The film, TV, and stage career of actress Leslie Uggams has spanned several decades. Best known for her role as Kizzy Reynolds in the television miniseries Roots in 1977, for which she earned a Golden Globe and Emmy Award nomination, this talented actress has worked on various television programs, Broadway shows, and Hollywood blockbusters.
Uggams was born in Harlem to Juanita Ernestine Smith, a Cotton Club chorus girl, and Harold Coyden Uggams, an elevator operator and maintenance man who was also a singer with the Hall Johnson choir. A gifted performer, Uggams attended the Professional Children’s School of New York and Juilliard. She broke into show business as a child in 1951, playing the niece of Ethel Waters on The Beulah Show. She later made her singing debut on The Lawrence Welk Show and was a regular on Sing Along with Mitch, which featured producer-conductor Mitch Miller
She met her husband, Grahame Pratt, while performing in Sydney, Australia. They married in 1965. After their wedding, the couple lived in New York, in part to avoid Australia’s racial segregation laws of that time. In 1969, Uggams appeared in her own television variety show, The Leslie Uggams Show in 1969. It was the first network variety show to be hosted by an African American since The Nat King Cole Show of the mid-1950s. Throughout her career, she also made several guest appearances on television shows, such as The Muppet Show, The Love Boat, Magnum P.I., and Hollywood Squares.
Uggams has highly been acclaimed for her performance in the Broadway musical, Hallelujah, Baby!, winning a Theatre World Award in 1967 and the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1968. Other Broadway shows in which she performed include Thoroughly Modern Millie and On Golden Pond in 2003 to 2004. Recently, she appeared opposite Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool as Blind Al, the quick-witted, foul-mouthed roommate of Ryan Reynolds’ character, Wade Wilson.