Roger Guenveur Smith


For his senior honors project in American Studies, he created and performed AN EVENING WITH FREDERICK DOUGLASS, the first in a series of biographically and historically- infused plays which have become his signature.
As a Richter Fellow, Roger researched Douglass materials at the Library of Congress.  As a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Roger performed Douglass abroad while working at London’s Keskidee Arts Center.

As a student in Yale University’s inaugural graduate class in Afro-American Studies, Roger served as research assistant for the Frederick Douglass Papers, under the direction of the late historian John W. Blassingame.

He studied as well at the Yale School of Drama, in a distinguished class which also included future collaborators Angela Bassett, Charles Dutton, and John Turturro.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS NOW, Smith’s current, ever-fluid interpretation of Douglass’s classic 19th century texts, has played nationally, including an acclaimed engagement at the Kennedy Center.

Roger adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm, directed by his longtime colleague Spike Lee.

For Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING, Roger created the stuttering hero Smiley, as well as an eclectic range of memorable characters in MALCOLM X, GET ON THE BUS, HE GOT GAME, EVE’S BAYOU, KING OF NEW YORK, DEEP COVER, HAMLET, ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS, and AMERICAN GANGSTER, for which Roger was nominated for the Screen Actors’ Guild Award.

Roger was featured on HBO in the series K STREET and OZ and in UNCHAINED MEMORIES: READINGS FROM THE SLAVE NARRATIVES.

Also among his wide-ranging work for the stage are JUAN AND JOHN, RODNEY KING, CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS 1992, WHO KILLED BOB MARLEY?, IN HONOR OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, TWO FIRES, ICELAND, THE WATTS TOWERS PROJECT, and, with Mark Broyard, INSIDE THE CREOLE MAFIA, a "not-too-dark-comedy" cited by the LA Weekly as Production of the Year for both its premiere and revival runs.

For the seminal performance trio Culture Clash, Roger directed the Ovation and Bessie Award-winning RADIO MAMBO, as well as the acclaimed West Coast Premiere of Katori Hall's THE MOUNTAINTOP.

He has taught extensively and is currently directing his Performing History and Autobiography in Progress workshops at Cal Arts.