Jesse Williams, New York City, 2008
Jesse Wesley Williams
August 5, 1981
|Alma mater||Temple University|
(m. 2012; divorced. 2017)
Jesse Wesley Williams (born August 5, 1981) is an American actor, director, producer and activist. He is best known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC series Grey's Anatomy (2009–present). He has appeared in the films The Cabin in the Woods (2012), The Butler (2013) and Band Aid (2017). He provided voice acting and motion capture for Markus in Detroit: Become Human (2018).
Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Johanna Chase, a professional potter, and Reginald Williams. Of mixed race, Williams has said his mother is Swedish and his father is African American from Georgia. His two younger brothers specialize in visual arts. Williams graduated from Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1998. After he graduated from high school, his father began teaching history in northern Maine, while his mother maintained her work in pottery.
Williams graduated from Temple University with a double major in African American Studies and Film and Media Arts. Following in the footsteps of his parents, he taught high school in the Philadelphia public school system for six years: teaching American Studies, African Studies, and English.
In 2005, Williams began to study acting and was chosen to participate in the New York Actors Showcase presented by ABC Television, one of 14 actors chosen from among over 800 individuals who auditioned. Since 2006, he has appeared in a number of television series, films and theatre productions. In 2012, he established a production company, farWord Inc.
In May 2012, a fan campaign was organized to try to influence film executives to cast him in the role of Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This news resulted in some Hunger Games fans protesting casting decisions made by the film executives.
In 2013, Williams wrote an opinion piece for CNN which analyzed the film Django Unchained. Later that year, he narrated the audio version of the book The Bane Chronicles: What Really Happened In Peru, by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan.
On October 15, 2009, Williams began appearing as surgical resident Jackson Avery, in the ABC television series Grey's Anatomy. On June 8, 2010, it was announced Williams would be a series regular, starting in season 7. BuddyTV ranked him No. 6 on its "TV's 100 Sexiest Men of 2010" list and No. 11 in 2011.
Williams appeared in revival joint-productions of The American Dream (1961) and The Sandbox (1959) at Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village in New York City. This production was directed by their playwright Edward Albee.
Williams has also served as a guest director for student productions at the Urban Arts Partnership 24 Hour Plays Off-Broadway, at the request of Rosie Perez and Anna Strout. His theater work includes an off-Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.
In April 2020, Williams will star as Darren Lemming in the Second Stage Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out at the Hayes Theater. Williams portrays a Major League Baseball star who decides to come out of the closet.
In 2008, Williams made his film debut in the supporting role of Leo in the sequel to the 2005 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Two years later, he appeared in Brooklyn's Finest (2010), starring Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes and Ellen Barkin. In 2008, Williams signed on for his first leading role, as Holden McCrea in the MGM/United Artists horror film The Cabin in the Woods. Produced by Joss Whedon and directed by Drew Goddard, it was released April 13, 2012.
Williams is the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights think tank and advocacy group. He is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a multifaceted media project, art exhibition, student and teacher curriculum and website, focused on the black male identity and the diversity within the demographic. He has written articles for CNN and The Huffington Post, and has been a guest on Wolf Blitzer's The Situation Room.
In June 2016, Williams won the humanitarian award at the 2016 BET Awards, delivering a speech highlighting racial injustice, police brutality, and the invention of whiteness. As a result of his speech, dueling petitions were circulated: one to have Williams fired from Grey's Anatomy and one to keep him on the series.
Williams occasionally worked as a model during college, but never considered pursuing it as a career. He modeled for Kenneth Cole Productions, Levi's, and Tommy Hilfiger Corporation. He can be seen as the love interest of R&B singer Rihanna in the music video for her single "Russian Roulette" from her 2009 album Rated R. He also appears in the music video for Estelle's song "Fall In Love", from the album All of Me. In 2018, Williams appeared in the video for "Tell Me You Love Me" By Demi Lovato.
In September 2012, Williams married longtime girlfriend Aryn Drake-Lee. They have two children, Sadie and Maceo. In April 2017, Williams filed for divorce. Also in 2017, it was revealed that Williams was dating actress Minka Kelly. Williams split with Minka Kelly in 2018 and it was confirmed in 2019 on Instagram that he is dating actress Taylour Paige.
|2008||The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2||Leo|
|2009||Brooklyn's Finest||Eddie Quinlain|
|2010||Dirty Dancing 3: Capoeira Nights||Johnny||Short film|
|2012||The Cabin in the Woods||Holden McCrea|
|2012||Question Bridge: Black Males||N/A||Executive producer|
|2013||The Butler||James Lawson|
|2013||Snake and Mongoose||Don "The Snake" Prudomme|
|2013||They Die by Dawn||John Taylor|
|2019||Selah and the Spades||The Headmaster|
|2019||Jacob's Ladder||Isaac "Ike" Singer|
|2019||Random Acts of Violence||Todd Walkley|
|2006||Law & Order||Kwame||1 episode|
|2006||Beyond the Break||Eric Medina||8 episodes|
|2008||Greek||Drew "The Hotness Monster" Collins||2 episodes|
|2009–present||Grey's Anatomy||Dr. Jackson Avery||Recurring (season 6)|
Main cast (season 7–present)
Nominated – People's Choice Awards, Favorite Dramatic TV Actor (2016–17)
|2010||Seattle Grace: Message of Hope||6 episodes|
|2016||The Eric Andre Show||Himself||Episode: "Jesse Williams; Jillian Michaels"|
|2018||Most Expensivest||Episode: "Lights Camera Action"|
|2020||Station 19||Dr. Jackson Avery|
|2020||Little Fires Everywhere (miniseries)||Joe Ryan||Recurring Role|
|2006||"When Your Heart Stops Beating"||+44|
|2010||"Fall in Love"||Estelle|
|2017||"Tell Me You Love Me"||Demi Lovato|
|2018||Detroit: Become Human||Markus||Also motion capture|