Classically trained actress Rutina Wesley always brings a passion and intelligence to her work whether it is on the stage or behind the camera and has been likened by some to a young Angela Bassett, an actress with true range to make an audience both laugh and cry at the same time. Currently, Rutina is co-starring in the hit HBO series "True Blood." From critically acclaimed producer Alan Ball comes a series based on the popular series of novels "Southern Vampire," in a world about vampires living amongst humans buying synthetic blood and living in the South. Rutina plays the role of Tara, best friend to Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse.
Rutina, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, made her film debut starring as the lead in the Paramount Vantage/MTV Films, How She Move, from British director Ian Rashid. The film was produced by Sienna Films Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny. Rutina plays the lead role of Raya Green, a young girl who returns home to the inner city after the traumatizing death of her sister and her dismissal from an elite private school her family can no longer afford. She hopes her talent as a step dancer can win her enough money to escape back to the suburban private school life. Through her friends, Raya realizes that the secret to her future happiness lies not in escaping her past but embracing it. The film most recently had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival where it competed in the World Competition. The film received high praise and Rutina's performance was singled out in numerous publications. She recently completed filming the independent feature, California Winter, about the collapse of the California housing market and its effects on individuals and families within the community.
In the short amount of time following her graduation from the Drama Division of the esteemed Juilliard School (May 2005), Rutina has amassed some high quality credits for her resume. She completed a starring run of In Darfur at the esteemed NY Public Theatre. Prior to that, Rutina made her Broadway debut playing a role in the high profile production of The Vertical Hour, by acclaimed playwright David Hare. Two-time Academy Award Nominee Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy starred. Critically acclaimed director Sam Mendes marked his return to Broadway and Scott Rudin, Robert Fox, and Neal Street Productions produced.
Recently, Rutina recorded a staged reading of the iconic play A Raisin in the Sun at the Skirball Center as part of LA Theatreworks's Radio Theatre Series. Upon graduation from school, Rutina was a part of the pre-Broadway workshop of the Tony nominated musical The Color Purple. While in school at Juilliard, Rutina got her first taste of Hollywood being cast in a small role in the hit film Hitch, starring Will Smith and Eva Mendes. After shooting the film and right before the release, Rutina learned her scene had been cut from the final cut of the movie but still chalked up an impressive learning experience for a young girl still in drama school.
In addition to her studies at Juilliard, Rutina also spent a summer studying Shakespeare at the well-known and well respected Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. While in the program, Rutina was able to tackle the highly sought after role of Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Nona Sheppard. While at Juilliard, Rutina was able to take part in various productions ranging from Macbeth (Dir: Rebecca Guy), Richard III (Dir: PJ Paparelli), The Winter's Tale (Dir: Richard Feldman) to The Marriage of Figaro (Dir: Timothy Douglas), Rebel Armies Deep Into Chad (Dir: Reggie Life), In the Blood (Dir: Sam Gold) among many others. Rutina attended the University of Evansville where she received her BFA in Theatre Performance and prior to that she attended the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts. She currently resides in New York and Los Angeles. Rutina is represented by Inspire Entertainment, LLC.