LisaGay Hamilton
Hamilton with her Peabody Award, 2005
Born1964 (age 59–60)[1][2]
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationCarnegie Mellon University
New York University (BFA)
Juilliard School (GrDip)
  • Actress
Years active1985–present
(m. 2009)

LisaGay Hamilton (born 1964)[1][2] is an American actress who has portrayed roles in films, television, and on stage. She is best known for her role as secretary/lawyer Rebecca Washington on the ABC legal drama The Practice (1997–2003). She also portrayed Melissa Thoreau on the TNT comedy-drama Men of a Certain Age (2009–2011), Celia Jones on the Netflix series House of Cards (2016), Suzanne Simms on the Hulu series Chance (2016), and Kayla Price on the Hulu series The First (2018).

Hamilton's film credits include roles in 12 Monkeys (1995), Jackie Brown (1997), Beloved (1998), True Crime (1999), The Sum of All Fears (2002), The Soloist (2009), Beastly (2011), Beautiful Boy (2018), and Vice (2018). Her theater credits include Measure for Measure (Isabella), Henry IV Parts I & II (Lady Hotspur), Athol Fugard's, Valley Song and The Ohio State Murders. Hamilton was also an original cast member in the Broadway productions of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson and Gem of the Ocean. In 2005 she won a Peabody Award for creating and directing the 2003 documentary film Beah: A Black Woman Speaks.

Early life

Hamilton was born in Los Angeles, California but spent most of her childhood in Stony Brook, New York on the north shore of Long Island. Her father, Ira Winslow Hamilton, Jr., hailed from Bessemer, Alabama, and her mother, the former Eleanor Albertine "Tina" Blackwell, was from Meridian, Mississippi. Both parents graduated from historically black colleges—Tina attended Talladega while Ira went to Morehouse—and they both became successful professionals. Ira worked for a while as an engineer and then went into business as a general contractor. Tina eventually earned a master's degree in social work and worked for the Girl Scouts for many years.[3]

Hamilton fell in love with theater at an early age. During the 1970s, she saw several off-Broadway productions by the Negro Ensemble Company, including A Soldier's Story and The First Breeze of Summer.[4] She enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University to study theater, but after a year was accepted into New York University's Tisch Drama School where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater in 1985. She then pursued graduate studies at The Juilliard School where she earned a M.A. in drama in 1989.[5]


Early on, Hamilton set her sights on classical theater. In one of her first notable roles, she played opposite Kevin Kline in Measure for Measure in the New York Shakespeare Festival. Hamilton's performances in Much Ado About Nothing, Tartuffe, Reckless, Family of Mann, and Two Gentlemen of Verona, earned her a reputation as a serious dramatic actor.[6] In 1995–96, her portrayal of a young, aspiring South African singer in Athol Fugard's Valley Song garnered an Obie Award, the Clarence Derwent Award, the Ovation nomination for best actress, and a Drama Desk nomination. More recently, Hamilton earned critical acclaim,[7] her second Obie, and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for her role as Suzanne Alexander in Adrienne Kennedy's The Ohio State Murders.[8]

Hamilton appeared in over two dozen films, including The Truth About Charlie and Beloved for director Jonathan Demme, Clint Eastwood's True Crime, the independent films; Palookaville, Drunks, Showtime's A House Divided, and as Ophelia in director Campbell Scott's film version of Hamlet. She has worked on several projects with director Rodrigo García, notably his films Ten Tiny Love Stories, Nine Lives, and Mother and Child. Honeydripper directed by John Sayles and The Soloist, directed by Joe Wright.[8]

Hamilton won a Peabody Award in 2005 for creating and directing the 2003 documentary film Beah: A Black Woman Speaks. The film tells the story of pioneering black actress Beah Richards, who had broken ground for African-American actresses. The two women had met on the set of Beloved (1998). Over the next two years, Hamilton made a record of more than 70 hours of their conversations. Hamilton's film explored Richards' political activism as well as her poetry. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Film Festival. After Richards died in 2000, Hamilton collaborated with illustrator R. Gregory Christie to turn one of her poems into a children's book. Keep Climbing Girls was published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.

