A native of Kansas City, MO, Cheadle was born on November 29, 1964, to a psychologist father and bank manager mother. During his early childhood, his family moved to Denver and then Nebraska. One thing that remained a constant in Cheadle's childhood was his interest in performing, which began around the age of five. In addition to acting, he was interested in jazz music and his parents supported both of these endeavors. By the time he graduated from high school, he had scholarships from both music and acting schools; choosing the latter, he attended the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Following graduation, Cheadle made his film debut with a small role as a hamburger server in Moving Violations (1985).
He honed his acting skills as a guest star on television series ranging from Hill Street Blues to Night Court, and, in 1992, he landed a regular role as a fussy hotel manager on The Golden Palace. Although the show faltered after only one season, Cheadle landed on his feet, subsequently snagging the plum role of earnest district attorney John Littleton on Picket Fences (1993-1995)
While he was building a career on television, Cheadle was also earning a reputation in feature films. He first made an impression on audiences with his lead role in Hamburger Hill (1987), and, in 1994, he had his true screen breakthrough portraying Denzel Washington's best friend in Devil in a Blue Dress. So good was his performance - which earned him a number of film critics awards - that many felt an Oscar nomination was inevitable; when the Academy passed him over, many, including Cheadle, wondered why. However, the actor chalked it up to politics and got on with his career, working steadily throughout the remainder of the decade. 1997 proved to be a big year for him: he co-starred in three major films, Volcano, Boogie Nights, and John Singleton's Rosewood. He won particular praise for his work in the latter two films, earning nominations for SAG and Image awards.
A charity co-founded by Don Cheadle and George clooney, Brad pit and matt damon has donated $500,000 to the United Nations World Food Program. The money, handed over by the stars' is earmarked for the U.N.'s food aid agency to prevent hunger in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan. In a statement, Clooney said: "Without immediate additional funding, humanitarian aid in the region will be crippled." An acclaimed character actor of the stage, screen, and television, Don Cheadle often manages to steal most of the scenes in which he appears.
That is no small feat, for the slender African-American actor has, at first glance, a rather unassuming physical presence, particularly when compared to some of his big-name co-stars. An actor whose style compliments rather than overshadows the performances of those around him, Cheadle stands out for his rare ability to bring a laid-back intensity and subtle charisma to his roles.