Jurnee Smollett-Bell is an American actress best known for her starring role as Jess Merriweather in the football drama television series Friday Night Lights, from 2009-2011.
Smollett-Bell can also be seen on CBS' The Defenders, opposite Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell as Lisa, the new attorney who joins their firm.
Smollett-Bell starred in The Great Debaters with Forest Whitaker and Denzel Washington, who also directed the drama. In addition to receiving rave reviews, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture and she won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a motion picture.
She made her breakthrough performance at the age of 11, starring in Eve's Bayou opposite Samuel L. Jackson, for which she won the Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Youth Performance and was cited by Interview Magazine as one of the five Hollywood stars to watch in the new millennium.
Other film credits include starring in Roll Bounce, Gridiron Gang, and Beautiful Joe with Sharon Stone as well as made-for-television films including the Wonderful World of Disney's Selma Lord Selma and Showtime's Ruby's Bucket of Blood opposite Angela Bassett.
She guest starred in the season finale of Grey's Anatomy. Other guest starring appearances include roles on House, ER, Strong Medicine and NYPD Blue, and she closed out the 2009 series of Grey's Anatomy with a performance that received critical acclaim everywhere.
On television, Smollett-Bell has starred on the FOX series Wanda at Large with Wanda Sykes, and on the CBS sitcom Cosby with Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad, for which she won an NAACP Image Awards in 1999 and 2000.
She began her television acting career at the age of four with a recurring role on Full House, later reviving the character for a season of Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.
She followed by starring on the 1994-1995 ABC comedy On Our Own with her real-life sister and four brothers.
In addition to acting and singing, Smollett-Bell is an activist and the youngest board member of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA), a non-profit organisation working in the U.S. and South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, advance human rights, and educate and empower children orphaned by AIDS as well as other at-risk youth. Smollett-Bell has been involved with ANSA since the age of 11.
In 2006, she became ANSA's pioneer presenter for Positively Speaking, a program of the Los Angeles Unified District HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit that brings people infected or affected by the disease into middle and high school classes to tell their own stories and lead discussions.
Smollett-Bell has traveled to South Africa through her efforts with ANSA, where she has met with Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and Zackie Achmat as well as people living with HIV/AIDS and children orphaned by the disease.
She completed an official U.S. mission for the U.S. State Department in which she was sent to Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa to conduct workshops with women and youth about activism, empowerment and HIV/AIDS.
She also joined the board of the Children's Defense Fund at the invitation of longtime mentor, Marian Wright Edelman.
She is the sister of actor Jake Smollett.
In 2013 she had a starring role on the horror television series True Blood.