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Don Cheadle

actor, activist

Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Mo., to middle-class parents, a psychologist and a teacher. After graduating from the California Institute for the Arts, he got a breakthrough role as a gangbanger in the 1988 in the film Colors. From there, he went on to numerous films, including Devil in a Blue Dress, Boogie Nights, Traffic and all of the Ocean's films. But the pivotal role for both his career and his personal life came in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, in which he played Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who personally saved more than 1,000 Tutsis from genocide at the hands of his fellow Hutus. The role took him to Africa and marked the beginning of a friendship with Rusesabagina, who since the Rwandan genocide has worked to end other racial conflicts in the region.