1964, in Kansas City, Don grew up in Denver, Colorado, the son of a psychologist father and bank manager mother. At the age of five he was already demonstrating an interest in performing, and, with the support and encouragement of his parents, had won scholarships from both music and acting schools by the time he graduated from high school. Following his acting muse, he attended the prestigious California Institute of the Arts, from which he graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts.
After settling in Los Angeles he threw himself into auditions, finally landing a recurring part on the Eighties' TV dance school drama Fame. This led to roles in John Irvin's Vietnam feature Hamburger Hill and a high-profile role opposite Hollywood heavyweights Robert Duvall and Sean Penn in the Dennis Hopper- directed Colors.
While lead roles eluded him in film, Don continued to hone his acting chops as a guest star on TV series ranging from Hill Street Blues to Night Court. But it was a two-year stint as district attorney John Littleton on Picket Fences, along with his big screen performance opposite Denzel, which won over critics and audiences alike.
Nineteen ninety seven was a big year for Don. He co-starred in three high-profile productions: Volcano with Tommy Lee Jones; the award-winning Boogie Nights; and most importantly, John Singleton's Rosewood. His powerful portrayal of Sylvester Carrier, a spirited black resident who reprimands white men for their treatment of black women, left many industry insiders bemused when he was skipped over for an Oscar nomination.
Rosewood had greater significance to Don than the controversy it provoked over its failure to deliver an Academy Award nod, however. It was while lensing the flick that he met his current partner, actress Bridgid Coulter, with whom he has two daughters.
Since then the actor has scooped his share of awards. He took home a Golden Globe for his performance as Sammy Davis Jr in the made-for-TV production The Rat Pack. Then, in 2004, he was recognised by the Academy for his gripping portrayal in Hotel Rwanda of a hotel manager who aided thousands of Tutsi refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Although increasingly at home in big-budget productions, Don slips effortlessly between box office hits such as Rush Hour 2 and smaller indie efforts. "I want to do both," he explains. "I'll make money on those that hit a main stream audience while doing others that don't pay anything but are ones I really care about."