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John Ridley
John Ridley in Nov 2013.jpg
Ridley in 2013.
John Ridley IV

October 1, 1964
Alma materNew York University
Television writer
Television director
Years active1988–present
Notable work12 Years a Slave
American Crime
SpouseGayle Ridley

John Ridley IV[1] (born October 1, 1964)[2] is an American screenwriter, television director, novelist, and showrunner, known for 12 Years a Slave, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He is also the creator and showrunner of the anthology series American Crime. In 2017 he directed the documentary film Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    1 008
    232 322
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  • On Story: 503 A Conversation with John Ridley
  • Real Time with Bill Maher: John Ridley - American Crime (HBO)
  • Creative Sustainability Session: Chat with John Ridley
  • 'American Crime' Review: John Ridley's Gripping Drama
  • 12 Years A Slave Writer John Ridley on Race and Superheroes in The American Way | SYFY WIRE


Early life

Ridley was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,[3] and was raised from the age of seven in Mequon, Wisconsin,[4][5] with an ophthalmologist father, John Ridley, III, and a mother, Terry Ridley, who was a special education teacher[1] for Milwaukee Public Schools.[4][6] He has two sisters and is the middle sibling.[4]

Ridley graduated from Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin in 1982.[4] He enrolled in Indiana University but transferred to New York University.[4] There, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in East Asian languages. The subject wasn't applicable to his career, but it sparked his intellectual interests.[7] Ridley is Christian.[8]


Following college, Ridley spent a year living and traveling in Japan.[7] Then, he returned to New York and began performing standup comedy in New York City, and he made appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[4] Moving to Los Angeles in 1990, he began writing for such television sitcoms as Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The John Larroquette Show.[4] After both writing and directing his film debut, the 1997 crime thriller Cold Around the Heart, he and Oliver Stone co-adapted Ridley's first novel, Stray Dogs (still unpublished when Stone bought the rights[9]) into the 1997 Stone-directed film U Turn, which was released slightly earlier than Cold Around the Heart. Ridley went on to write the novels Love Is a Racket and Everybody Smokes in Hell. His novel Spoils of War was adapted into the 1999 David O. Russell-directed Three Kings. Ridley's original script was rewritten by Russell and Ridley, with Ridley receiving a "story by" credit negotiated among himself, Russell, and the releasing studio, Warner Bros.[9] Ridley then became a writer and a supervising producer on the NBC crime drama Third Watch. His other novels are The Drift, Those Who Walk in Darkness, and A Conversation with the Mann.[4] He also wrote the graphic novel The American Way.[10] [11]

From 2000 to 2010, he was a commentator and blogger for NPR.[12] His blog was Visible Man, a play on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.[13] In 2003, Ridley inked a one-year overall deal with Universal Network Television.[14]

His work as screenwriter also includes 12 Years a Slave,[15] Red Tails, and Undercover Brother. His script for 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay,[16] making Ridley the second African American to win the award, after Geoffrey S. Fletcher (for Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire).[15][17]

In April 2015, Ridley was developing an ABC television series involving an existing Marvel Comics character.[18] However, by December 2019, the project was cancelled due to Marvel Television folding into Marvel Studios.[19]

On April 16, 2018, it was announced that Ridley would direct and write an adaptation of his graphic novel The American Way produced by Blumhouse Productions.[20]

On June 4, 2018, it was announced that Ridley would direct a feature film adaptation of the Robert Silverberg short story, Needle in a Timestack produced by Bron Studios. The film featured performances from Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto, Cynthia Erivo, and Orlando Bloom.[21]

In 2021, Ridley began writing a number of series for DC Comics. The series include a new Batman series 'The Next Batman' as part of the company's line-wide event 'Future State', and a 5-issue series 'The Other History of the DC Universe' a text-based story about the history of the non-white, non-American DC heroes such as Black Lightning and Katana.

