Ealy was born in Silver Spring, MD. For the first part of his life, Ealy never considered becoming an actor; instead focusing on athletics - playing football and basketball for Springbrook High School. But when he saw Denzel Washington in Spike Lee's "Mo' Better Blues" (1990), Ealy got the first notion that this was something he might like to pursue as a future career. Ironically, at that time in his young life, he was too afraid to take the stage in high school productions. After graduation, he attended the University of Maryland, majoring in English and still harboring the notion of acting. With degree in hand, he journeyed north to New York, taking up residence and starting his pursuit of acting in earnest. He took classes and workshops and went on auditions while waiting tables for the next five years. The pay was low; the times tough, but he persevered. In 1999, Ealy (then using the name Michael D. Brown) finally found himself in an off-off-Broadway production of "Whoa-Jack!" and playing a black soldier on an Alabama-based Army base in 1960 who battles deep-rooted racial tensions and a white major involved in an affair with his girlfriend.A year later, Ealy was performing on stage again, playing a basketball star on a fictional team in the off-Broadway production, "J Fearless (A Fan Dance)." The play had two different endings, depending on whether or not Ealy sank the buzzer-beating jump shot. Ealy then made his feature debut with a small part as an unlucky boyfriend in the romantic comedy "Kissing Jessica Stein" (2001). It was his next role that garnered him his first real widespread recognition - that of Ricky Nash, a reformed ex-con trying to earn his G.E.D. in the surprise urban comedy hit, "Barbershop." He would go on to reprise the popular character in the inevitable sequel, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" (2003). Meanwhile, Ealy scored supporting roles in "Bad Company" (2002) and "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003), before making the crossover to television with a two-episode arc on the indefatigable "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). Ealy next starred opposite Oscar winner Halle Berry - whom he would begin dating off-screen - in "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God" (ABC, 2005) - an adaptation of Zora Neal Hurston's novel about an independent-minded African-American woman (Berry) in 1920s Florida, who goes against the grain of the small town white locals. After being overshadowed by his glamorous leading lady, Ealy finally got his chance to shine with his next role - that of undercover FBI agent and devout Muslim, Darwyn Al-Sayeed, in the terrorism-based series, "Sleeper Cell" (Showtime, 2005-06). The multifaceted and complex character intrigued Ealy - particularly his struggle to uphold his Muslim beliefs while pretending to wage holy Jihad against America. Right off the bat, "Sleeper Cell" received its fair share of criticism, especially in its humanizing look at terrorists trying to kill Americans on a mass scale. Even some Muslims denounced the show because of its depiction of the faithful - premarital sex, engaged in frequently by Ealy's character being cited as one of the show's biggest no-no's. Nonetheless, Ealy received his share of critical kudos as well, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television.
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