Donald Frank Cheadle Jr. (; born November 29, 1964) is an American actor. Following early roles in Hamburger Hill (1987), and as the gangster “Rocket” in the film Colors (1988), Cheadle built his career in the 1990s with roles in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (1996), Rosewood (1997), and Boogie Nights (1997). His collaboration with director Steven Soderbergh resulted in the films Out of Sight (1998), Traffic (2000), and The Ocean’s Trilogy (2001–2007).
Cheadle was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in the historical drama film Hotel Rwanda (2004). From 2012 to 2016, he starred as Marty Kaan on the Showtime comedy series House of Lies; he won a Golden Globe Award in 2013 for the role. Since 2019, Cheadle has starred as Maurice Monroe in the Showtime series Black Monday, a role which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2019.
Cheadle extended his global recognition with his role as James Rhodes / War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, replacing Terrence Howard. He appeared as the character in Iron Man 2 (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Endgame (2019), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021), and will reprise the role in the upcoming Disney+ series Armor Wars.
Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Bettye Cheadle (née North), a teacher, and Donald Frank Cheadle Sr., a clinical psychologist. He has a sister, Cindy, and a brother, Colin. His family moved from city to city throughout his childhood. He attended Hartley Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, from 1970 to 1974. Cheadle graduated in 1982 from East High School in Denver, Colorado. During high school, he played saxophone in the jazz band, sang in the choirs and was active in the theater department, performing in musicals, plays, and mime shows.
Cheadle went on to attend the California Institute of the Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater in 1986. In 2008, Cheadle’s family history was profiled on the PBS series African American Lives 2. A DNA test revealed that Cheadle is of Cameroonian descent. Another DNA test revealed that among his African ancestry, one-third comes from the region from Senegal to Liberia, just over one-quarter comes from the Congo-Angola region, and the rest comes from western Nigeria and Benin.
Cheadle married his long-time partner, actress and Rosewood co-star Bridgid Coulter, in early 2020. The couple has been together for more than 28 years. Cheadle has campaigned to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Cheadle and John Prendergast co-authored a book about this issue entitled Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. With George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub, Cheadle co-founded the Not On Our Watch Project, an organization focusing global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities. Cheadle was awarded the BET Humanitarian award of the year in 2007 for his humanitarian work for the people of Darfur and Rwanda.
At the 2007 World Series of Poker, Cheadle and poker player Annie Duke organized an annual charity poker tournament, Ante Up for Africa. On December 13, 2007, Cheadle and fellow actor George Clooney were presented with the Summit Peace Award by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Rome for their work to stop the genocide and relieve the suffering of the people of Darfur.
Cheadle at the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme Cheadle has worked with the United Nations on climate change concerns. He and Harrison Ford created a documentary event series entitled Years of Living Dangerously that provided first-hand reports on those affected by, and seeking solutions to climate change. He is also on the advisory board of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. In 2010, Cheadle was named U.N. Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador. Also in 2010, he and Prendergast published their second book: The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes.
On his 2019 Saturday Night Live appearance, he wore a T-shirt saying ‘protect trans kids’.