Terrence Dashon Howard (born March 11, 1969) is an American actor and singer. Having his first major role in the 1995 film Mr. Holland’s Opus, which subsequently led to a number of roles in films and high visibility among African American audiences. Howard broke into the mainstream with a succession of well-reviewed television and film roles between 2004 and 2006. Among his roles in movies includes Winnie, Ray, Lackawanna Blues, Crash, Four Brothers, Hustle & Flow, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Idlewild, August Rush and The Brave One. Howard co-starred in Iron Man and reprised the role in the video game adaption.
Howard was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Monroeville, Pennsylvania, the son of Anita Williams (née Hawkins) and Tyrone Howard. His maternal great-grandmother, Minnie Gentry, was a stage actress, as were his mother and uncles. Both of his parents were biracial, of African American and European American descent; he experienced racism throughout his childhood. His father was involved in what has been termed the Santa Line Slaying, serving 11 months in prison on manslaughter charges after stabbing another man. At the age of 16, Howard emancipated himself from his parents and was put on welfare; at 18, he moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. He wanted to be a science teacher, though he had a low GPA in high school and was admitted to the Pratt Institute in New York only after convincing them to give him a special entrance exam. Howard did not complete his education, as he had joined his brother on an audition for The Cosby Show and was cast in the role. Though he did not obtain a degree, Howard claims to be an engineer. Howard had a principal role in a short-lived CBS sitcom, Tall Hopes.
Howard first entered the entertainment world when he portrayed Jackie Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream, an ABC miniseries. Three years later, he made his big film break in 1995’s Mr. Holland’s Opus. He continued being cast in television and movie roles and co-starred as Greg Sparks in the late-1990s television series Sparks, with James L. Avery, Sr. and Miguel A. Nunez Jr. Howard also appeared in The Best Man in 1999, in Ashanti‘s music video for her 2002 single “Foolish“, and in Mary J. Blige‘s video for “Be Without You“. Howard also made an appearance on the TV series Family Matters. It has also been announced that Howard will re-team with Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer for a film based on the life of country music legend Charley Pride.
Howard has stated that he looks for characters that “teach him about himself” when choosing his film roles. Howard has also worked as a film producer, receiving such a credit for the film Pride. As of 2008, Howard hosts the PBS‘ series Independent Lens.
In 2008, he made his Broadway debut, playing Brick in an all-African-American production of Tennessee Williams‘ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Debbie Allen and also starring James Earl Jones (Big Daddy), Phylicia Rashad (Big Mama) and Anika Noni Rose (Maggie). During rehearsals he allegedly attacked and seriously injured musical composer Tex Allen, who claimed to have suffered multiple injuries as a result of being punched multiple times in the head and face. In October 2008, Allen filed a $5 million lawsuit against Howard.
In October 2008, Howard made a guest appearance in the short film For All Mankind directed by Daniel L. Clifton, filmed on location in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. In 2009, he starred in the movie Fighting.
It was reported on July 30, 2010, that Howard joined the cast of the new Law & Order: Los Angeles installment of the Law & Order franchise, wherein he will play Deputy District Attorney Joe Dekker. He will alternate shows with Alfred Molina, who portrays Deputy District Attorney Ricardo Morales.
Howard, who lives outside Philadelphia in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, was married to Lori McCommas for 14 years. The couple has three children: two daughters (Aubrey and Heaven) and a son (Hunter). Howard and his wife divorced in 2003 and remarried again in 2005, but have since separated. Press reports had since noted that Howard was “trying to reunite” with his wife, and that he had stated that he was “chasing after” her. His wife was born Jewish but is raising their children as Jehovah’s Witnesses. In an interview with NPR, he said he wanted to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well.
Terrence Howard married his girlfriend Michelle Ghent, a 33-year-old commercial production employee, in a secret ceremony in January 2010. On February 2, 2011, it was reported by TMZ that Michelle Ghent had filed for divorce.
In February 2009 it was reported on The Smoking Gun that Howard was arrested in 2001 for a variety of charges related to a violent attack on his estranged wife, including simple assault, terrorist threats, harassment and stalking. According to police reports, he arrived at her house after an argument on the phone, forced entry into her home by breaking in doors, and chased her into the back yard where he punched her twice in the face with a closed fist. The violent attack ended when Howard’s brother stopped it. In 2002 he pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace.
These issues came to light after he reportedly downplayed singer Chris Brown’s 2009 arrest for attacking his girlfriend Rihanna. When Howard was asked about the allegations of domestic violence against Brown, he told a reporter from Hollywood.TV “It’s just life, man. Chris is a great guy. He’ll be all right, and Rihanna knows he loves her, you know? They’ll be all right.”
Howard released his debut, adult alternative album, “Shine Through It” in 2008 on Columbia Records. He described the album as “urban country” and either wrote or co-wrote all the tracks on the album.
For the movie Hustle and Flow, Howard performed all the tracks for his rapper character including “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 78th Academy Awards.