Stephen McKinley Henderson

Stephen McKinley Henderson

Stephen McKinley Henderson
MA 1977, Theatre
Professor of Theatre and Dance, University of Buffalo, The State University of New York
Buffalo, New York


Stephen has worked as an actor on stages throughout the United States and abroad, on and off Broadway, in television and film.  His film and television work include Tower Heist, for Imagine/Universal; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Oscar nomination in the Best Picture category) for Warner Brothers; Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, The Newsroom; Everyday People for HBO Films which screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004; and William Duke’s PBS American Playhouse film of A Raisin in the Sun, starring Danny Glover and Esther Rolle.  He also recurred as a judge for 15 seasons on NBC’s landmark series Law and Order and was a co-star on the FOX series, New Amsterdam.

Considered among the celebrated interpreters of playwright August Wilson’s work, his performance in the 2010 revival of Fences with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis earned Stephen a Tony nomination and the Richard Seff Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, presented annually by Actor’s Equity.  He was part of the ceremony naming the August Wilson Theater in 2005.  In 2007 he was cast in two productions of Signature Theatre’s critically acclaimed Wilson season, and in three productions of Kenny Leon’s historic Century Cycle Readings at Kennedy Center in 2008.  

In his eloquent obituary for playwright August Wilson Michael Feingold of the Village Voice wrote, “To think of the great characters and scenes in August’s plays is to think of an epic parade of great African American actors who have seized their moment to make theater history: James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in Fences, Charles S. Dutton in Ma Rainey and The Piano Lesson, S. Epatha Merkerson confronting him in the latter, Roscoe Lee Browne sagely ironic in Two Trains Running, Stephen McKinley Henderson oozing malice in Jitney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Lisa Gay Hamilton glaring a skyful of weaponry at each other in Gem of the Ocean.”

Jitney toured for an unprecedented full LORT season during 1998-99 in Boston, Baltimore, Buffalo, Rochester, and Chicago, then played Los Angeles and New York in 2000.  During the off-Broadway run in 2000, Jitney garnered the N.Y. Drama Critic’s Award for Best Play and a Drama Desk, an Obie, and an Audelco award for each actor as members of the outstanding ensemble of the New York season.   In Los Angeles, Stephen won the 2000 NAACP Theatre Award for Outstanding Dramatic Performance by a Male as well as a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award as an outstanding featured actor. The London run of Jitney won the Olivier Award for Best New Play of the London season, 2002.

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