An attractive African-American player of stage, screen and TV who often projects an appealing vulnerability and intelligence, Kasi Lemmons began her professional career playing a hostage in the TV-movie "11th Victim" (1979), directed by Jonathan Kaplan. She then took several years off to study with The Lee Strasberg Institute, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre, NYU, UCLA and famed mime Marcel Marceau. She returned to acting with a supporting role in Lanford Wilson's "Balm in Gilead" (1984) Off-Broadway, and a guest spot on the detective series "Spenser: For Hire" (1985). After attending film school at the New School for Social Research in NYC, Lemmons made her entrance into features by writing, directing, shooting and editing the documentary short "Fall From Grace" (1987). The next year, she appeared in two drastically different films: "School Daze", Spike Lee's musical study of black-on-black prejudices; and "Vampire's Kiss", a dark comedy starring Nicolas Cage as a man who may be a vampire.
Lemmons continued to appear in high-profile Hollywood films including Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991), as Jodie Foster's FBI cadet friend; "Candyman" (1992), as Virginia Madsen's research partner; and John Woo's "Hard Target" (1993), as a cop with a heart of gold. She received her first leading role in the mock 'rapumentary' "Fear of a Black Hat" (1994), playing sociologist Nina Blackburn, who chronicles a year in the life of controversial rap group NWH (Niggaz With Hats). Lemmons has continued to work on stage and in TV, starring in an L.A. production of "Romeo and Juliet" and in the HBO original movie "Afterburn" (1992).
1997 marked a turning point for Lemmons. Having always wanted to be a writer, she had spent several years nurturing a script about a young girl's coming of age in the South. When it came time to film "Eve's Bayou", Lemmons put herself in contention as director. She fashioned a 20-minute short, "Dr. Hugo", starring her husband actor-director Vondie Curtis Hall, as an audition piece and convinced the producers to allow her to direct her own script. The result, what Lemmons has called "an African American Southern Gothic", was a well-acted, critically praised mood piece that heralded a new and exciting voice in films.
For her second film as a director, Lemmons reunited with Samuel L Jackson on the mystery thriller "The Caveman's Valentine" (2001). Screened at Sundance, the movie was adapted from an award winning novel and recounted the story of how a homeless man (Jackson) becomes embroiled in solving the mysterious death of a young man. As a director, Lemmons exhibited a flair with actors and a keen visual sense that helped to somewhat overcome the screenplay's flaws.