Roger Guenveur Smith

"Roger Guenveur Smith” affirms the New York Times, “gets it all and gets it brilliantly.” As an actor, writer, director, and educator, Mr. Smith has constructed an unparalleled body of work for the stage, screen and academy. He adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm directed by his longtime colleague Spike Lee. Their prolific collaborative relationship also includes the classic DO THE RIGHT THING, for which Mr. Smith created the stuttering hero “Smiley,” and Mr. Smith’s Bessie Award-winning RODNEY KING, directed by Mr. Lee and currently streaming on Netflix.  

Mr. Smith’s passion for “Performing History” —the name of the workshop which he directs internationally — has inspired theatrical encounters with Frederick Douglass, Christopher Columbus, Bob Marley, artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Simon Rodia, baseball greats Juan Marichal and John Roseboro, and the musically-driven INSIDE THE CREOLE MAFIA, a “not-too-dark comedy” with New Orleans natives Mark Broyard and Branford Marsalis. His staged explorations have taken him from the transatlantic love story of ICELAND, to the Philadelphia story of TWO FIRES,  to the triumphant and tragic construction of the Panama Canal in FIVE HUNDRED LIVES PER MILE. Closer to home, he is collaborating on a new stage play inspired by the history of Venice, California.

At CalArts, he has begun work on a project which transports the audience into a seminal Jimi Hendrix concert, New Years’ Eve 1969/70. His astonishing range on screen has been demonstrated as a city councilman in KING OF NEW YORK; the Prime Minister of Jamaica in BETTER MUS’ COME; an acclaimed Laertes in an American HAMLET; radically opposed star-turns in two HBO series: OZ and K STREET; and a drug trafficking American G.I. in AMERICAN  GANGSTER, for which he was nominated for the Screen Actors’ Guild Award. For the National Geographic Channel, Mr. Smith hosted RISE UP: THE LEGACY OF NAT TURNER in conjunction with his co-starring role in THE BIRTH OF A NATION, winner of both the audience and jury awards at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, and plays legendary NAACP secretary Walter White in the highly anticipated MARSHALL. For the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial in 2018, Mr. Smith will reprise his signature FREDERICK DOUGLASS NOW, which has played to spectacular acclaim from the Kennedy Center to London’s Institute of Contemporary Art. 


Roger studied at Yale University and Occidental College and has taught at both institutions, as well as CalArts, where he currently directs his Performing History Workshop.