Novella Nelson (Novella Christine Nelson)

Novella Nelson

Novella Christine Nelson (December 17, 1938 – September 1, 2017) was an American actress and singer. She established her career as a singer, both on the off-Broadway and Broadway stage and in cabaret-style locales. Nelson was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 17, 1938. Novella Nelson was born to James and Evelyn (formerly Hines) Nelson in Brooklyn New York. Her father was a pastor and a taxi driver. Her mother was an executive assistant at magazine publisher Women’s Wear Daily. An African American, she attended the predominantly white Brooklyn College in the late 1950s, majoring in biochemistry. She took a speech class, which was an acting course, and was asked to perform in a play. For the play she took on the role of Berenice, the housekeeper, in “The Member of the Wedding” by Carson McCuller. After being on stage in this and other plays, she the future actress changed course becoming a theatre major. Starting in 1961, Nelson had a decades-long stage career, performing, directing and producing, primarily in New York. She was a featured performer on Broadway in 1970 in the musical Purlie. In 1975, Nelson directed the play La Femme Noire at The Public Theater. Her film career began at age 39 with a small part in 1977’s An Unmarried Woman, and continued for the next several decades with roles in movies and television. She may be best known for her role as Mrs. Tate in the 2002 movie Antwone Fisher.  She made her professional debut in the off-Broadway production “In White America” (1965) and went on to Broadway in the play “Purlie” (1970 to 1971). She made her motion picture debut with a minor role in the film “An Unmarried Woman” (1977) and had further credits in the movies “The Cotton Club” (1984), “A Perfect Murder” (1998) and “Antwone Fisher” (2002). Among her television credits include “Third Watch”, “The West Wing” and “Law and Order: S.V.U.”. Novella Nelson died of cancer on September 1, 2017, aged 77.

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  • December, 17, 1939
  • USA
  • Brooklyn, New York


  • September, 01, 2017
  • USA

Cause of Death

  • cancer

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