Rutina Wesley (born December 21, 1978) is an American actress. She is best known for her roles as Tara Thornton on the HBO television series True Blood and Nova Bordelon on the OWN television series Queen Sugar.
Early life and education
Wesley was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her father, Ivery Wheeler, is a professional tap dancer, and her mother, Cassandra Wesley, was a showgirl. She attended high school at the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts. She studied dance at Simba Studios and the West Las Vegas Arts Center.
While at the Las Vegas Academy, Wesley missed some auditions for college training programs. She finally decided to attend the University of Evansville in Indiana.
After Wesley earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance in 2001, her grandmother suggested that she do a nursing course to have a practical fallback job, but Wesley insisted on pursuing her artistic education. She enrolled at the Juilliard School in 2001 and graduated in May 2005 (Group 34). Her studies included a summer spent at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. At Juilliard, she became close friends with her future co-star Nelsan Ellis (Group 33: 2000–2004).
In December 2006, Wesley was featured in David Hare's Broadway play The Vertical Hour. In 2007, Wesley also appeared in The Public Theater production of In Darfur by playwright Winter Miller, co-starring Heather Raffo and Aaron Lohr, among others.
Wesley had a minor role in the 2005 film Hitch, which was edited out in the final cut. In 2007, she made her on-screen debut as the main character in the film How She Move, from British director Ian Iqbal Rashid. The character Raya Green, who enters a step-dancing competition to secure funds for her education, was inspired by Tony Manero, portrayed by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Prior to the shooting of the film, Wesley underwent a five-week dance rehearsal period. Portraying a woman of Jamaican descent, she also took dialect coaching for the role.
Wesley auditioned for the role Tara Thornton in the HBO series True Blood in 2007 and secured the part after creator Alan Ball chose her because "[she] was the first person who showed [Tara's] vulnerable side".
In January 2015, it was announced that Wesley had been cast in a recurring role on the NBC drama series Hannibal. She portrayed Reba McClane, "a blind woman who enters into a relationship with Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), and helps soothe his murderous urges—at least at first." Wesley appeared as Liza Warner in the fourth season of Arrow.
Wesley divides her time between Los Angeles and Astoria, Queens. In 2005, she married her former Juilliard classmate Jacob Fishel, an actor. Wesley filed for divorce on August 16, 2013, citing irreconcilable differences.
In November 2017, Wesley announced her partnership to Shonda, a female chef from New Orleans.
Awards and nominations
|2009||5th Scream Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|14th Satellite Awards||Best Cast (or Best Ensemble) – Television Series||Won|
|2010||16th Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|2013||44th NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|2017||48th NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|17th Black Reel Awards||Won|
|2018||49th NAACP Image Awards||Nominated|