Margaret Avery (born January 20, 1944) is an American actress and singer. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Shug in The Color Purple (1985).
Margaret Avery was born in Mangum, Oklahoma and raised in San Diego, California, where she attended Point Loma High School. She then attended San Francisco State University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in education. While working as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles, Avery began making singing appearances and acting on the stage.
Among the plays she appeared in were Revolution, and The Sistuhs. For her performance in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? (1973) she received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for "Performance In A Major Role."
In the television movie Something Evil (1972), a horror story with Sandy Dennis and Darren McGavin, she was directed by Steven Spielberg. That same year, she made her theatrical motion picture debut as Lark in the MGM crime/drama Cool Breeze (1972) with Thalmus Rasulala and Judy Pace. In this blaxploitation remake of The Asphalt Jungle, Avery played the Marilyn Monroe part. The following year she played a prostitute in Magnum Force (1973), the second in the series of Dirty Harry films starring Clint Eastwood, in which her character was murdered by her pimp (played by Albert Popwell). This act of killing by pouring drain cleaner down the victim's throat was said to have inspired the notorious Hi-Fi Murders case in 1974.
In Universal's Which Way Is Up? (1977), directed by Michael Schultz, Avery turned in a comedic performance as Annie Mae, the wife of Richard Pryor. That same year, she played Belle Joplin, wife of the ragtime composer Scott Joplin, opposite Billy Dee Williams in the title role.
Avery scored a major success with her role as the sultry and spirited blues singer, Shug Avery, in Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985) opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover. Her performance in this screen adaptation of Alice Walker's prize-winning novel of the same title earned Avery an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
In 1992 Avery starred in The Jacksons: An American Dream as Martha Scruse, mother of Katherine Jackson, who was played by Angela Bassett. The two would later star together in Meet the Browns.
She has also made numerous TV series guest appearances, including The New Dick Van Dyke Show; Kojak; Sanford and Son; Kolchak: The Night Stalker; A.E.S. Hudson Street; Murder, She Wrote; Miami Vice; Spenser: For Hire; The Cosby Show; Walker, Texas Ranger; and JAG.
In 2008, Avery played Mama Jenkins in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, opposite Martin Lawrence and James Earl Jones, and Sarah Brown in Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, which also stars Angela Bassett.
Margaret Avery lives in Los Angeles, and remains active in the show business industry. While continuing to act, she also works with at-risk teenagers and battered women of Greater Los Angeles.
She married Robert Gordon Hunt in January 1974. They were divorced in 1980 and have one daughter.
- Margaret Avery at the Internet Movie Database
- Margaret Avery at AllMovie
- Margaret Avery at TV.com