Jordan Haworth Peele was born February 21, 1979 and is an American actor, comedian, director and filmmaker. He is best known for his film and television work in the comedy and horror genres.
Peel was born in New York City. His mother, Lucinda Williams, is white, from Maryland, with deep roots in the Colonial United States. His father, Hayward Peele, Jr. (died 1999), was black, and originally from North Carolina. Peele last saw his father when he was seven years old, and was raised by his single mother on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
He attended the Computer School in Manhattan, graduated from The Calhoun School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1997 after securing a scholarship to attend the private school, and went on to Sarah Lawrence College. After two years, Peele dropped out to form a comedy duo with Sarah Lawrence classmate and future Key & Peele writer Rebecca Drysdale.
Peele regularly performed at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam and The Second City in Chicago. He and Nicole Parker were well known for their musical duets at Boom Chicago. He portrayed a popular character called “Danish Supermodel Ute” during his time at Boom Chicago and hosted MTV’s Comedy Weekend in 2002.
In 2003, Peele joined the cast of Mad TV for its ninth season. Around the time Keegan-Michael Key joined the cast as a featured performer, it was assumed that Key would be chosen over Peele. The two of them ultimately were cast together after showing great comedic chemistry. Peele performed celebrity impersonations, which included favorites Caroll Spinney (as the voice of Big Bird from Sesame Street), Ja Rule, James Brown, Flavor Flav, Justin Guarini, Montel Williams, Morgan Freeman, Timbaland, and Forest Whitaker. Peele was absent from the first four episodes of his second season on Mad TV. He made a cameo in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s video “White & Nerdy” with Mad TV co-star Keegan-Michael Key. After five seasons on Mad TV, Peele left the cast at the end of the 13th season.
In 2009, he appeared in Little Fockers. He appeared in a viral video titled “Hillary vs Obama” (which was shown as a Mad TV sketch) where he and a Hillary Clinton supporter (played by short-term cast member Lisa Donovan) argue over whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would make a better president, only to get upstaged by a Rudy Giuliani supporter (played by Donovan’s brother, Ben). Peele auditioned to be a cast member for Saturday Night Live when SNL producers were looking for someone to play Barack Obama (around the time when SNL and Mad TV—and other scripted shows—were put on hiatus due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike).
In 2010, Peele co-starred in the Fox comedy pilot The Station, and appeared with a recurring role in the Adult Swim series Childrens Hospital. He had a supporting role in the David Wain-directed comedy Wanderlust, which was released in 2012. Peele and his former Mad TV castmate and friend Keegan-Michael Key starred in their own Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele, from 2012 to 2015. The series was a success with viewers, and spawned several skits and videos that went viral online.
In 2014, Peele played an FBI agent in the first season of the FX anthology series Fargo, based on the 1996 film of the same name. In 2016, Peele starred in and produced, with Key, the first feature film in which the two both had leading roles, Keanu (they had previously both appeared in Wanderlust).
In February 2017, Peele’s first film, Get Out, was released. The film received universal acclaim for Peele’s screenplay and direction, as well as the performance of its lead, Daniel Kaluuya. Get Out proved to be popular with movie audiences, and it eventually became one of the most profitable horror films, and films of 2017. The success prompted his Monkeypaw Productions company to a first look deal with Universal Pictures.
In early 2018 Peele announced his intention to retire from acting, stating in an interview with CBS that acting is just nowhere near as fun for him as directing. In 2018, Peele co-created the TBS comedy series The Last O.G., starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish. Also in 2018, Peele co-produced the Spike Lee film, BlacKkKlansman which was released to critical acclaim and was a box office success. On June 28, 2018, it was announced that YouTube Premium would be releasing Weird City, co-created by Peele and Charlie Sanders. The show was released on February 13, 2019, to critical acclaim. On April 5, 2018, it was announced that Amazon Video had given a four-episode order for Lorena, a docuseries about Lorena Bobbitt. The series was set to be directed by Joshua Rofé who would also executive produce alongside Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Steven J. Berger, Jenna Santoianni, and Tom Lesinski. Production companies involved with the series include Monkeypaw Productions, Sonar Entertainment, and Number 19. It ultimately premiered on February 15, 2019.
Peele’s second film as director was Us, a horror-thriller film which he also wrote and produced. After having its world premiere on March 8, the film was released in the United States on March 22, 2019, by Universal Pictures, Monkeypaw Productions, and QC Entertainment. Peele developed and is narrator for the science fiction web television series The Twilight Zone, the third revival of the original 1959–64 anthology series that aired on CBS, for CBS All Access. The show premiered on April 1, 2019, with Peele, Simon Kinberg and Marco Ramirez as executive producers. In February 2020, Peele produced a 10-episode series about hunting down Nazis called Hunters. Peele produced the HBO series Lovecraft Country written by Underground co-creator Misha Green.
Peele co-produced and co-wrote the 2021 sequel to Candyman, through his Monkeypaw Productions. Universal and MGM partnered with Win Rosenfeld to co-produce the film with Peele, and Nia DaCosta directed.The new Candyman serves as a “spiritual sequel”, taking place back in the gentrified Cabrini Green, where housing projects once stood in Chicago. After multiple delays, the movie was theatrically released on August 27, 2021, to positive reviews.
Peele’s next film, Nope, was released on July 22, 2022.
In November 2015, it was reported that Henry Selick was developing Wendell & Wild, a new stop-motion feature with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key based on an original story by Selick. In March 2018, the film was picked up by Netflix. There have been several films floated based on Peele’s sketch comedy series Key & Peele. In March 2015, it was announced that Key would reprise the role of Mr. Garvey in a feature-length film Substitute Teacher with Peele portraying a rival teacher. In March 2017 in a Reddit AMA, Peele expressed interest in developing a film around his Key & Peele character Wendell Sanders based on the music video “The Power of Wings”. The film, titled Wendell Meets Middle-Earth, would follow Wendell’s existence in the fantasy world that he likes to see his life in. In October 2020, Rosenfeld and Peele signed on to produce the remake of Wes Craven’s 1991 comedy horror film The People Under the Stairs. It is reported that his Monkeypaw Productions company has struck a deal with Universal Television.
As a filmmaker, Peele has cited his influences as being Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, and M. Night Shyamalan.
As a comedian, Peele counts among his influences In Living Color, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle. He also has listed Steve Martin and Martin Lawrence as arguably his two biggest influences.