Hanelle Culpepper
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Other namesHanelle M. Culpepper, Hanelle Culpepper Meier
Occupation(s)Film director, film producer, screenwriter and television director
Years active1993–present
Jeffrey Meier
(m. 2000)

Hanelle M. Culpepper is an American filmmaker, best known for her work in television directing episodes of 90210, Parenthood, Criminal Minds, Revenge, Grimm, and Star Trek: Discovery along with other series. Prior to working in television, she worked as a production assistant and directed and produced short films. She also directed the thriller feature films Within (2009), Deadly Sibling Rivalry (2011), Murder on the 13th Floor (2012) and Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer (2013).

Culpepper became the first woman director and the first African American director[1] to launch a new Star Trek series in the franchise's history, directing the opening three episodes of Star Trek: Picard (2020).[2] Culpepper directed and co-executive produced the pilot of the series revival of Kung Fu (2021).[3]

Early life and education

Culpepper grew up in Alabama in a family that loved movies and television. At first she wanted to be an actor, but her parents pointed out that she was always directing her siblings in plays she wrote and put on.

Her father worked as a lineman for a telephone company in Birmingham. He became one of the first African American executives at the company. Her mother was a homemaker who later worked in a bank and the city government.[4]

Culpepper is a 1988 alumna of Indian Springs School, a private high school outside of Birmingham.[5] In her senior year, she decided she wanted to be a director after directing her first play, a one-act comedy by George S. Kaufman, If Men Played Cards As Women Do.[4]

She attended Lake Forest College, near Chicago, IL. She was active in theater and majored in economics and French, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.[6][7] She earned her M.A. from USC Annenberg School for Communication.[8]


Culpepper is the director and co-executive producer of the pilot of Kung Fu (2021). The series is a reboot of the 1970s television show Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine. Olivia Liang stars in the reboot as a young Chinese American woman, Nicky Chen. Culpepper said that she is honored to introduce "an authentic and honest portrayal of a Chinese American family".[3]

On March 13, 2020, restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down production of the Kung Fu pilot, as well as most film productions around the world.[9] Because of this delay, The CW Television Network producing the new series pushed its launch to later in 2021.[10]


In 2021, Culpepper was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for her work on the pilot of Star Trek: Picard, "Remembrance".[11] This was her second Image Award nomination; the first was in 2015 for the Criminal Minds episode, "The Edge of Winter". Shemar Moore won the Image Award for Best Actor for the episode.[12]

Personal life

Culpepper met her future husband, Jeffrey Meier, when she was interning at Sony while studying film for her M.A.



  1. ^ "'Star Trek: Picard' Director Hanelle Culpepper On Breaking Barriers And Doing The Work – Guest Column". Deadline. February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  2. ^ "Hanelle Culpepper to Make Trek History Directing Picard Series". March 2019.
  3. ^ a b Otterson, Joe (March 5, 2020). "Hanelle Culpepper to Direct 'Kung Fu' Pilot at CW (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Wachter, Paul (January 22, 2020). "Famous for its history of diversity, 'Star Trek' gets its first black female director". Andscape. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  5. ^ Cook, Sarah (Summer 2017). "Hanelle Culpepper Meier '88: From School Plays to Hollywood Productions". Indian Springs a Magazine for Alumni and Friends of Indian Springs School. Indian Springs, Alabama: Indian Springs School. 15 (2): 49.
  6. ^ "Phi Beta Kappa - Elected in the 1990s". Lake Forest College. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  7. ^ "Culpepper". Star Trek. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "Bio – Hanelle M. Culpepper". Hillview798.com. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  9. ^ Andrew Whalen (March 31, 2020). "'Picard' is the first 'Star Trek' series launched by a woman director—here's how she did it". Newsweek. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  10. ^ Keveney, Bill. "CW delays returning favorites until January after COVID-19 shutters production". USA Today. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  11. ^ Del Rosario, Alexandra (February 2, 2021). "NAACP Image Awards Nominations: Netflix Tops List With 'Bridgerton', 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' & 'Da 5 Bloods'". Deadline. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  12. ^ "OTRC: NAACP Image Awards 2014: Full list of nominations". OnTheRedCarpet.com. On the Red Carpet. Archived from the original on August 24, 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2020 – via KABC-TV Los Angeles.
  13. ^ "Hanelle Culpepper Chosen As Director For Star Trek Picard Show Premiere Episodes". TrekMovie.com. March 1, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2019.