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Wood Harris Iconic Rise: From “The Wire” to “Empire”

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Wood Harris smiling on red carpet

Wood Harris’ antecedent tells the story of someone who has weathered the storm of life to attain success.  He is an African-American actor who starred in some of Hollywood’s iconic shows and movies.

The Wire and Creed star is arguably one of the best actors to emerge on the TV screen. He has starred in television shows, on stage, and in films. Wood, however, has also had his share of travails before making it big on the screen.


About Wood Harris’ Early Days

Sherwin David Harris, aka Wood Harris, was born on October 17, 1969, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Wood’s mother, Mattie, is a seamstress and a substitute teacher. His dad, John Harris, was a bus driver.

As a young boy, growing up in Westside, Chicago was quite a challenge. The metropolis had a notoriety for gang culture, deceptive political culture, and was in the midst of the crack era.

Wood’s rough childhood environment did not stop him from pursuing his dreams.

In such an environment, it took deliberate efforts and discipline not to get caught in the web of crime and deception.  Fortunately, he had his big brother and fellow actor, Steve Harris, to be thankful for.

Wood Harris’ Education and Journey to the Big Screen

For Wood, getting into the arts was more of a matter of destiny. It all began at the age of 12 with drawing and painting. But it later metamorphosed into something intriguing and more significant.

Securing admission into college provided Wood’s first chance at acting. He auditioned for his first role in a theatre program at Northern Illinois University. Wood got to play in Vignettes, a movie about substance abuse. So began his journey to the big screen and the stage. But not before he bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from the same institution.

Next, he got a Masters of Arts degree (MFA) from the New York University Graduate Acting Program.

Acting Career: Wood Harris Gradual Rise to Stardom

Wood Harris had a bumpy but gradual rise to the big screen. His first major movie was a basketball drama; Above the Rim, released in 1994. That was the movie that brought him to the limelight, playing the role of Motaw while pursuing his studies at the NIU.

Above the Rim gave Wood a good start as he starred opposite legendary rapper and musical icon, Tupac Shakur.

Wood Harris’ iconic appearances in a string of blockbusters include ‘As Good As it Gets’ (1998), starred Jack Nicholson, Wood Allan, and Helen Hunt. A lead role in the movie Hendrix in 2002, as the legendary guitarist, was another big step for him.

Subsequently, his roles in ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Waiting for Lefty’ kept him going in the limelight.

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For Wood, a validation from Paul Newman was all he needed to up his acting game. He met the star inside the elevator on his way to rehearsal one day.  Paul Newman told him, ‘You’re doing a great job, kid.’

Another important moment for Wood came when he was cast in the movie ‘Paid in Full,’ a true story based on Harlem drug dealers. Damon Dash directed the film, and Wood played one of the three lead roles with Cam’ron (a rapper) and Mekhi Phifer.

The rest is history, as Wood Harris has starred in the countless award-winning movies and series.

Most notable of them all is his much talked about role as Avon Barksdale in HBO’s ‘The Wire’ in 2002. The show slowly but surely became a massive hit and cultural phenomenal.

Wood Harris admitted that he never expected the show to become such a huge hit.


What’s surprising about The Wire is that its popularity skyrocketed after the show ended as more and more audiences found the show on demand.

Since 2018, Wood Harris has played the role of Damon Cross in Season 5 and 6 of the popular award-winning TV Series, The Empire.


Wood Harris Awards and Nominations

His role in the film ‘Remember the Titans’ earned him two nominations: NAACP Image Award (nomination) for ‘Best Outstanding Supporting Actor in Motion Picture’ and the Blockbuster Movie Award nomination for ‘Favorite Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture’.

The movie, “The Morning Prep”, earned Wood the First Run Best Actor Award for exceptional performance in 2002.


Wood Harris: Personal and Marital Life

Wood has been married to Rebekah Harris since 2001. Their union produced two kids.

There were an initial altercation and dark clouds around the marriage concerning Wood’s affair with a mistress, Stoney Alexandra. The union remains stable while the couple moved on together.

When not on vacation with the family or filming, Wood spends most of his spare time watching sports, especially the NBA.

His favorite NBA stars are LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Wood loves LeBron for his integrity and for being a leading example in the black community.

Brothers Wood and Steve Harris

I bet John and Mattie Harris never imagined that their kids would end up as professional actors. For Wood, Steve had always been not only a big brother but a role model. According to him, he was walking in his brother’s footsteps in terms of academics. Wood felt the need to go to college just like his brother and to get a scholarship through athletes.

Steve Harris is well known for his role in shows like The Practice and Awake.

When Steve Harris first took to the school of acting, he assumed that it would be all fun and less work. Well, he got it all wrong! Steve discovered that it was a real acting class and loads of work to do. He, however, rose to the challenge and built his passion around his studies.

Today, Steve’s decision and actions helped in shaping his kid brother’s life for good.



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