Keith David may be considered the villain of Hollywood productions lately, but the talented actor, who also has an award-winning dubbing career behind him, has a wide acting reach that has made him relevant to the industry for over three decades.
A native of New York, he is an all-round entertainer who has made his mark as a comedian and singer with more than 150 films, television series, and video games on his resume. Read on to learn more about his early beginnings, acting history, and other facts you need to know about him.
Keith David Williams was born in Harlem, New York, on June 4, 1956, the son of Dolores (née Dickenson) and Lester Williams. His father worked as a payroll manager, while his mother was a manager with the New York telephone company.
David grew up in East Elmhurst, Queens, New York, where he attended school. It was said that David wanted to become an actor after he had appeared in the school production “The Wizard of Oz” in which he played the cowardly lion. This prompted his parents to enroll him in the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan before he attended the drama department of the Julliard School, which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1979.
After graduation, David joined John Houseman’s The Acting Company, with which he toured the United States. He appeared in the group’s productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” before his big breakthrough came when he was cast for the role of Childs in “The Thing” (1982) opposite Kurt Russell.
His performance in the film drove him to continue and to star in a number of films of the 80s, such as Platoon (1986), Hot Pursuit (1987), Star and Bars (1988), and Men at Work (1990). During this time he also began working as a dubbing artist, providing his melancholy voice for Nickelodeon’s Christmas in Tattertown (1988) and the English dubbing of the Japanese animated series 3×3 Eyes (1991).
In 1992 Keith David left what turned out to be his comfort zone in film and television series to work in the musical “Jelly’s Last Jam”. David was praised by critics for his performance, which earned him a nomination for the Tony Award.
While in New York he continued to appear in several stage productions of various Shakespeare works, David returned to acting and starred in films of the 1990s such as Dead Presidents (1995), Spike Lee’s Clockers (1995), The Quick and the Dead (1995), Armageddon (1998) and Pitch Black (2000). He also created a number of works for voice; Gargoyles (1994-1997), Fantastic Four (1995), Hercules (1997), and many others.
In 1997 Keith David entered the world of video games. He first sang Decker in “Fallout” before turning to other notable video games such as the Halo series and Call of Duty. He was the referee’s spokesperson in “Halo 2” (2004), Halo 3 (2007), Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014), and “Halo 5: Guardians” (2015). He also sang Captain Anderson in Mass Effect (2007), Mass Effect 2 (2010), and Mass Effect 3 (2012) and then Sergeant Foley in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” (2009).
More recently, Keith David has starred as Bishop James Greenleaf in the television series Greenleaf (2016 – today) and in films such as Nina (2016) and Night School (2018).
Facts You Need To Know About Keith David
Keith David is a practicing Christian who believes in the church, God, and the Spirit. However, he has said that he is not a religious person because religion can become political. He is married to actress Dionne Lea Williams, who is best known for her roles in films such as American Fusion (2005) and Celeste Bright (2010). The couple married in April 2001 and have two daughters, Maelee and Ruby Williams. David has an older son named Owen Williams from his first marriage.
In addition to his voice-over work, David has narrated a number of documentary films. He made the MLB network special “Mr. Padre” in honor of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and, amongst many others, several WWE documentaries.
For his work, Keith David was awarded the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator, in addition to two other awards for outstanding voice-over performance.
He has net assets of around $3 million, which is quite surprising given the number of years he has spent in the industry.