Nicole Beharie

Classically trained by way of Shakespeare and the Julliard School, Nicole Beharie broke new ground as one of the first African-American actresses to appear in a starring role on prime time network TV show in almost forty years. Before landing the role of Lt. Abbie Mills on the TV show "Sleepy Hollow" (Fox, 2013-), however, Beharie had small roles in a number of TV shows and movies including "Shame" (2011) alongside Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. But it was her casting in "Sleepy Hollow" along with her performance as the wife of Jackie Robinson in the film about his life, "42" (2013), that truly marked Beharie as an actress to watch. Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, Beharie grew up the daughter of a diplomat and lived in Panama, London and Nigeria - her first acting role was in a production of "Alice in Wonderland" in Nigeria. Landing in the American South after a childhood spent abroad, she was forced to adapt quickly as she realized her accent and background set her apart from her schoolmates: "Once I developed a sense of identity, it became fun to play around with those cultural differences," she told Vogue in 2013. Beharie attended the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities as a teenager and went on to study drama at New York City's Julliard School. She landed two small feature film roles just out of college in the dramas "The Express" (2008) and "American Violet" (2008). Neither film was widely seen, but Beharie was singled out for praise for her work in "American Violet" from the African-American Film Critics who awarded her Best Actress. All the same, work was scarce over the next several years for Beharie; she landed only a few small parts on TV shows and in film as well as in a Broadway production of "A Free Man of Color" in 2010. Such a career trajectory might have suited her: "I thought I was going to do guerilla theater in Central Park or be in my loft in Brooklyn, and it's all gonna be 'cool artist chic,'" she recalled in a Vanity Fair interview in February of 2013. However, she caught the eye of a number of viewers as well as actor Michael Fassbender with her performance in "Shame." She and Fassbender also dated for a couple of years following their meeting on the set. In 2013, Beharie's star rose with two significant roles. The first was that of legendary African-American baseball star Jackie Robinson's wife Rachel in the biopic "42." The second was a lead role on the paranormal television series "Sleepy Hollow" in which a reawakened Ichabod Crane teams up with cop Lt. Abbie Mills to fight occult forces in a modern Sleepy Hollow. On the heels of actress Kerry Washington's casting in "Scandal" (ABC, 2012- ) a year earlier, Beharie became only the second female African-American actress to lead a prime time TV show in nearly four decades. In a surprising twist to end the series' third season, Beharie's Abbie Mills was killed off, concurrent with the announcement that the actress was leaving the show.