Denise Nicholas (Actress) - Room 222
Denise Nicholas 1
Updated: 7/12/22

Name: Denise Nicholas

Birth Name: Denise Nicholas

Born: July 12, 1944 in Detroit, Michigan, USA

Claim To Fame: Denise Nicholas is a retired American actress, author, and social activist best known for her roles as high-school guidance counselor Liz McIntyre on the ABC comedy-drama series Room 222 and Councilwoman Harriet DeLong on the NBC/CBS drama series In the Heat of the Night.

Family Life: Nicholas married Gilbert Moses in May 1964;, they divorced in 1967. She married soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers in 1973. The marriage ended in divorce in December 1974. On Valentine's Day in 1981, Nicholas married CBS sports anchor Jim Hill. They separated in October and she filed for divorce, before reconciling. Eventually, the couple divorced in 1987.

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Info: Born to Louise Carolyn and Otto Nicholas.

Nicholas is the middle child of three, with an older brother, Otto, and a younger sister, Michele, who was murdered in 1980.

At the age of 16, she appeared on the August 25, 1960, cover of Jet magazine as a future school teacher prospect at the National High School Institute at Northwestern University.

In 1961, she graduated from Milan High School.

She attended the University of Michigan as a Pre-Law student. Then switched her major to Latin-American politics, Spanish, and English before dropping out after her second completed academic year.

Moved to New York City, and worked for the J. Walter Thompson (JWT) advertising firm.

She transferred to Tulane University, where she majored in Fine Arts.

She dropped out of Tulane University as well, this time to join the Free Southern Theater (FST), during the Civil Rights Movement.

After spending two years touring with the FST, Nicholas joined the Negro Ensemble Company, working in all productions during the first season of that theatre ensemble.

In February 1980, Nicholas's younger sister Michele Burgen, a 26-year-old editor for Ebony magazine, was shot to death. Her body was found in a locked rental car at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Nicholas and her older brother Otto searched the country for clues, but no suspect was ever taken to trial.

Nicholas received her Bachelor of Arts in Drama from the University of Southern California Theater Program in 1987.

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Trivia: Nicholas began her television acting career in 1968, with an episode of It Takes a Thief.

In 1969, Nicholas was cast as Liz McIntyre, the Guidance Counselor on ABC series Room 222.

Nicholas had three consecutive (1970-1972) Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a Drama TV Series, for the popular series.

Nicholas wrote the song "Can We Pretend," which her then-husband Bill Withers recorded on his 1974 album +'Justments.

She won two Image Awards in 1976 for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, for her role as Beth Foster in Let's Do It Again (1975).

She was later cast as Harriet DeLong in the cast of NBC/CBS series In the Heat of the Night (1989-1995); and wrote six episodes of the series, which beginning her second career as a writer.

She enrolled in the Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, eventually finding her way to the Journeymen's Writing Workshop under the tutelage of author Janet Fitch; they worked together for five years.

In 2005, her first novel, Freshwater Road, was published by Agate Publishing. It was selected as one of the best books of 2005 by The Washington Post, The Detroit Free Press, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Newsday and the Chicago Tribune. It also won the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Award for debut fiction in 2006, as well as the American Library Association's Black Caucus Award for debut fiction the same year.

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Where Are They Now: Nicholas has retired from acting, but she continues to express herself through her writing. Currently she is writing her memoir, and it will hopefully be published in the very near future.


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