‘Jungle Fever’ Cast: Then and Now

It's been 20 years since Spike Lee's classic ignited controversy with its themes of black-on-white dating. Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes are all alums. Find out what the cast has been up to.

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  • Wesley Snipes, Then

    Wesley Snipes, Then

    “I have to admit, I’ve always been curious about Caucasian women … That doesn’t mean to say that because a brother is with a white girl that he’s less progressive. I’m still very pro-black,” said Flipper Purify, Snipes’ character in Jungle Fever. He was happily married, with a beautiful child and a good career. But after he began an extramarital affair, things in his life slowly started tumbling out of control.

     Captions by Erin E. Evans

  • Wesley Snipes, Now

    Wesley Snipes, Now

    From a drug kingpin in New Jack City to a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar to a vampire-killing badass in Blade, Snipes played a host of roles throughout the ’90s. Too bad for Snipes and his tax-evasion ways, the new millennium wasn’t too kind. He’s currently serving a three-year prison sentence; his release date is set for July 2013.

     

  • Annabella Sciorra, Then

    Annabella Sciorra, Then

    Angie Tucci was happy to have a good-paying job at a “really nice place.” She’d never been to Harlem, never knew anyone from there. Until she met Flipper. They got busy on his work desk and moved in together after Flipper’s wife threw him out.

  • Annabella Sciorra, Now

    Annabella Sciorra, Now

    After Jungle Fever, Sciorra had several film and television roles, including The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Cop Land and The Sopranos. Sciorra currently stars opposite Chris Rock in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play The Motherf***er With the Hat.

  • Lonette McKee, Then

    Lonette McKee, Then

    As Flipper’s wife, Drew, she confronted her husband about his obsession with complexion.

    Drew: Well, I guess I wasn’t light enough for you. Was I Flipper? You had to eventually go get yourself a white girl, didn’t you?

    Flipper: What do you mean, eventually?

    Drew: What I mean is you got a complex about color. You always had it, and I never wanted to believe it until now. Only girls you ever dated have been light-skinned girls.

  • Lonette McKee, Now

    Lonette McKee, Now

    As of late, she’s played somebody’s mother. Ray Allen’s mom in Spike Lee’s He Got Game. Jessica Alba’s mom in Honey. Lauren London’s mom in ATL. And Jason Pitts’ mom in The Game. Later this month, she’ll appear in Honey 2, and she is currently a professor in the theater arts department at Centenary College of New Jersey.

  • Spike Lee, Then

    Spike Lee, Then

    “The both of youse got the fever. Jungle fever.”

    Jungle Fever was Lee’s fifth feature film. He played Flipper’s best friend, Cyrus, who let it slip to his wife (Veronica Webb) that Flipper had been cheating.

     

  • Spike Lee, Now

    Spike Lee, Now

    Lee’s come a long way since his Jungle Fever days. He’s not in all of his films, and he’s recruiting other writers to scribe his films (Miracle at St. Anna, Inside Man). He’s also put out two great documentaries on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. In June 2011, he’ll be hosting the third annual Michael Jackson Birthday Bash in Brooklyn, N.Y.

  • Veronica Webb, Then

    Veronica Webb, Then

    Webb played Vera, Cyrus’ (Spike Lee) wife and Drew’s (Lonette McKee) best friend. She was the first black supermodel to gain an exclusive contract with a major cosmetics company. This was Webb’s feature-film debut.

  • Veronica Webb, Now

    Veronica Webb, Now

    In 2007 Webb co-hosted Bravo’s Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style for the series’ first season. In 2009 she ran the ING New York City marathon and raised money for Harlem United, an organization that seeks to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

  • Samuel L. Jackson, Then

    Samuel L. Jackson, Then

    “I like to get high. I’m a c-c-c-c-crackhead.”

    Jackson played Flipper’s two-stepping, crackhead brother. He holed up in the “Taj Mahal” with his crack and his girl just before his father shot him in the you-know-what. This was Jackson’s third time in a Spike Lee joint.

  • Samuel L. Jackson, Now

    Samuel L. Jackson, Now

    Jackson was the voice of Gin Rummy in Aaron McGruder’s cartoon The Boondocks from 2005 to 2010. He’s rumored to have a role in Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained, about a slave who takes revenge on his former owner. Jackson is always hard at work in Hollywood. According to IMDB, he has four films in postproduction: Meeting Evil, The Killing Game, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Samaritan.

