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Lee Daniels

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Lee Daniels is featured in:

Season 8, Episode 1: Hidden in the Genes

Lee Daniels is an Academy Award® nominated filmmaker whose work is trademarked by authenticity and candor, providing audiences with a unique experience and raw character insight with each of his projects. In 2001, Daniels founded Lee Daniels Entertainment, a full-service production company that is home to inclusive storytelling and serves as a platform for diverse and underrepresented voices to create authentic and original content. Lee Daniels Entertainment made its feature film debut with MONSTER'S BALL, making Daniels the sole African-American producer of an Oscar®-winning and Oscar®-nominated film. Daniels also produced THE WOODSMAN which was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards. The film received the CICAE Arthouse Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Jury Prize at the Deauville International Film Festival, and Special Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking from the National Board of Review.

SHADOWBOXER marked Daniels’ directorial debut in 2005. Following the film's world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Daniels was also nominated for the New Directors Award at the 2006 San Sebastian Film Festival.

Daniels is widely known for his Academy Award winning film PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE. The film was adapted from the New York Times-bestselling novel Push by Sapphire (a.k.a. Ramona Lofton). PRECIOUS was nominated for six Academy Awards, including nominations for Daniels in the category of "Achievement in Directing" and "Best Motion Picture of the Year, and wins in the categories of “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.” Daniels was the first African American to be nominated for a Director's Guild of America Award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film" on behalf of PRECIOUS. The film won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, only the third film in Festival history to do so. It was also nominated for eight NAACP Image Awards, six of which it won, in categories including "Outstanding Motion Picture" and "Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture, Theatrical or Television.” The film also garnered a total of five 2010 Independent Spirit Awards, including "Best Feature” and "Best Director.”

In 2012, Daniels released THE PAPERBOY, which he wrote, directed, and also produced. The film, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, and Nicole Kidman, is based on the 1995 novel by Pete Dexter that centers on a reporter (McConaughey) and his younger brother (Efron), who investigate the events surrounding a murder to exonerate a man on death row (Cusack). The film premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and was released by Millennium Entertainment.

In August of 2013 he released the critically acclaimed box office smash LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER, an epic drama set against the tumultuous political backdrop of 20th century America that tells the story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), an African American butler who served at the White House during seven presidential administrations between 1957 and 1986. The film held the number one box office spot for three consecutive weeks and has to date grossed over $175 million worldwide.

Daniels’ is notably known for creating the hit television series EMPIRE for FOX, for which he wrote and directed the pilot and continued to serve as a producer on the series until its season six finale in April of 2020. The one hour family drama was set in the world of a hip-hop empire that features both original and contemporary music. Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson star, with Timbaland producing the show’s original music. The show premiered in January 2015 and broke ratings records during its first season. EMPIRE received 8 Primetime EMMY Award nominations and pulled in a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress” in 2016 under Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of “Cookie Lyon.” The series also received 4 NAACP Image awards.

In 2015, Daniels went on to sign an overall development deal with Fox television, where he continues to create, develop, write, direct and supervise new projects under his Lee Daniels Entertainment banner. His first project under the deal was the television series STAR, centered around three women in a musical group in Atlanta, starring Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt, along with three female newcomers. The show wrapped after its third season and previously aired the same night as EMPIRE. Other projects that have so far been announced under the deal include: Victor, East of Hope, Ms. Pat, Good People, Mason Dixon and a reboot of Wonder Years for ABC. In 2018 Daniels re-upped his overall deal with Fox television.

Currently, Lee Daniels is working on the release of his latest original picture under his Lee Daniels Entertainment umbrella - The United States V.S. Billie Holiday, a drama picture starring Andra Day and Trevante Rhodes, based around the court case of famed singer Billie Holiday after she was arrested at her apartment for the possession of narcotics. The film is set for a February 26th release date through Paramount Pictures. Daniels, through his overall deal with 20th Century FOX, is also adapting “I Can’t Date Jesus,” an NY Times best-selling memoir by author Michael Arceneaux.

In addition to his successful film career, Daniels is also a passionate advocate and philanthropist. Daniels sits on numerous boards including Ghetto Film School, a non-profit which helps to educate, develop, and celebrate the next generation of great American storytellers. Daniels is also a longtime LGBT activist, as well as a strong supporter of many charitable organizations.

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Guests From Episode 1 of Season 8

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Episode Guide

Finding Your Roots Season Eight

Today’s most compelling personalities discover the surprising stories buried within their own families. Meet 21 fascinating new guests who are game-changers in their fields, with family histories that illustrate the power and diversity of the human experience. Tuesdays at 8/7c.

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WETA | Finding Your Roots
with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

New Episodes: Tuesdays at 8/7c