Also Credited As:Dennis Dexter Haysbert
|Dennis Dexter Haysbert on June 2, 1954 in San Mateo, California, USA|
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Born on June 2, 1954 in San Mateo, CA, Dennis Haysbert was raised by his father, Charles, a sheriff's deputy, and his mother, Gladys, a homemaker. Though his large frame and height made him a natural for a variety of sports and led to athletic scholarship offers, he instead chose to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the alma mater of such heavyweights as Robert Redford and Danny DeVito. Haysbert's professional career began in episodic television via appearances on such popular shows as "Lou Grant" (CBS, 1977-1982), "Laverne & Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983), "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) and "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88). He moved up to regular and recurring roles on several series, including "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (NBC, 1979-1981), "Code Red" (ABC, 1981-82), and the short-lived sitcom "Off the Rack" (ABC, 1984-85) with former "Lou Grant" star Ed Asner. Following episodes of "Growing Pains" (ABC, 1985-1992), Haysbert made an indelible impression in his feature debut, "Major League" (1989), in which he portrayed the voodoo-practicing Cuban baseball player on a team of misfits (including Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Wesley Snipes) destined to earn last place so the new owner can move the Cleveland Indians to another city.
Reteaming with "Major League" co-star Charlie Sheen, Haysbert was one of the "Navy SEALs" (1990) involved in saving a naval helicopter crew held hostage, while in "Mr. Baseball" (1992), he was the teammate of an arrogant, but washed-up Major League baseball player (Tom Selleck) whose career is given new life in Japan. Haysbert's big break came when he was chosen to star opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in the civil rights drama "Love Field" (1992), a role he earned after Denzel Washington dropped out, and his successor Eriq La Salle was hired and fired. The film provided him the opportunity to demonstrate his range in playing a single father trying to evade police, who stumbles upon a well-meaning Southern white woman (Pfeiffer) on a bus and ends up falling in love with her while traveling to Washington, D.C. Haysbert returned to television for a supporting role as a union organizer in the miniseries "Queen" (CBS, 1993), before playing Cherokee Jack in "Return to Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1993) and reprising the Cuban ballplayer Pedro Cerrano - now a Buddhist - for the sequel "Major League II" (1994).
Haysbert began landing prominent supporting roles in prominent features, playing an ex-con trying to go straight in Michael Mann's "Heat" (1995), and a married man whose on-the-side lover (Whitney Houston) holds out hope that he will leave his wife in Forest Whitaker's "Waiting to Exhale" (1995). Following a small role in the political thriller "Absolute Power" (1997), Haysbert returned for a third and last time for the woebegone sequel "Major League: Back to the Minors" (1998). Meanwhile, strong performances in "The Thirteenth Floor" (1999), "The Minus Man" (1999) and "Random Hearts" (1999) raised his profile and solidified his image as a dependable actor with a quietly commanding screen presence. He continued to impress on the big screen with a memorable turn in the independently released "Love & Basketball" (2000), which cast him as a former pro ballplayer now working as a scout who cheats on his wife (Debi Morgan) and lets down his son (Omar Epps). Meanwhile, "What's Cooking?" (2000) featured Haysbert as a high-ranking political aide who was unfaithful to his splintering superwoman wife (Alfre Woodard) and who has alienated his militant son (Eric K. George).
Back on television with "Now and Again" (CBS, 1999-2000), Haysbert impressed audiences and critics alike with his turn as the mysterious scientist behind a covert government operation that utilizes the abilities of an insurance salesman-turned-mega man (Eric Close) for tasks aiding national interest. Though a cult favorite, the show failed to grab enough viewers to ward off cancelation. Haysbert found greater success as presidential candidate David Palmer in the high-concept action series "24" (Fox, 2001-2010), which played out a single horrific day in the life of FBI agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) over 24 episodes, with each episode chronicling an hour out of that day. Critics loved the show and audiences eventually discovered and embraced the series as well, causing Haysbert to return in the second season; this time as the President of the United States, a role he played for 80 episodes in regular and recurring fashion over five seasons. Just as he found a stable spot on network television, Haysbert's onscreen career also propelled forward with an acclaimed performance in "Far From Heaven" (2002), director Todd Haynes' film on 1950s repression and the illusion of appearances. Haysbert's Sidney Poitier-esque performance as the kind and gentle black gardener who embarks on a frowned-upon interracial romance with a neglected wife (Julianne Moore) was roundly praised by critics.
After leaving "24" as a regular at the end of the third season, Haysbert returned to the show as a guest star for several episodes of the subsequent two seasons, while enjoying a thriving side career as a voice actor and narrator for documentaries, commercials, animated projects and video games. He also enjoyed a long stint as the official spokesman for Allstate insurance, using his baritone voice to intone "Are you in good hands?" Back on the big screen, he had a small, but pivotal appearance in director Sam Mendes' Gulf War meditation, "Jarhead" (2005), as a gruff, no-nonsense Marine officer. The following year, Haysbert returned to the small screen, appearing as a black-ops commander on the anti-terrorism series, "The Unit" (CBS, 2006-09), which delved inside the personal lives of the members of a fictional special forces team who are routinely uprooted from their comfortable and often troubled domestic lives to handle a wide array of geopolitical crises. Though ratings were substandard, the show managed to hang on for four seasons before the network finally canceled in 2009. Haysbert next starred in "Goodbye Bafana" (2007), playing an imprisoned Nelson Mandela, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a white Afrikaner guard (Joseph Fiennes). Following a small turn in the praised, but overlooked "Breach" (2007), Haysbert returned to the stage to take over a role inaugurated by David Alan Grier in David Mamet's "Race" (2009-10).