Jurnee Smollett, born Jurnee Diana Smollett, was born in New York City, one of six children to parents Joel and Janet. Smollett began acting professionally as a young child, making her screen debut in the short film "Sunday in Paris" (1991). More memorable early turns involved recurring performances on popular TV shows "Full House" (ABC 1987-1995) and "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" (ABC 1992-97), playing the character Denise Frazer on both series. Smollet and her siblings Jojo, Jazz, Jussie, and Jocqui then co-headlined their own sitcom, "On Our Own" (ABC 1994-95). After the conclusion of this program, Smollett toggled between film and television work, appearing notably in the Robin Williams movie "Jack" (1994) and the TV series "Cosby" (1996-2000). In her teen years, Smollett turned her attention away from family comedies and toward material like "Wanda at Large" (Fox 2003) and "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC 2005). She joined the popular high school drama "Friday Night Lights" (NBC/The 101 Network 2006-2011) in its fourth season, playing aspiring football coach Jess Merriweather. After headlining the short-lived dramedy "The Defenders" (CBS 2010-11) and the Tyler Perry-directed TV movie "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor" (2013), Smollett returned to supporting parts on high-profile series like "Parenthood" (NBC 2010-15) and "True Blood" (HBO 2008-14). Smollett returned to top billing with "Underground" (WGN America 2016-), an 1850s America period drama on which she played a slave on the quest for freedom.
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