Vivacious, witty, and completely unforgettable, Jackée Harry was born to entertain. Born Jacqueline Yyonne Harry on August 14, 1956 in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and reared from the age of nine in Harlem, New York, by her mother, Flossie, she landed the lead role of the King in her school's production of The King and I at the tender age of 14. Upon graduation from New York City's High School of Music and Art with a distinction in Opera, Harry attended the University of Long Island, where she earned her B.A. in education.
Harry began her career as a history teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School but left after two years to pursue a career in acting. She studied acting at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side and made her professional acting debut in 1973 in Richard Wesley’s Goin' Through Changes. Not long afterward, she made her Broadway debut in A Broadway Musical as Melinda Bernard.
In 1983, Harry made her television debut opposite Morgan Freeman in the daytime soap opera “Another World.” A year later, she landed her iconic role of Sandra Clark on the NBC sitcom “227.” As the breakout star of the series, Harry became the first African American to win an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and she was also nominated for a Golden Globe. Her performance on “227” inspired NBC producers to create a television pilot for her entitled “Jackée.” After departing from that in 1989, she starred opposite Oprah Winfrey in “The Women of Brewster Place,” adapted from the critically acclaimed novel by Gloria Naylor.
In 1991, Harry joined an all-star cast led by Della Reese when she played the role of Ruth
“CoCo” Royal in “The Royal Family.” From 1994 to 1999, she starred as the adoptive mother of Tia and Tamara Mowry's characters on the ABC/WB sitcom “Sister, Sister,” winning the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for two consecutive years in 1999 and 2000. In 2006, she joined the cast of “Everybody Hates Chris.”
Harry also made guest appearances on “Amen,” “Designing Women,” “Dave's World,” “Hollywood Squares,” “7th Heaven,” “That's So Raven,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Baby Daddy,” and The Disney Channel's “Girl Meets World.”
Hollywood success did not lead Harry to turn her back on theater. In 1994 she returned to the stage as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, and in 2003, she played the role of the Madam in The Boys from Syracuse on Broadway. More recently, Harry performed before sold-out audiences across the nation in the stage play The Cleanup Woman, which has been called “one of the highest grossing gospel stage plays of all time.”
Beyond acting, Harry is a vocal champion of healthy living, education, and philanthropy. She is proud to be a spokesperson for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, and a Global Ambassador to the Women’s International Center. In addition, The National Congress of Black Women presented her with the “Woman of Substance” Award in 2010.
Harry currently stars in Tyler Perry and OWN’s new show “The Paynes,” and recently, she starred in “The First Family” and Lifetime's original holiday special “The Christmas Inn,” reuniting with Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tim Reid.
Last season Harry was seen in her recurring role on FOX'S “The Cool Kids” opposite David Alan Grier. She also stars in Lifetime’s “Pride & Prejudice: Atlanta” and is a guest star in ABC’s “The Jeffersons Live.” Harry also has a role in the Netflix series “Family Reunion” with Loretta Devine.
Larger than life and twice as funny, Harry continues to entertain and inspire in a way that permanently cements her place in the American cultural landscape.