  • Ossie Davis, Then

    Ossie Davis, Then

    The Good Reverend Doctor didn’t take no mess. Gator did his best to avoid him. Flipper had some smart-alecky words for him, especially when he invited his white lover over for dinner. Oh, and don’t mess with his color TV.

     

  • Ossie Davis, Now

    Ossie Davis, Now

    Davis died in 2005, shortly after being hospitalized for pneumonia. His last on-screen performance was as Jennifer Beals’ father in The L Word in 2004. Throughout his acting career, he appeared in seven Spike Lee joints.

  • Ruby Dee, Then

    Ruby Dee, Then

    Lucinda Purify stayed prayed-up next to the Good Reverend Doctor’s side. She had a soft spot in her heart for her crackhead son, Gator, and loved to watch him dance for a couple of dollars. Jungle Fever was Dee’s second Spike Lee joint, after Do the Right Thing.

     

  • Ruby Dee, Now

    Ruby Dee, Now

    In 2004, along with her husband, the late Ossie Davis, she was a recipient of a Kennedy Center Honors award. In 2009 Ruby Dee reminisced with The Root on the 50th anniversary of A Raisin In the Sun. Watch here.

  • Halle Berry, Then

    Halle Berry, Then

    “Crack ho? Eat me! Take yo’ box head on!”

    Although she appeared in a few television series, Jungle Fever was Berry’s first feature-film role. She played Vivian, the love interest of Gator (Samuel L. Jackson), and made for quite a convincing crackhead. (And it wasn’t the last time: Losing Isaiah came in 1995.)

  • Halle Berry, Now

    Halle Berry, Now

    Of course, Berry’s career took off in the ’90s, and she took home an Oscar for her performance in Monster’s Ball. But one of our favorite appearances by Berry was when she danced to rapper Hurricane Chris’ song “Hally Berry (She Fine)” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Watch here.

  • John Turturro, Then

    John Turturro, Then

    Paulie was the antithesis to Turturro’s turn as Pino in Do the Right Thing. Paulie, Angie’s boyfriend, had some kind of crush on Orin Goode, a black regular patron in his father’s newsstand-egg cream shop.

  • John Turturro, Now

    John Turturro, Now

    Turturro takes the cake for appearing in the most films with Spike Lee: nine, to be exact. But he’s also stayed busy with non-Spike Lee joints. He’s the voice of Francesco Bernoulli in the upcoming animated film Cars 2. And he’ll be reprising his role as Agent Simmons in the next Transformers film.

  • Frank Vincent, Then

    Frank Vincent, Then

    Neither Angie’s nor Flipper’s father would put up with what they perceived to be disrespect. In a gut-wrenching scene, Angie’s dad flipped out when he discovered that Angie had been involved with a black man. (Belt-whoopin’ included.)

  • Frank Vincent, Now

    Frank Vincent, Now

    He’s played gangsters in Goodfellas, Casino and The Sopranos. Earlier this year, his film Chicago Overcoat was released to home video. Vincent is also a talented musician; he plays drums, trumpet and piano.

  • Anthony Quinn, Then

    Anthony Quinn, Then

    All of the fathers in Jungle Fever were a bit harsh with their kids, no? When he caught his son Paulie crying in the bathroom over Angie, he had some choice words. In short, buck up! In 1991 alone, Quinn appeared in four movies: Jungle Fever, A Star for Two, Only the Lonely and Mobsters.

     

  • Anthony Quinn, Now

    Anthony Quinn, Now

    Quinn died in 2001. Aside from being a talented actor, he was also an accomplished artist. In his honor, the Anthony Quinn Foundation provides scholarships for art education.

  • Debi Mazar, Then

    Debi Mazar, Then

    Mazar played one of Angie’s fast-talking, gum-popping friends. She had several minor roles in the ’90s and worked with Spike Lee again in Malcolm X in 1992.

  • Debi Mazar, Now

    Debi Mazar, Now

    Mazar had a recurring role as the publicist of Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) in Entourage. In 2009 she was the third contestant kicked off of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.

