Born on September 18, 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland, Anna Deavere Smith is an actress who is the artist in residence at the Center for American Progress. She is best known for playing the cranky hospital administrator Mrs. Akalitus on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. The daughter of an elementary school principal and a coffee merchant, she attended Beaver College, now Arcadia University where she got her degree in 1971. She got her MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, California.
Smith is best known for her documentary theater style in plays such as Twilight: Los Angeles, which won her Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show two years in a row. Her Let Me Down Easy premiered at the Long Wharf Theater in 2008. Later that year, she debuted her one-woman play The Arizona Project in Phoenix. It explored women’s relationships to justice and the law.
Smith, who teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, counts Philadelphia, The American President and Rachel Getting Married, as her major acting credits. In 1993, she was nominated for the Pulitzer Price for Drama for Fires in the Mirror. She has received honorary degrees from Wesleyan University, Northwestern University and University of North Carolina, among others.