Date of Birth: February 10, 1981
Fans of Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren can thank professors at Boston University for steering Uzo Aduba — the actress who brings Suzanne to life — away from classical voice training and in the direction of acting.
Uzo, whose full first name is Uzoamaka (which means "the road is good" in her parents' home country of Nigeria), was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up in the town of Medfield, Massachusetts, and quickly developed a talent for track and field.
She drew on her athleticism to earn a sports scholarship to Boston University's College of Fine Arts, where she studied classical voice. But professors in the program noticed a knack for acting in Uzo and encouraged her to pursue it. She experimented with the craft while at school and discovered a new passion.
After Uzo graduated, she relocated to New York City to chase her acting dream. She first appeared in front of the camera in the 2005 short film Notes about a New York musician, and won her first major acting honor with a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Play for Translations of Xhosa. She followed that up with her Broadway debut in 2007's Coram Boy, playing the role of Toby.
Uzo mostly worked on stage over the next few years, but also won parts in other short films as well, including 2011's Wwjd. In 2012, she won her first television role on an episode of the crime drama series Blue Bloods. She played a nurse on the show, which starred Donnie Wahlberg and Tom Selleck.
Despite her successes, Uzo felt she was continually crashing into dead-ends. She hadn't heard back about several auditions and made the decision to quit acting and shift careers. But as Uzo told Dateline in August 2015, 45 minutes after she had convinced herself that acting wasn't bringing her the work she wanted, she got a call about a part that would change her life.
She said, "It was 5:43 p.m. I'll never forget it, Sept. 14, 2012." It was a Friday when Uzo learned that she had won the role of Litchfield Penitentiary inmate Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on the Netflix dramedy series Orange is the New Black. The show, which also stars Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew, and Danielle Brooks, became a smash hit. It revolves around the lives of women behind bars and their struggles, eccentricities, relationships and dramatic affairs.
For her work, Uzo has been nominated for two Golden Globes and has won two Emmys. She is the only actress in history to win an Emmy in both the comedy and drama categories for playing the same character (she won Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2014 and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2015). Ed Asner is the only male actor to have also achieved the feat.
In addition to her Emmy wins, she also nabbed a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2016. For that ceremony, she took her best friend and high school prom date Mark as her plus-one. The two have been friends since kindergarten.
Uzo first stepped into the Suzanne's prison attire when the show began airing in 2013.
Aside from her work on Orange is the New Black, Uzo appeared in a 2014 episode of Saturday Night Live and the 2015 film Pearly Gates.
She has also portrayed Glinda the Good Witch of the South in the 2015 TV musical presentation The Wiz Live! with Common, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah; a TSA officer in the 2015 animated adventure comedy Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip with Jesse McCartney, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Kaley Cuoco; Detective Kinnie in the 2016 Netflix drama Tallulah with Ellen Page and Allison Janney; and Vicky in the 2016 drama American Pastoral with Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning, and based on a Philip Roth novel.
In 2017, Uzo lent her voice to the animated comedy My Little Pony: The Movie with Emily Blunt, Liev Schreiber, Kristin Chenoweth, Taye Diggs and Sia.
Two years later, moviegoers enjoyed her portrayal of Virginia, a mother who sacrifices everything she has to allow her son to get a good education at school, in the film Miss Virginia (2019).
Since then, she has worked on no less than three TV series airing in 2020: Mrs. America for FX Network, the fourth season of the award-winning series Fargo and Americanah for HBO Max. For her work on Mrs. America, she took home an Emmy in 2020.
Uzo, whose younger brother played hockey for the University of Massachusetts, shared some of her likes with The New York Times in June 2016. She revealed that she enjoys reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist ("It always helps guide me through life transitions," she said) and likes listening to a wide array of music, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, opera singer Leontyne Price, Joni Mitchell, Jay Z and Biggie.
Although her energy is channeled towards acting, she boasts an impressive list of vocal credits. According to Boston University's Bostonia, Uzo has sung at the White House and Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)
American Pastoral (2016)
Showing Roots (2016)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015)
Pearly Gates (2015)