Wesley Trent Snipes is an American actor, film producer, and martial artist. He has starred in numerous action-adventures, thrillers, and dramatic feature films and is well known for his role as Blade in the Blade trilogy. Snipes formed a production company titled Amen-Ra Films in 1991 and a subsidiary, Black Dot Media, to develop projects for film and television. Snipes has been training in martial arts since age twelve, earning a high ranking 5th dan black belt in Shotokan Karate. He has also trained as a student of Capoeira under Mestre Jelon Vieira and in a number of other disciplines including various styles of kung fu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Snipes was born on July 31, 1962, in Orlando, Florida, the son of Marian, a teacher’s assistant, and Wesley R. Snipes, an aircraft engineer. He grew up in the Bronx, New York City. Snipes graduated from I.S. 131 an underprivileged middle school in the south Bronx and also attended the famed Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing, but moved to Florida before he could graduate. After graduating from Jones High School in Orlando, Snipes returned to New York and attended the State University of New York at Purchase, before being asked to leave the prestigious Acting Conservatory his junior year. Snipes also attended a few years at Southwest College in Los Angeles.
A 23-year-old Snipes was discovered by an agent while performing in a competition. He made his film debut in the 1986 Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats. Later that year he appeared on the trendy 1980’s TV show Miami Vice as a drug-dealing pimp in the episode ‘Streetwise’. In 1987, he appeared as Michael Jackson’s nemesis in the Martin Scorsese directed music video “Bad” and the feature film Streets of Gold. That same year, Snipes was also considered for the role of Geordi La Forge in the TV series .
Snipes’ performance in the music video “Bad” caught the eye of director Spike Lee. Snipes turned down a small role in Lee’s Do the Right Thing for the larger part of Willie Mays Hayes in Major League, beginning a succession of box-office hits for Snipes. Lee would later cast Snipes as the jazz saxophonist Shadow Henderson in Mo’ Better Blues and as the lead in the interracial romance drama Jungle Fever. Another important role for Snipes was the powerful drug lord Nino Brown in New Jack City, which was written specifically for him by Barry Michael Cooper. Another film in which his character was involved in drugs was the somber movie Sugar Hill.