In May 2021, Marvel Comics announced that Ridley will write Black Panther comics.[22]


In December 2007, during the Writers Guild of America strike against the major production studios, Ridley opted for WGA membership as a dues-paying non-member, or "fi-core," making him eligible to submit scripts to the studios while the strike was ongoing.[23] In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, Ridley expressed his frustration at the direction the strike had taken and the WGA's crushing of internal dissent: "After 15 years of being told shut up, sit down and be part of the groupthink, I decided I did not belong in the guild. The guild has a way to option out. I took the option."[24] Ridley's screenplay for 12 Years a Slave was thus ineligible for a Writers Guild of America Award.[25]

Personal life

Ridley is married to wife Gayle, a former script supervisor.[5][9] They have two children.[26]



Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1997 U Turn No Yes No Co-written with Oliver Stone
Cold Around the Heart Yes Yes No
1999 Three Kings No Story No Story by, screenplay by David O. Russell
2002 Undercover Brother No Yes No Co-written by Michael McCullers
2012 Red Tails No Yes No Story by, co-written by Aaron McGruder
2013 Jimi: All Is by My Side Yes Yes No
12 Years a Slave No Yes No Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
2016 Ben-Hur No Yes No Co-written by Keith Clarke
2017 Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992 Yes No Yes Documentary
2021 Needle in a Timestack Yes Yes Executive
TBA Shirley Yes Yes Yes


Year Title Director Writer Producer Creator Notes
1993 Martin No Yes No No 3 episodes
1994 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air No Yes No No 2 episodes
1995 The John Larroquette Show No Yes Co-producer No 2 episodes
1996 The Show No Yes Consulting No Episode: "Tom and Them"
1998 Team Knight Rider No Yes No No Episode: "E.M.P."
1999 Trinity No Yes No No Episode: "Having Trouble with the Language"
1999–2004 Third Watch No Yes Consulting No 8 episodes
2003 Platinum Yes Yes Executive Yes Directed episode: "Peace"
Static Shock No Yes No No Episode: "Toys in the Hood"
2004 Justice League No Yes No No Episode: "Starcrossed: Part II"
2005 Barbershop: The Series Yes Yes Executive No Also developer;
Directed 3 episodes, wrote 7 episodes
2009 The Wanda Sykes Show No No Executive No
2015–2017 American Crime Yes Yes Executive Yes Directed 5 episodes, wrote 8 episodes
2017 Guerrilla Yes Yes Executive Yes Directed 3 episodes, wrote 5 episodes
2019 Godfather of Harlem Yes No No No Episode: "By Whatever Means Necessary"
2022 Five Days at Memorial Yes Yes Executive Yes Directed 3 episodes, wrote 5 episodes

Acting credits

Year Title Role Episode
1993 Martin Man with car (uncredited) "Hollywood Swinging: Part 2"
1994 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Himself "Will's Up a Dirt Road"
2016 Lady Dynamite Himself "White Trash"

Awards and nominations

Year Title Awards
1997 Cold Around the Heart Urbanworld Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Director
1999 Three Kings Nominated—Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay (shared with David O. Russell)
Nominated—Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay (shared with David O. Russell)
2002 Undercover Brother Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Screenplay
2013 12 Years a Slave Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Black Reel Award for Best Screenplay
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Screenplay
Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay
International Online Film Critics' Poll Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—AACTA International Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay

2015–2017 American Crime NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Director in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

Works and publications


  • Ridley, John. Stray Dogs. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-345-41345-1
  • Ridley, John. Love Is a Racket: A Novel. New York: Knopf, 1998. ISBN 978-0-375-40142-8
  • Ridley, John. Everybody Smokes in Hell. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. ISBN 978-0-375-40143-5
  • Ridley, John. A Conversation with the Mann: A Novel. New York: Warner Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-446-52836-8
  • Ridley, John. The Drift. New York: Knopf, 2002. ISBN 978-0-375-41182-3
  • Ridley, John. Those Who Walk in Darkness New York: Warner Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0-446-53093-4
  • Ridley, John, and Patricia R. Floyd. What Fire Cannot Burn. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2011, 2007. ISBN 978-1-456-10151-0

Graphic novels

Stage plays

  • Ridley, John. Ten Thousand Years. 2005 (world premiere).