  • Veronica Timbers, Then/Now

    Veronica Timbers, Then/Now

    Ming knew a bit too much about her parents’, um, morning business. But she was the cutest little kid. And thanks to Google and LinkedIn, here’s a very small mugshot of her today, in the corner of this picture.

  • Pamela Tyson, Then

    Pamela Tyson, Then

    Jungle Fever was Tyson’s first on-screen role. In a roundtable discussion that still seems to be in step with what you see on present-day television shows, news stories and Internet chatter, Tyson broke down one possible reason that black women are single: “How many men do you know? Black men? Who can effectively deal with a mate who has more education and makes more money? Not many. They freak. And y’all know I’m telling the truth.”

  • Pamela Tyson, Now

    Pamela Tyson, Now

    In 2008 Tyson appeared in American Violet as inmate Gladys Williams. She had a few background roles as a singer-dancer in Sister Act 2 and What’s Love Got to Do With It?

  • Theresa Randle, Then

    Theresa Randle, Then

    At the sister circle: “Let’s deal with the black man for a minute. There’s a lot of self-hate going on when he can’t deal with a sister … “

  • Theresa Randle, Now

    Theresa Randle, Now

    Five years after Jungle Fever, Randle got her chance at a starring role, as Judy in Spike Lee’s Girl 6. In 2003 she reprised her role as Martin Lawrence’s wife, Theresa, in Bad Boys 2. Last year she appeared in the movie Sh*t Year, a film about a retiring Hollywood actress.

  • Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Then

    Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Then

    Stickney was also in the girlfriends’ roundtable discussion: “We gon’ have to start dating white men. It ain’t no good black men out there. Most of them are drug addicts, in jail, h*mos. The good ones know they’re the sh*t. So they got 10 women at a time, leaving babies all over the place!”

    Sad that some folks out there are still saying the same thing.

     

  • Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Now

    Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Now

    At the end of last month, she headlined a comedy show in Little Rock, Ark. Here she is at the National Black Theater Festival in 2009 talking about her book, Loud Thoughts for Quiet Moments.

  • Queen Latifah, Then

    Queen Latifah, Then

    “Yes, I do have a problem. Fake, tired brothers coming up in here. You’re so typical. I can’t even believe you brought her stringy-haired ass up in here to eat.”

    Queen Latifah, who played a waitress at Sylvia’s, made her film debut in Jungle Fever. This debut came just two years after she burst onto the hip-hop music scene with her album All Hail the Queen.

  • Queen Latifah, Now

    Queen Latifah, Now

    Three years after Jungle Fever, Queen Latifah starred in her own sitcom, Living Single, on Fox. And today, while Living Single reruns play on Oxygen and TV One, Queen Latifah is producing another show about single black women, this time set in Atlanta. Single Ladies airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET.

     

  • Charles Q. Murphy, Then

    Charles Q. Murphy, Then

    He had a short role in Jungle Fever as Livin’ Large, a well-known drug dealer who helped Flipper find his drug-riddled brother.

  • Charlie Murphy, Now

    Charlie Murphy, Now

    We, of course, saw lots of Charlie Murphy on Chappelle’s Show from 2003 to 2006. And he had a brief stint as the host of BET’s We Got to Do Better in 2007. (Remember that mess?) Currently he’s filming Tower Heist, an action comedy featuring Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and his brother, Eddie.

     

  • Tyra Ferrell, Then

    Tyra Ferrell, Then

    The early ’90s were good to Ferrell. She played Orin Goode in Jungle Fever, the Newsday-reading love interest to John Turturro. That same year, she played Ricky’s mother in Boyz in the ‘Hood and followed up with performances in White Men Can’t Jump and Poetic Justice. And for New Edition fans, she appeared in the music video for “My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)” in 1985.

  • Tyra Ferrell, Now

    Tyra Ferrell, Now

    You might have seen Ferrell as Ms. Ella in David Simon’s acclaimed HBO miniseries The Corner in 2000. And in 2005 she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for her role in the television movie NTSB: The Crash of Flight 323.

     

  • More Cast Updates

    More Cast Updates

    Find out what else the casts of your favorite films and TV shows are up to:

    Black SNL Cast Members Through the Years

    ‘In Living Color’ Cast: Then and Now

    Life After Blaxploitation: Celebrity Updates

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