Who is Wood Harris?

Born on 17 October 1969, in Chicago, Illinois, under the air sign of Libra, Sherwin David “Wood” Harris is a 49-year-old American actor. He is best known for his portrayal of drug dealer and crime boss Avon Barksdale on the hit HBO crime show “The Wire”. Fans also know him for his role of Ace (another drug dealer) in the critically acclaimed 2002 crime drama film “Paid in Full”. While he’s mostly portrayed basketball players, boxers and drug dealers, Harris is considered to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation, mostly because of his situational awareness. He is the brother of Steve Harris, who is also an actor.

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Early Life and Education: Growing Up in Chicago

Wood was born into an African-American family – his father John was a bus driver, while his mother Mattie was a seamstress. Interestingly, both of them were part-time actors, but didn’t have much success in pursuing their dreams of being movie stars. However, the notion that they didn’t achieve their goals was exactly the example and the motivation young Wood needed in his early life. After matriculating from high school in 1988, he took a gap year to travel around the country, then enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU), graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts. Later in his career, he enrolled at New York University, from which he holds a Master of Arts. While studying, he started appearing in a number of independent plays, and was also cast in the role which propelled him to stardom.

Career Beginnings: Various Stage Productions and Above The Rim

While still enrolled at NIU, Harris was already into acting. His main focus was on stage productions of plays by Shakespeare and other famous playwrights. However, in 1994 he was cast as Motaw in the cult basketball drama “Above the Rim”, alongside Tupac Shakur, which tells the story of two brothers, Shep (Leon) and Birdie (Tupac). Shep, a former basketball star who now works as a security guard, tries to keep a young man away from the influence of Birdie, who is a con-artist and drug dealer. As Motaw, Wood meshed well with the main characters, and was praised for his versatility, especially because this was his first acting credit. This stellar performance was a sign of things to come.

Wood Harris

1996 – 2001: NYPD Blue, Oz, Cosby and More

After breaking out with his role in “Above the Rim”, Wood was determined to continue trending upwards. He took some time off from acting to finish his thesis and earn his Bachelor of Arts, so his next acting credit came in 1996. The role of Hector on “NYPD Blue” might have been an insignificant one in the grand scheme of his career, but it ultimately defined him as an actor. He became known as one of the best crime drama actors of all time, able to flawlessly assume the role of any drug kingpin or police officer. In 1997 he continued in the same direction, and appeared as Officer Gordon Wood in “Oz”. The same year, he decided to experiment a bit, so he amazed comedy fans by playing Tony in “Cosby”. After a minor role in “As Good as It Gets”, he assumed roles in “New York Undercover” and in movies such as “Celebrity”, “The Siege”, “Committed” and others. 2000 was a particularly hectic year from him, as he had seven acting credits in a span of just a few months, the most notable of which were “Hendrix” and “Remember the Titans”. However, 2002 was the year when Harris became a true household name.

A True Star: The Wire and Paid In Full

Because of his already impressive resume, in 2002 Wood was cast as the notorious drug kingpin Avon Barksdale in the hit HBO series “The Wire”. He appeared in a total of 38 episodes over the course of six years, and critics regularly praised him for his uncanny way of approaching such a difficult role. This particular part allowed him to become one of the greats in the crime drama genre. The same year, he appeared in “Paid in Full”, a dramatic crime movie about a young African-American who was fed up with living in poverty, and subsequently decided to build one of the biggest drug empires the East Coast has ever seen. Directed by Charles Stone III, the film is seen as a cult classic by both fans and critics alike. These two roles allowed Harris to blossom even further.

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Posted by Wood Harris on Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Never-Ending Streak of Quality Roles

After 2002, Wood continued getting important roles and he played them masterfully. His most notable appearances in the mid-2000s include “Dirty”, “Joy Road”, “The Twilight Zone” and even an appearance on “House”. He was also praised for his quality acting in “Just Another Day” and “Dough Boys”, both of which are deemed to be exceptional titles. An interesting thing about Wood’s acting is that he doesn’t only have raw talent and an admirable work ethic – he also has “a nose” for picking the right movie. Rarely does a movie with Harris in it turn out to be a flop. While he doesn’t have too many awards to his name, he is still one of the most consistent actors of the last 20 years, considering the fact that he has multiple roles on a yearly basis.

The 2010s

Harris started the 2010s with a bang, appearing in three episodes of “Southland”, which is (you’ve guessed it), a TV show that centers around the battle between criminals and the police in the city of Los Angeles. Afterwards, he was in “Hawaii Five-0”, and “Justified” for a few episodes as well. 2015 was  aparticularly big year for him, as he was in two smash hits – “Creed” and “Ant-Man”. He was so good in “Creed” that Ryan Coogler insisted that he appeared in “Creed II”, also as Tony Burton, known as Little Duke. The late 2010s also saw him appear in “9/11” and “Blade Runner 2049”, and his most recent credit is with “Empire”, in which he played the role of Damon Cross for 10 episodes. Currently, he has several movies and shows in post-production, including “Sweetwater”, the  story of Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, the first African-American to play in the North American National Basketball Association (NBA).

A Possible Venture into Music?

In 2005, Wood produced his own rap album named “Beautiful Wonderful”, but problems with finding the right record label resulted in the album never being released. Harris is an avid hip-hop fan, so we might see him release something to the public in the near future.

Personal Life: Is Wood Harris Married? Who is His Wife?

Wood Harris married Rebecca in 2001; they met at a party organized by a mutual friend, and clicked immediately. Despite Wood’s hectic work rate, they have managed to keep their marriage functional, and there isn’t even the slightest hint of controversy surrounding them. Wood, as mentioned, has an older brother, Steve Harris, who is also an actor, who has also appeared in several crime dramas. While in high school, he was a star football player who wanted to go into the National Football League (NFL), but was unable to fulfill his dreams because of a nasty ankle injury.

Body Measurements: How Tall is Wood Harris?

Wood Harris is 6ft 2in (188cms) tall, which surely helps him whenever he plays his favorite sport, basketball.. His other measurements are unknown.

How Rich is Wood Harris?

According to several credible sources, Wood Harris has a net worth of approximately $3 million, as of mid-2019, accumulated due to his incessant will to improve as an actor, which resulted in him appearing in five or more films or TV shows on a yearly basis. Given the fact that he is still going strongly, we might see this number rise in the near future.


Benjy is currently a reporter for BiographyPedia based in Adelaide, Australia. Prior to joining BiographyPedia in July 2019, he was a Bizarre TV reporter and theatre critic at TheSun. Benjy has also written for DailyMail and TMZ. Benjy studied journalism at Goldsmiths University of London, graduating in 2009. You can contact him at [email protected]

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