Hamilton played the role of Melissa in Men of a Certain Age, an hour-long comedy-drama television series starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula that ran from 2009 to 2011.

In the fall of 2010, Hamilton took a faculty position at the School of Theater for the California Institute of the Arts, where she teaches in the Acting Program.[9]



Year Title Role Notes
1985 Krush Groove Aisha
1990 Reversal of Fortune Mary
1993 Naked in New York Marty
1995 Drunks Brenda
Palookaville Betty
Clarissa Porter Russell TV movie
12 Monkeys Teddy
1997 Nick and Jane Vickie
Lifebreath Dr. Quinlan
Jackie Brown Sheronda
1998 The Defenders: Choice of Evils Jeanne Baptiste TV movie
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later Shirley 'Shirl' Jones (voice)
Beloved Younger Sethe
1999 True Crime Bonnie Beechum
Swing Vote Virginia Mapes TV movie
2000 A House Divided Julia TV movie
Hamlet Ophelia TV movie
2002 The Sum of All Fears Capt. Lorna Shiro
Ten Tiny Love Stories Three
The Truth About Charlie Lola Jansco
2005 Nine Lives Holly
2007 Honeydripper Delilah
2008 Deception Det. J Russo
2009 The Soloist Jennifer Ayers
Mother and Child Leticia
2011 Take Shelter Kendra
Beastly Zola Davies
2012 The Hypnotist The Hypnotist Short
2013 Lovelace Marsha
Go for Sisters Bernice
Life of a King Sheila King
Redemption Trail Tess
2014 Line of Sight Ruby Jensen TV movie
2016 Indiscretion Karen Wyatt
The Wilding Emily Bergom TV movie
2018 Beautiful Boy Rose
Vice Condoleezza Rice
2019 Ad Astra Adjutant General Amelia Vogel
The Last Full Measure Celia O'Neal
Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas Deb TV movie
2022 Another Country Narrator Short
2023 The Boogeyman Dr. Weller


Year Title Role Notes
1993 Homicide: Life on the Street Latoya Kennedy Episode: "A Dog and a Pony Show"
1994 All My Children Celia Wilson Regular Cast
New York Undercover Suki Episode: "To Protect and Serve"
1995 Law & Order Denise Johnson Episode: "Purple Heart"
1996 One Life to Live Dr. Laura Reed Regular Cast
1997-03 The Practice Rebecca Washington Main Cast: Season 1-7
1998 Ally McBeal Rebecca Washington Episode: "The Inmates"
2002 Intimate Portrait Herself Episode: "LisaGay Hamilton"
Hollywood Squares Herself Recurring Guest
Sex and the City Kendall Episode: "Critical Condition"
2004 The L Word Art Show Attendee Episode: "Losing It"
2005 Independent Lens Herself/Narrator Episode: "Red Hook Justice"
ER Nadine Hopkins Episode: "All About Christmas Eve"
2006 Without a Trace Sherise Gibbs Episode: "The Calm Before"
2006-13 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Teresa Randall Guest Cast: Season 7-8 & 14
2007 Numb3rs Sari Kinshasa Episode: "Money for Nothing"
2009-11 Men of a Certain Age Melissa Thoreau Main Cast
2012 Southland Melanie Episode: "Identity"
2013 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Connie Ryan Episode: "Readiness Is All" & "Perfect Storm"
2014 Grimm Mrs. Pittman Episode: "The Last Fight"
Scandal Ambassador Episode: "Where the Sun Don't Shine"
2016 House of Cards Celia Jones Recurring Cast: Season 4
Chance Suzanne Silver Main Cast: Season 1
Code Black Dr. Kim Carrie Episode: "Exodus"
2018 Elementary Lt. Colonel Robin Deakins Episode: "Give Me the Finger"
The First Kayla Price Main Cast
2018-19 Sorry for Your Loss Bobby Greer Recurring Cast
2019 The Blacklist Dr. Grey Episode: "The Ethicist (No. 91)"
2021 This Is Us Aunt Mae Episode: "Birth Mother"
The Rookie Henry's Doctor Episode: "Brave Heart"
2022 The Dropout Judith Baker Recurring Cast
The Lincoln Lawyer Judge Mary Holder Recurring Cast: Season 1
2022-23 Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty Christine Johnson Recurring Cast
2023 Will Trent Evelyn Mitchell Recurring Cast: Season 1
Class of '09 Tayo's Mom Recurring Cast
2024 Genius Alberta Williams King Recurring Cast: Season 4


