HOLLYWOOD- There are a couple of things that come to mind when describing actress Lynn Whitfield: breathtakingly beautiful, sophistication, class personified and an all-star career on the stage and in television and film. Whitfield is one of the more successful working actresses in the business today. Whitfield has built up a resume worth of roles on film and television that would make any thespian a little envy. Her characters on screen expand wide.
It is because of all of those characters, whether it has been on stage, in television and on the big screen- that the Pan African American Film Festival (PAFF) saluted Whitfield with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood. PAFF collaborated with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) to present a Night of Tribute to black actors who have made contributions to entertainment and the arts.
Besides Whitfield, other PAFF honorees included Nicole Beharie (42, American Violet) and Omari Hardwick (Miracle on St. Anna, Sparkle). Actor Nate Parker (Red Tails, Great Debaters) and Oscar-nominated producer Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained) were among those that AAFCA honored. But the night clearly belonged to Whitfield, who was both gracious and humbled to receive the PAFF award.
“It is an absolute complement,” Whitfield told News4usonline.com. “It makes me feel so good. It feels good when people have recognized a contribution that you made, that I made to culture, to storytelling. It makes me feel proud and touched that I need to keep doing good work to continue to deserve this honor. A career is about going on and on. I’m very excited, but it makes me want to do more.”
The plethora of roles she takes on seems to always unveil a depth of humanness to them that movie and television fans can identify with. Her range of work goes a lot further and a lot deeper than “The Josephine Baker Story” or “Eve’s Bayou” or Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” films in which she has built a strong following as a powerfully-willed actress.
There is the stage career Whitfield carved out in Washington, D.C. to get started in the entertainment industry. Along the way to an outstanding success in film, Whitfield laid the groundwork through working in made-for-television features such as “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and “The Women of Brewster’s Place.” She’s played opposite of Denzel Washington and the late great Howard Rollins. The gamut of personalities Whitfield portrays is far-reaching and different from each other.
Yet those characters all seem to always embody both strength and tenderness, something that Whitfield said she is able to draw from within.
“You think that they’re strong, but they’re vulnerable,” Whitfield said. “A lot of them (characters) are vulnerable. I try to join one part of me that meets that part of the character and come up with it. Somewhere along the way I think people will say, ‘Oh, Lynn Whitfield will be able to tell them off and all of that.’ But you know, always behind most of that is something very fragile.”
While some of her characters might have vulnerability flaws, Whitfield remains steadfast as a rock as a veteran actress. Thanks to film festivals like PAFF officially acknowledging her incredible body of work and other African Americans and people of color , it’s a good bet Whitfield will continue her trajectory climb as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.
“It is so important to me that I am being honored by an organization that appreciates the African Diaspora,” Whitfield said. It is an international award. It is a huge swath of humanity when you look at all the African Diaspora. This organization has been here and has been consistent. I just appreciated it so much that I am being honored by my own.”