Born: March 10, 1962
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Jasmine Guy is an American actress, director, singer and dancer. Guy is known for her role as Dina in the 1988 film School Daze and as Whitley Gilbert-Wayne on the NBC Bill Cosby spin-off A Different World, which originally ran from 1987 to 1993. Guy won four consecutive NAACP Image Awards from 1990 through 1993 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on the show.
Born to a Black-American father and Portuguese-American mother, Jasmine was raised in the affluent historic Collier Heights neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, where she attended what was then called the Northside Performing Arts High School, later renamed North Atlanta High School. Her mother, the former Jaye Rudolph (born 1930), was a former high-school teacher, and her father, the Reverend William Guy (born 1928), was pastor of the historic Friendship Baptist Church of Atlanta, which served as an early home to Spelman College; he was also a college instructor in philosophy and religion. At the age of seventeen, Jasmine moved to New York City to study dance at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.
Guy began her television career with a non-speaking role, as a dancer, in seven episodes of the 1982 television series Fame under the direction of choreographer Debbie Allen. Following a move to California, she appeared in a 1991 episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Kayla, one of Will Smith's girlfriends.
In 1992, Guy appeared in CBS's Stompin' at the Savoy alongside Vanessa Williams, again under the direction of Debbie Allen, and in 1993, she played the mother of Halle Berry's character in the CBS TV mini-series Alex Haley's Queen. This was based on Haley's book Queen: The Story of an American Family, a companion volume to his earlier Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which itself had been converted to a television mini-series. In 1995, Guy appeared as Peter Burns's love interest, Caitlin Mills, on two episodes of Melrose Place, and in 1996, she appeared on Living Single, playing a psychologist advising Khadijah, who had begun exhibiting symptoms of anxiety. She also played the recurring role of Kathleen, a fallen angel, in the CBS Network drama Touched by an Angel from 1995 to 1997. In 2002, Guy lent her voice to the PBS math-based animated series Cyberchase, performing Ava, the queen of the cybersite Symmetria, and made a cameo appearance on the Moesha spin-off The Parkers. In 2003, Ms. Guy read as Mary Estes Peters in the HBO documentary, Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narrative, a documentary which premiered during Black History month. The slave narratives were based on the WPA slave interviews conducted during the 1930s with over two-thousand former slaves.
Guy starred alongside Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin in the series Dead Like Me, created by Bryan Fuller. The show ran 29 episodes over two seasons, in 2003 and 2004, on Showtime. Guy played Roxy Harvey, a meter maid turned police officer and one of the core group of grim reapers around which the series was based. Guy was nominated for the 2005 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for the role. She later starred in the feature-length series sequel Dead Like Me: Life After Death, which was released on video in 2009 before being shown on the Syfy channel. In 2009, Guy performed in The People Speak, a documentary that used dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. A broad look at civil rights issues in America, The People Speak was executive produced by and seen on The History Channel. In 2010, she was seen in the second season of the Lifetime comedy series Drop Dead Diva as a judge in the episode titled "Last Year's Model," and from 2009 to 2017, Guy had a recurring role in The CW's series The Vampire Diaries. In that program, Guy played Sheila "Grams" Bennett, the grandmother of Bonnie (Katerina Graham), who proved to be a descendant of Salem Witches. Both shows were filmed in the Atlanta area. In late 2017, she appeared in the Lifetime Christmas movie Secret Santa.
More than 20 years after the series' sixth and final season, Guy today remains best known for her starring role as Whitley Gilbert in the television sitcom A Different World. A spin-off from The Cosby Show and created by Cosby himself, the show aired from 1987 to 1993 on NBC. Guy wrote three episodes of the show and directed one, in addition to appearing in every episode: she started as a co-star, but ended up replacing the show's original star Lisa Bonet, who left the series. Guy was nominated for and won four consecutive NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, from 1990 to 1993.
Guy's first appearance on the big screen came in 1988 in Spike Lee's musical-drama film School Daze. Guy played the role of Dina, a member of the light-skinned, straight-haired African American women of Gamma Ray (a women's auxiliary to the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity). Filming on School Daze was completed just prior to her joining the cast of A Different World. The following year, Guy appeared as Dominique La Rue in Harlem Nights starring Eddie Murphy (who also directed) alongside Richard Pryor with Redd Foxx. In the 1989 film, Pryor portrays Harlem "Sugar" Ray, the owner of an illegal casino who contends with the pressures of vicious gangsters and corrupt policemen trying to drive him out of business in 1930s Harlem. Guy's character was the girlfriend of Ray's nemesis, who set out to seduce and kill Murphy. In 1997, she provided the voice of Sawyer Cat in the Warner Bros. animated film Cats Don't Dance. In 2011, Guy appeared in the film October Baby. In 2015, she appeared in the film "Big Stone Gap" with Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Jenna Elfman, Anthony LaPaglia, Jane Krakowski, and Whoopi Goldberg. She starred in the short film My Nephew Emmett, which won the Student Academy Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2018.
In 1987, Guy had a starring role in the off-Broadway hit musical Beehive, before traveling to France to appear in a similar musical review.
Guy has performed in several Broadway productions and national tours, including as Crow in The Wiz, Mickey in Leader of the Pack, Betty Rizzo in Grease, and as Velma Kelly in Chicago. On April 6, 2009, Playbill reported on Guy's return to the stage, starring in the True Colors Theatre Company production of Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky. Directed by Andrea Frye, the show was a last minute addition to the company's season and opened May 4 in Atlanta. Blues came on the heels of Guy's held-over run in True Colors' Miss Evers' Boys, which co-starred TC Carson of Living Single.
Guy directed the world premiere of the Rhythm and Blues Opera I Dream in July 2010 on the Alliance Stage of the Woodruff Arts Centre in Atlanta. Also in 2010, Guy was a member of the cast of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Alliance Theatre Company co-production of Pearl Cleage’s The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One-Hundred Years. The production ran Sept. 24 through Oct. 3 at the Festival in Montgomery, Alabama, before moving to Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre for performances Oct. 20 thru Nov. 14. In early 2011, Guy directed George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum for True Colors, and in June 2011, Ms. Guy costarred with Kenny Leon in their production of Sam Shepard's play Fool For Love at The Balzer Theater at Herren’s in Atlanta, Georgia. In August 2010, Guy had joined the True Colors Theatre Company in an off stage role as the company's Producing Director. In announcing the hire, True Colors said Guy's full-time position would be both administrative and artistic, and both local and national. Guy continues to contribute to the company on stage as well.
During the run of A Different World, Guy released her self-titled debut album in 1990. The album peaked at #143 on the US Top 200 Album Chart and spawned three singles: "Try Me" (US R&B #14); "Another Like My Lover" (US #66, US R&B #9); and "Just Want to Hold You" (US #34, US R&B #27), with the last single cracking the main US Top 40 singles chart.