Donald Faison Biography
Born into a Family of Actors, Found Fame and Family, Became a Star in Scrubs
Though his role as a surgical intern on the NBC hit series Scrubs brought him major fame, Donald Faison was no stranger to the limelight. He had acted since he was a child, steadily progressing from school plays to television commercials to major motion pictures. By 2005, in addition to Scrubs, he had several films in the works with no rest in sight. The busy schedule suited him fine. "I enjoy working. I don't do it just because it's my job. I do it also because of love," he told E! Online.
Born into a Family of Actors
Donald Adeosun Faison was born on June 22, 1974, in New York City and was immersed in acting from the time he was five. His parents, Shirley and Donald, were members of the National Black Theatre in Harlem and one of Faison's earliest memories is of watching his mother direct rehearsals in the empty theater. She went on to influence his career decision. "My biggest hero has always been my mother. She has done a lot for me, and she supported me when I had nothing," he told E! Online. Faison attended the Children's School for the Development of Intuitive and God-Conscious Art, a school created by the National Black Theatre. At the age of six he co-wrote and acted in a play called When the Lion Roars. He also made home movies with his two younger brothers Dade and Olamide.
Faison's first taste of professional acting was in a television commercial for Oatmeal Raisin Crisp. He went on to a recurring role on Sesame Street and appeared on specials with 1980s celebrities like Marlo Thomas and Bobby McFerrin. Faison studied acting at Manhattan's Professional Children's School and attended La Guardia High School for Music, Art, and the Performing Arts. "I remember I wasn't popular in high school until my junior year, and that's because I got on the yearbook committee and put my face on every page of the yearbook," Faison told AP Online. After graduating in 1992 his popularity really started to rise.
Faison made his major film debut in Juice opposite rapper Tupac Shakur in 1992. From then on he appeared in a steady stream of films including 1993's Sugar Hill with Wesley Snipes and 1995's Waiting to Exhale with Angela Bassett. The film that made Faison a famous face, however, was 1995's Clueless. The film about rich teens went on to become a cult classic and inspired a television series of the same name. From 1996 to 1999 Faison reprised his role as Murray in the series.
Found Fame and Family
Faison explained the changes fame brought him in an interview with AP Online. "It was kind of weird. One day nobody knew who I was, and I would go out, if I went to a club, I'd ask the girls to dance and they would say 'No.' And then two years later, I'd see the same girls at a different club, and all of a sudden, they're like, 'Hey, remember me?' And it's like, 'Oh yeah, you're the girl that dissed me!'" The success of both the film and the TV show also brought Faison money, but he was too young to know what to do with it. "I spent money on stupid things," he told People Weekly. "A motorcycle, a big-screen TV." It did not take long before he was broke.
Fortunately, about that time Faison met nursing student Lisa Askey at a party. "She says she didn't know who I was but I don't believe her and she says she thought I was ugly," Faison told The News Letter. Nonetheless, Lisa turned over her phone number and the two soon began to date. Four years later, in 2001, they were married. Faison has often credited Lisa with grounding him. "I was lazy and she straightened me out," he told People Weekly. The couple had twin girls, Kaya and Dade, followed by a son, Kobe. Faison had also fathered a son, Sean, with a childhood friend in New York several years earlier. When asked by In Style what he considered his biggest success Faison responded, "My four children.… I genuinely love taking care of them."
Faison continued to have success in his acting career as well. From 1996 to 1998 he appeared on the hit television shows New York Undercover and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. From 1998 to 1999 he jumped back to the big screen with roles in several forgettable flicks. Finally in 2000 he landed a major role in the Denzel Washington vehicle, Remember the Titans. After having found fame in comedic roles, Faison showed his dramatic skills in this film about integration on a southern football team. It also toughened him up. "My big mouth got me into trouble," he told Maxim Online. "I was telling everybody I was doing my own stunts. Then I got hit, real hard. From then on, I wanted to give up all my stunts to my stunt double. But, since I already made [a] point of telling everyone about me doing my own stunts, I still had to do them."
Became a Star in Scrubs
As Faison's film career began to wane—he had small roles in several straight-to-video films, including Josie and the Pussycats—his small screen career was taking off. In 2000 he landed a recurring role on the hit series Felicity. Then in 2001 Faison became a permanent member of Scrubs, a comedy about medical interns. Of the two popular shows, Faison told E! Online, "I loved working on both. But in Scrubs, I'm part of the cast. In Felicity, I was only in little parts, so I didn't feel like a total cast member. Even though I was there two years, I wasn't a regular. On Scrubs, I love to come to work every day, because I feel like part of the cast." Scrubs became a critical and popular success and made Faison a star. He began to be featured in magazines and on celebrity gossip shows. He was also nominated for a People's Choice Award, an Image Award, and a Teen Choice Award. Faison's character, cocky surgical intern Dr. Chris Turk, became one of the show's most popular characters. "I love playing him, he's a joy to play," Faison told The News Letter. "I've never wanted to be a doctor so it's kind of cool to play someone who is one." Fame also brought its downside. "Everyone wants a piece of you," he told The News Letter. "They point at you and say, 'I know you. Hey honey look it's that guy from Scrubs. ' And you might just be sitting in a restaurant when they do that. You can never go anywhere."
In 2002 Faison was back on the big screen playing a struggling actor working as a limo driver in the comedy Big Fat Liar. He told the New York Post that he enjoyed playing the low guy on the social rung. "I love to portray that side of the coin. I worked at a Hollywood agent's office for a year as an assistant. I had to go get the coffee, pull the files.…" He also landed a co-starring role with Brittany Murphy in Uptown Girls in 2003. By 2005 he had three more films slated for release, Vegas Baby, Venus & Vegas, and All American Game. He made the films in his time off from Scrubs, which shot on a six-month schedule. "I love doing both [TV and film]" Faison told YM. "I love the fact that I'm able to do both. I'm very lucky that I have that opportunity."
Faison planned to see Scrubs through to the end of its run. "I'm going to be in it until the wheels fall off, it's got the potential to go on and make history," he told The News Letter. However, he was also looking forward to bigger parts in film, including a leading role. "I've already been offered movies but I'm waiting for the right one," he continued. "I don't want people to say Donald was great in that but the movie sucked. I want to care about the movies I'm in." He also held bigger ambitions. "I want to direct and produce and get behind the camera," he told the Hollywood Reporter. "That's where the money is, but not right yet, I still have a lot of acting I want to do."
Sugar Hill, 1993.
Waiting to Exhale, 1995.
Remember the Titans, 2000.
Josie and the Pussycats, 2001.
Big Fat Liar, 2002.
Uptown Girls, 2003.
AP Online, June 9, 1999.
Hollywood Reporter, August 11, 2003.
In Style, September 2003.
The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), June 11, 2003.
New York Post, February 17, 2002.
People Weekly, June 17, 2002.
"Donald Faison Heads Uptown, " YM, www.ym.com/stars/inthespotlight/aug1203.jsp (December 30, 2004).
"From Clueless to Fearless: Remember the Titans Star Donald Faison Talks Football and Movies," Maxim Online, www.maximonline.com/sports/articles/article_3691.html (December 30, 2004).
"Scrubs' Delicious Docs Open Wide," E! Online: Watch with Wanda, www.eonline.com/Gossip/Wanda/Trans/Scrubs/ (December 30, 2004).