Year Title Role Theatre
1990 The Piano Lesson Grace Walter Kerr Theatre
2004 Gem of the Ocean Black Mary
2019 To Kill a Mockingbird Calpurnia Shubert Theatre
2023 Stew Mama Pasadena Playhouse[10]

Awards and nominations

Association Year Category Nominated Work Results Ref
Acapulco Black Film Festival 2014 Best Actress Go for Sisters Nominated
American Film Institute Awards 2003 Documentary Award Beah: A Black Woman Speaks Won
Black Reel Awards 2000 Best Supporting Actress — Theatrical True Crime Nominated
2005 Outstanding Television or Miniseries Film (as Producer) Beah: A Black Woman Speaks Nominated
2005 Best Director, Network/Cable Television Beah: A Black Woman Speaks Nominated
2005 Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted, Network/Cable Beah: A Black Woman Speaks Nominated
2014 Outstanding Actress, Motion Picture Go for Sisters Nominated
Clarence Derwent Awards 1996 Best Supporting Female (USA) Won
Gotham Awards 2005 Best Ensemble Performance Nine Lives Nominated
2011 Best Ensemble Performance Take Shelter Nominated
Lady Filmmakers Film Festival 2014 Feature Film (Best Actress) Redemption Trail Won
Locarno International Film Festival 2005 Best Actress Nine Lives Won
Miami Film Festival 2004 Documentary Features Beah: A Black Woman Speaks Nominated
NAACP Image Awards 2000 Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture True Crime Nominated
2000 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series The Practice Nominated
NAMIC Vision Awards 2012 Best Performance — Drama Men of A Certain Age Nominated
News & Documentary Emmy Awards 2005 Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Direction Beah: A Black Woman Speaks Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards 1999 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series The Practice Nominated [11]
2000 Nominated [12]
2001 Nominated [13]


  1. ^ a b Guthmann, Edward (February 25, 2004). "HBO shines light on Beah Richards, a mentor to many". San Francisco Chronicle. When LisaGay Hamilton was making the film "Beloved" in 1997, she never dreamed she'd one day make a documentary about her co-star, actress Beah Richards. "Beah changed my life," said Hamilton, 39, at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, where her film showed last weekend.
  2. ^ a b Schaefer, Stephen (November 18, 2013). "Role triggers fear". Boston Herald. Playing Bernice, a Los Angeles parole officer in "Go for Sisters" was an eye opener for LisaGay Hamilton. "The first thing when I read this was, 'I need to talk to a parole officer,' and although I hate guns 'I need some training,' " said Hamilton, 49.
  3. ^ LisaGaye Hamilton, 'Growing Up Female is a Journey,' in Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female, ed. By Willa Shalit, (New York: Hyperion Books, 2006)
  4. ^ Robin D. G. Kelley, 'Freedom is Living': LisaGaye Hamilton’s Radical Imagination,' Transforming Anthropology 14, no. 1 (April 2006), 2-9.
  5. ^ S. Torriano Berry (2015). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 198. ISBN 9781442247024.
  6. ^ "Filmography".
  7. ^ Isherwood, Charles (November 7, 2007). "A College is Stalked By Attitude". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b "LisaGay Hamilton : Official Website, Film, Television and Theater Actress and Director, The Practice, Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, Beloved".
  9. ^ "Hamilton Joins CalArts Faculty". Broadway World.
  10. ^ McNulty, Charles (August 1, 2023). "Review: A tale of sorrow and survival simmers in Pasadena Playhouse's 'Stew'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  11. ^ "The 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  12. ^ "The 6th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  13. ^ "The 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved June 30, 2021.