Jenifer Lewis stars as Pearl, the club's seamstress who's been there since day one, in NBC's provocative drama "The Playboy Club."
Lewis is one of Hollywood's busiest actresses with over 60 films and 200 television appearances to her credit. Her uniquely recognizable voice is adored by fans worldwide in animated roles such as Flo in the films "Cars" and "Cars 2" and as Mama Odie in "The Princess and The Frog."
She earned the title "Black Mother of Hollywood" thanks to memorable performances as Tina Turner's mother in "What's Love Got to Do with It" and alongside Denzel Washington in "The Preacher's Wife." In 2010 she portrayed the distraught mother, Candace, opposite Matt Damon in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter."
Premiering this fall, she will play a featured role in the telefilm "Project Five," under the helm of first-time director Alicia Keys. As an activist, Lewis is proud to support Project Five's breast cancer awareness themes. She also participates in mental health causes, and in 2007, she chose "The Oprah Winfrey Show" as a platform to reveal that she has bipolar disorder.
Lewis' versatility is at the heart of her long and diverse career. Her television roles have ranged from regular appearances as Aunt Helen on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to guest-starring roles on "Friends," "Boston Legal" and "Girlfriends." For six seasons, she portrayed Lana Hawkins on the popular cable series "Strong Medicine." Additionally, she achieved diva status as star of the cable mockumentary "Jackie's Back!"
For director Tyler Perry, Lewis created unforgettable characters in "Madea's Family Reunion" and "Meet the Browns." She also portrayed a small yet notable role as Tom Hanks' boss in "Castaway."
Lewis is highly respected in the theatre world with five Broadway shows to her credit, including "Hairspray" as Motormouth Maybelle. In 2006, she co-starred opposite Meryl Streep in the Shakespeare in the Park presentation of "Mother Courage and Her Children," in New York City. She has performed her acclaimed one-woman show, "The Diva is Dismissed," worldwide.
Lewis was born and raised in Kinloch, Missouri, and holds a bachelor's degree in theater arts from Webster University in St. Louis.
Pearl grew up in New York City and was a seamstress on Broadway. She always knew she had a powerhouse singing voice, but there just weren't that many roles for people like Pearl. On one of her shows, she met Carol-Lynne, a chorus girl, and the two became fast friends despite their different backgrounds. A few years later, Pearl got an unexpected call from Carol-Lynne. Carol-Lynne was helping Hugh Hefner open a Playboy Club in Chicago, and they needed a skilled seamstress to help with the Bunny costumes. What Pearl thought would be a week of work turned into a year, and Pearl hasn't looked back. Pearl is Carol-Lynne's trusted confidant and a protective mother to the young Bunnies. Outside of the Club, Pearl is actively involved with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), a civil rights organization preparing to start a movement that will change the course of history.