Born in Chicago, IL, Harris was an introspective child and grew up in a lower-middle class blue-collar environment. At the age of 12, Harris fell in love with drawing and painting. Later, when he attended Northern Illinois University, he discovered his affinity and talent for acting, and quickly racked up roles on stage. After graduating from NIU, he attended New York University and studied acting for his Master's degree. Co-starring in the urban drama "Above the Rim" was a huge break, but the role almost ended his academic career; Harris was kicked out of the program due to his frequent spotty attendance record. Eventually, he was readmitted to the school after several fellow students protested the severity of the punishment. After "Above the Rim," Harris built up his resume appearing in small roles for television that nevertheless displayed his quiet yet intense onscreen presence. He also picked up minor parts in theatrical features as well, such as the Jack Nicholson movie "As Good as It Gets" (1997), Woody Allen's "Celebrity" (1998) and the action thriller "The Siege" (1998). Harris' performance in the box office hit "Remember the Titans" was noteworthy and arguably his most widely seen role up to that point, co-starring as football player Julius Campbell opposite Denzel Washington. But it was his pivotal role playing a ruthless drug dealer on the lauded street crime series "The Wire" that became his signature performance, earning him to the attention of a whole new audience. His role on the HBO series was integral to the overall five-season narrative and highlighted his ability to generate considerable tension within a scene. On top of his acting success, Harris began focusing on his hip-hop career. But he did not give up on acting altogether: when not making music, Harris appeared in guest roles on several television programs, such as the medical show "House, M.D." (Fox, 2004-2012), police procedural "Southland" (TNT, 2009-), and the revamped version of "Hawaii Five-O" (CBS, 2010-). Harris also appeared in the dystopian science-fiction action movie "Dredd" in 2012, and performed in a Broadway production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" that same year, featuring an all-African-American cast.