  1. ^ a b Reardon, Patrick T. (September 24, 1998). "John Ridley's Childhood Was Sunny, But His Novels Explore A Dark World". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on January 13, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
  2. ^ "John Ridley - Box Office". Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  3. ^ Gray, Susan Kim, ed. (1999). Writers on Directors. Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 66. JOHN RIDLEY Born 1965 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Chandler, Kurt (January 31, 2008). "How to be a Famous Hollywood Writer". Milwaukee Magazine. Archived from the original on November 26, 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Dudek, Duane (January 16, 2014). "Mequon native Ridley talks Oscar nominations for '12 Years A Slave'". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Bence, Susan (4 March 2014). "Oscar Winner John Ridley's Father Talks About Life Before Desegregation" (Audio). WUWM Milwaukee. Archived from the original on January 28, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015. Audio archived on January 28, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Ridley, John |". Retrieved 2020-05-31.
  8. ^ Zeitchik, Steven, "A 'Ben-Hur' for our time", Portland Press Herald, August 21, 2016: "Downey and Burnett are staunch Catholics; Ridley is also a devout Christian, Huston and Bekmambetov, who was raised in a communist country, are more secular; Daniel and MGM principal Gary Barber are Jewish."
  9. ^ a b c "John Ridley, Easy Writer". Entertainment Weekly. October 8, 1999. Archived from the original on February 28, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  10. ^ Gross, Terry (May 2, 2007). "A Disenchanted Look at 'The American Way'" (Audio interview). Fresh Air. NPR. Archived from the original on January 22, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  11. ^ "John Ridley: On graphic novels and connecting art with social justice in Milwaukee". The Milwaukee Independent. 2019-11-19.
  12. ^ "Stories By John Ridley". NPR. March 26, 2019.
  13. ^ "FAQ for John Ridley's Visible Man". NPR. July 18, 2007. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  14. ^ Adalian, Josef (2003-08-13). "U TV makes home for 'Brother'". Variety. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  15. ^ a b Cieply, Michael; Barnes, Brooks (March 2, 2014). "A Landmark Oscar Win for '12 Years a Slave'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 26, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  16. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn (January 16, 2014). "What the Writer Had to Edit From '12 Years a Slave'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  17. ^ Lee, Chris (March 2, 2014). "Oscars 2014: '12 Years a Slave' wins for adapted screenplay". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 28, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  18. ^ Hibbard, James (April 17, 2015). "Marvel teaming with John Ridley for mysterious superhero project — exclusive". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on October 27, 2015. Retrieved December 19, 2015.
  19. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (December 8, 2019). "Marvel TV Division Folded Into Studio Unit, Layoffs Expected". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  20. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 16, 2018). "John Ridley To Write, Direct Blumhouse Superhero Film 'The American Way'". Deadline. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  21. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (June 4, 2018). "Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto, Cynthia Erivo, Orlando Bloom & BRON Studios Join John Ridley's 'Needle In A Timestack'". Deadline. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  22. ^ Gustines, George Gene (2021-05-18). "Marvel Announces a New Black Panther Series". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  23. ^ Seitzman, Michael (January 4, 2008). "What "Fi-Core" Really Means". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  24. ^ Ridley, John (January 8, 2008). "John Ridley goes fi-core". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  25. ^ McNary, Dave (January 9, 2014). "Bitterness of WGA Strike Echoed in Exclusion of '12 Years a Slave'". Variety. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  26. ^ Ridley in Thompson, Anne (October 16, 2013). "Oscar-Winner John Ridley Talks Writing '12 Years a Slave' and Directing Hendrix Biopic 'All Is By My Side'". Archived from the original on October 31, 2014. At the end of the year, when all these things are happening and you've got two kids, a lot of what you see gets determined by what gets put in front of you.

Further reading

  • Gennusa, Chris R. "John Ridley: Burnt Noir." Creative Screenwriting. Winter 1997, v. 4 n.4, pp. 33–38

External links

This page was last edited on 23 March 2023, at 21:18
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