Spotlight: Jordan Haworth Peele bringing black faces to international Film & TV

Jordan Haworth Peele is an American actor, voice actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer. He is best known for his television and film work in the comedy and horror genres. Peele was born in New York City on February 21, 1979. His mother, Lucinda Williams, is white and his father, Hayward Peele, is black. He was raised by his single mother on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He attended the Computer School in Manhattan, graduated from The Calhoun School on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and went on to Sarah Lawrence College. After two years, Peele dropped out to form a comedy duo with college roommate and future Key & Peele writer Rebecca Drysdale.


Peele regularly performed at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam and The Second City in Chicago. He and Nicole Parker were well known for their musical duets at Boom Chicago. He portrayed a popular character called "Danish Supermodel Ute" during his time at Boom Chicago and hosted MTV's Comedy Weekend in 2002. In 2003, Peele joined the cast of Mad TV for its ninth season. Around the time Keegan-Michael Key joined the cast as a featured performer, it was assumed that Key would be chosen over Peele. The two of them ultimately were cast together after showing great comedic chemistry. Peele performed celebrity impersonations. Peele and his former Mad TV castmate and friend Keegan-Michael Key starred in their own Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele, from 2012 to 2015. The series was a success with viewers, and spawned several skits and videos that went viral online.

In February 2017, Peele's first film as director, Get Out, was released to critical acclaim, eventually scoring a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film received particular praise for Peele's screenplay and direction, as well as the performance of its lead, Daniel Kaluuya, and was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine as one of the top 10 films of the year. The Atlantic called the film "a masterpiece."

Get Out proved to be popular with movie audiences, and it eventually became one of the most profitable horror films, and films of 2017, and grossed over $255 million on a budget of $4.5 million. For his work on the film, Peele received significant attention, as well as numerous accolades, including the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award at the 2017 Gotham Independent Film Awards.


The film also received four nominations at the 90th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations for Peele, as well as a Best Actor nomination for Kaluuya. Peele won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, becoming the first black screenwriter to win in this category. He became the third person, after Warren Beatty and James L. Brooks, to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay for a debut film, and the first black person to receive them for any one film. Get Out also earned him the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay, as well as nominations for a Directors Guild of America Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.


In early 2018 Peele announced his intention to retire from acting, stating in an interview with CBS "Acting is just nowhere near as fun for me as directing". In 2018, Peele co-created the TBS comedy series The Last O.G., starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish. Also in 2018, Peele co-produced the Spike Lee film, BlacKkKlansman which was released to critical acclaim and was a box office success. The film received six nominations at the 91st Academy Awards including the Best Picture nomination for Peele.



On June 28, 2018, it was announced that YouTube Premium would be releasing Weird City, co-created by Peele and Charlie Sanders. The show was released on February 13, 2019 to critical acclaim. On April 5, 2018, it was announced that Amazon Video had given a series order to the docuseries Lorena consisting of four episodes. The series was set to be directed by Joshua Rofé who would also executive produce alongside Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Steven J. Berger, Jenna Santoianni, and Tom Lesinski. Production companies involved with the series include Monkeypaw Productions, Sonar Entertainment, and Number 19. It ultimately premiered on February 15, 2019.


Peele's second film as director was Us, a horror-thriller film which he also wrote and produced, starring Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. After having its world premiere on March 8, the film was released in the United States on March 22, 2019 by Universal Pictures, Monkeypaw Productions, and QC Entertainment. Peele developed and is narrator for the science fiction web television series The Twilight Zone, the third revival of the original 1959-64 anthology series that aired on CBS, for CBS All Access. The show premiered on April 1, 2019, with Peele, Simon Kinberg and Marco Ramirez as executive producers. In February 2020, Peele produced a 10 episode series about hunting down Nazis called Hunters. Peele produced the HBO series Lovecraft Country written by Underground co-creator Misha Green.


Fame is still something he's figuring out. "I don't envy someone who gets famous overnight," Peele cautioned. "The hardest part is being recognized. I used to think that being in the public eye gave you power. But all of a sudden, they have the power and can come up to you an hour into dinner."


But there are other kinds of power, and Peele plans on wielding his judiciously. One way is to keep putting black faces on the screen in leading roles. "The way I look at it," he explained, "I get to cast black people in my movies. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, 'I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.' And they say yes."

It's a formula he's not interested in messing with.


"I don't see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don't like white dudes," he said.


Peele has got a new TV series that he is currently working on and was recently an executive producer on the popular Amazon Prime series Hunters. We await to see what major film he will direct next.

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