EPISODE 18: Clifton Powell - Behind the Lens

Actor Clifton Powell discusses his longevity in the craft and his secrets to success

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Title: EPISODE 18: Clifton Powell - Behind the Lens

Host: Tomeka M. Winborne

Description: Actor Clifton Powell discusses his longevity in the craft and his secrets to success

Runtime: 30:48 minutes

Clifton Powell (born March 16, 1956) is an American actor, who primarily plays supporting roles in films, such as in Ray (2004), for which he received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture nomination.


Powell has appeared in more than one hundred films, beginning in the 1980s. His credits include Menace II Society (1993), Dead Presidents (1995), Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998), Rush Hour (1998), Next Friday (2000), and its 2002 sequel, Friday After Next, Woman Thou Art Loosed (2004), and Ray (2004). He played Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1999 television film Selma, Lord, Selma. Powell also has had many supporting roles in smaller direct-to-video films in 2000s and 2010s.

On television, Powell had the recurring roles on RocSouth Central, and Army Wives, and well as guest-starred on In the Heat of the NightMurder, She WroteNYPD Blue, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. In 2016, Powell was cast as main antagonist in the Bounce TV first prime time soap opera, Saints & Sinners opposite Vanessa Bell Calloway and Gloria Reuben.

Powell is also known for his voice acting role as the antagonist Big Smoke from the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In 2017, he appeared in the second season of My Step Kidz.

Personal life

Powell was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Mayfair Mansions in Northeast D.C. Powell is a graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Powell is married to his wife Kimberly with whom he has two children.

Selected Filmography


  • Colors(uncredited) (1988)
  • House Party(1990)
  • Deep Cover(1992)
  • 3 Ninjas(1992)
  • Menace II Society(1993)
  • Dead Presidents(1995)
  • First Time Felon (1997)
  • Buffalo Soldiers(1997)
  • Deep Rising(1998)
  • Phantoms(1998)
  • Caught Up(1998)
  • Why Do Fools Fall in Love(1998)
  • Rush Hour(1998)
  • Foolish(1999)
  • Selma, Lord, Selma(1999)
  • Hot Boyz(1999)
  • The Breaks(1999)
  • No Tomorrow(1999)
  • Next Friday(2000)
  • Lockdown(2000)
  • Crime Partners(2000)
  • The Brothers(2001)
  • Bones(2001)
  • Friday After Next(2002)
  • Civil Brand(2002)
  • Play'd: A Hip-Hop Story(2002)
  • Love Chronicles(2003)
  • Never Die Alone(2004)
  • Woman Thou Art Loosed(2004)
  • Ray(2004)
  • The Gospel(2005)
  • Who Made the Potato Salad?(2006)
  • Norbit(2007)
  • First Sunday(2008)
  • Street Kings(2008)
  • Love for Sale(2008)
  • Before I Self Destruct(2009)
  • K.One(2009)
  • Preacher's Kid(2009)
  • Just Another Day(2009)
  • Something Like a Business(2010)
  • Street Kings 2: Motor City(2011)
  • 35 and Ticking(2011)
  • Blood Ransom(2014)
  • Hunting Season(2016)
  • All Eyez on Me(2017)
  • Misguided Behavior(2017)


  • In the Heat of the Night(1993)
  • Murder She Wrote(1993–1995)
  • South Central(1994)
  • Roc(1992–1994)
  • The Jamie Foxx Show(1997) Episode: The Employee Formerly Known as Prince
  • In the House(1998) Episode: Working Overtime: Part 2
  • The Parkers(2000) Episode: "A Simple Plan-Mr. Alexander
  • The Practice(2002)
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent(2003)
  • House(2005)
  • Eve(2006)
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation(2006)
  • Numb3rs(2007)
  • Cold Case(2008)
  • Army Wives(2009–2010)
  • The Boondocks(2010) Episode: "A Date with the Booty Warrior"
  • The Mentalist(2011)
  • Awake(2012) Episode: "Guilty"
  • Unsupervised(2012)
  • Black Dynamite(2012)
  • The Soul Man(2015) Episode: "Tell It Like It Isn't"
  • Saints & Sinners(2016–present)
  • Tales(2017)
  • Black Lightning (TV Series)(2018)
  • Dogstar: High School 2(2018)
  • Hawaii Five-O(2018)

Video games

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (voice of Big Smoke) (2004)






Angie Thomas And George Tillman Jr. On How Their Own Life Experiences Inspired ‘The Hate U Give’
The author and director of "The Hate U Give" reflect on how it was inspired by their personal experiences.

In conversation, NPR’s Ailsa Chang sat down with Angie Thomas, the acclaimed author of The Hate U Give, and the movie’s director George Tillman Jr., to discuss how the book and film connected with their own personal experiences.

The Hate U Give tells the story of a teenage girl, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), who is a part of two worlds: the poor, predominantly black neighborhood where she resides, and the white, affluent prep school that she attends. Her worlds are turned upside down when she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her childhood friend, an unarmed black male teenager. Following the tragic shooting, Starr is drawn towards a life of activism to stand up for her friend, who is called a “thug” and other misinformed names by the media, and to protest the wrongful actions of police brutality.

George Tillman Jr., the director of the film, spoke with Chang about what it was like to base certain scenes from the movie on actual talks he received growing up. He discussed how emotional it was to bring these scenes to life, particularly because he now has a teenage son himself. “This deals with history,” he said. “This deals with survival and how we can continue to stay on this earth without police brutality or being shot or being killed. You know, this is part of the fear of the African-American community.”

Another significant theme in the book is how Starr navigates between her two worlds, and how she feels an internal pressure to erase her blackness while at her fancy prep school with her white classmates. Certainly, many of us can relate to this uneasy pressure growing up or currently in the workplace, and this double life is actually based on author Angie Thomas’s life experiences.

Growing up, Thomas also lived in a mostly black neighborhood while attending a predominantly white, private college in Mississippi. She described her own experiences as a struggle, and practiced the art of code switching. “I would make myself more presentable I thought. I was careful of how I spoke. I was careful of how much emotion I showed,” Thomas said. “And it was a struggle because so often I was silent on things that mattered to me. And I would experience microaggressions from my classmates, and I was silent about them. I never called out the racism.”. READ MORE........