Born in Philadelphia, PA, Powell relocated to California before settling in Delaware, where he was raised by his mother, grandmother, and two aunts. Growing up in a household full of women made him the center of attention - a status he enjoyed - and he sought to expand on that experience by pursuing a career in the arts. Powell graduated from St. Mark's High School in Wilmington, DE before attending the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where he received a BFA in Drama in 2001. He had a lengthy tenure in regional theater before branching out into television and independent features in 2002. Guest shots on "Law and Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) and its satellite programs preceded his first shot as a recurring character on "30 Rock," which became an immediate critical favorite, if not a ratings success. Powell's James Spurlock, a.k.a. "Toofer" - so named because he was both black and a Harvard grad, hence a "two-fer" - was one of the writers on "T.G.S.," the series' show-within-a-show, and the frequent butt of gags because of his uptight nature. As the series progressed, Toofer's brittle persona cracked a bit to allow some character wrinkles, and occasionally participated in pranks perpetrated on Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), the show's other self-absorbed celebrity (after Tracy Morgan's delusional Tracy Jordan). He was promoted to series regular in 2008. For his efforts on "30 Rock," Powell shared the 2009 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series; he had received a nomination for the same award along with the cast in the previous year.In 2007, Powell shot a comedy pilot for ABC called "Judy's Got a Gun" (2007), about a single mom in the suburbs who moonlights as a detective, The network did not pick up the series, and Powell returned to "30 Rock." He made his first appearance in a Hollywood feature with "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian," which cast him in a minor role as a Tuskegee Airman. In addition to his acting career, Powell was the producing artistic director of Contemporary Stage Company, a summer theater in Wilmington, DE. In 2008, he was announced as director of "Whisper House," a new musical by Duncan Sheik, who had penned the Tony Award-winning "Spring Awakening," that was slated for the 2008-09 theater season. That same year, he launched his own web miniseries, "Keith Powell Directs a Play," which depicted Powell at the helm of a fictional production of "Uncle Vanya."