Michael Jai White

For other people named Michael White, see Michael White (disambiguation).
Michael Jai White

White at the MagicCity ComicCon, January 2016
Born Michael Richard Jai White
(1967-11-10) November 10, 1967
Brooklyn, New York
Occupation Actor, martial artist
Title     3rd dan black belt in Shotokan Karate
    3rd dan black belt in Goju Ryu
     3rd degree black belt in Kyokushin
     2nd degree black belt in taekwondo
     1st degree black belt in tang soo do
Spouse(s) Courtney Chatham (2005-2011)
Gillian Iliana Waters (2015-present)
Children 3

Michael Jai White (born November 10, 1967) is an American actor and martial artist who has appeared in numerous films and television series. He is the first African American to portray a major comic book superhero in a major motion picture,[1] having starred as Al Simmons, the protagonist in the 1997 film Spawn.[note 1] White appeared as Marcus Williams in the Tyler Perry films Why Did I Get Married? and Why Did I Get Married Too?, and currently stars as the character on the TBS/OWN comedy-drama television series Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse. White portrayed Jax Briggs in Mortal Kombat: Legacy. White also portrayed boxer Mike Tyson in the 1995 HBO television movie Tyson.

Early life

White was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved as a teen to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he graduated from Central High School in 1985.

He is an accomplished martial artist, holding black belts in eight different styles: Shotokan, Taekwondo, Kobudo, Goju Ryu (for which he studied under Master Eddie Morales where he learned to sharpen his Goju karate technique), Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin,[2][3] with a specific focus in Kyokushin (although his style incorporates aspects of many different martial arts forms).[4] White started training in the martial arts at the age of seven in Jujutsu and then Shotokan moving to other styles later.

White is a former teacher.[5] He cites his history in education as the reason why, despite his personal love for the music genre on "a lot of levels", he cannot "in good [conscience]" have a positive opinion on hip hop or "excuse some of [its] pervasive and destructive elements", due to his experience with youngsters who had difficulty seeing the difference between it and real life.[5]

Acting career

White's first major starring role and breakout performance was in the 1995 HBO film Tyson, as heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson. He portrayed the eponymous character in the 1997 movie Spawn, making him the first African American to portray a major comic book superhero in a major motion picture.[1] His work in Spawn earned him a nomination for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Best Male Newcomer. White starred opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier: The Return. In 2001, he also starred opposite fellow martial artist Steven Seagal in Exit Wounds. In 2003, he starred in Busta Rhymes' and Mariah Carey's music video "I Know What You Want". Since 2003, in addition to his on screen roles, White has been doing voice work, including Static Shock and the Justice League. White showcases his martial arts skills in the direct-to-DVD film Undisputed II: Last Man Standing. He also appears in Michelle Yeoh's Silver Hawk in 2004. He appeared in Kill Bill: Volume 2, although his role was cut from the theatrical release. His film Why Did I Get Married? opened at number one at the box office on October 12, 2007.

White played the role of the mob boss Gambol in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. He also starred in the film Blood and Bone and the blaxploitation homage Black Dynamite, both released in 2009. White wrote the scripts for both Black Dynamite and his upcoming 3 Bullets in which he stars with Bokeem Woodbine.

On March 30, 2010, White appeared on The Mo'Nique Show to promote his film Why Did I Get Married Too. The two joked about the acclaim that comes with winning an Oscar. In May of that year he appeared in the music video for Toni Braxton's new song "Hands Tied" from her album Pulse, as well as the Nicki Minaj music video for "Your Love" as Nicki's sensei and love interest.

He also starred in Kevin Tancharoen's short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth,[6] as Jax Briggs, and reprised the role in Mortal Kombat: Legacy, a webseries from the same director. He recently posted on Twitter that he would not be returning to the role for the second season, but would return for the 2013 film.

White made his directorial debut and starred in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, which was released on home video on September 13, 2011.[7]

White also provided the voice of Green Lantern John Stewart in the video game Justice League Heroes.

Personal life

From 2005-2011 White was married to Courtney Chatham and together they have a daughter named Morgan. In addition, White also has two sons.[8][9] In February 2014, White announced his engagement to actress Gillian Iliana Waters.[9] In July 2015 White married Waters in an intimate, but extravagant ceremony in Thailand.[10] In April 2015, White penned an endearing open letter via Facebook entitled "Apologies to My Ex's", where he credited Waters for helping him become, "the very best version of myself."[11] In 2014, he was honored with the Fists of Legends Decade Award at the Urban Action Showcase & Expo at HBO.[12]


White at Comic Con in July 2011

As actor


Music videos


Web series

As director

As writer

As producer



  1. Spawn was released on August 1, 1997, two weeks before the release of Steel, which starred NBA basketball player Shaquille O'Neal.


  1. 1 2 "Michael Jai White is first Black comic superhero to star on the movie screen in 'Spawn.'". Jet magazine. September 22, 1997. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  2. "Male Celebs Who Practice Martial Arts", Jet magazine, Sept. 24, 2001, at pp. 38-39.
  3. "Michael Jai White Ignites Black Dynamite". Black Belt Magazine. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
  4. Taco the Town: Michael Jai White
  5. 1 2 47 HH interview with Michael J. White and Scott Sanders to promote the movie Black Dynamite
  6. "New Mortal Kombat Promotional Featurette Delivers the Goods".
  7. Morales, Wilson (September 13, 2011). "Never Back Down 2: Michael Jai White". Blackfilm.com. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  8. Michael Jai White’s Adorable Baby Girl
  9. 1 2 Bailey-Tureaud, Kimberly (3 February 2014). "Michael Jai White and fiancée Gillian Iliana Waters share the secret to their romance.". Las Vegas Black Image. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  10. Caslin, Yvette (8 July 2015). "Exclusive: Michael Jai White and Gillian Iliana Waters tie the knot". Rolling Out. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  11. Williams, Brennan (15 April 2015). "Michael Jai White Writes Letter Of Apology To His Ex-Girlfriends: 'I Believed All Women Were Crazy'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  12. "2014 Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival & Honoree Awards". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  13. "Mortal Kombat Fans, This Is The Hard 'R' MK Movie You've Been Waiting For". Archived from the original on June 11, 2010.
  14. Sesma, Christian (2016-06-24), Vigilante Diaries, retrieved 2016-08-29
  15. FOX. "Michael Jai White on new film 'Vigilante Diaries' and finding his soul mate". Retrieved 2016-08-29.
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