Jesse Williams is an American actor, director, producer, and activist. He is best known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy (2009–2022) and for his advocacy for the disenfranchised, highlighted by his internationally resonant acceptance speech for his 2016 BET Humanitarian Award. He has also appeared in films such as The Cabin in the Woods (2012) and The Butler (2013). He has provided voice acting and motion capture for Markus in the video game Detroit: Become Human (2018). He served as an executive producer of the Academy Award-winning short, Two Distant Strangers (2020) and the Tony Award-winning revival of Take Me Out (2022), the latter of which he was also nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 5, 1981, to Johanna Chase, a professional potter, and Reginald Williams. Jesse Williams has said his mother is a Swedish American and his father is an African American from Georgia. His two younger brothers specialize and work in the field of visual arts. Williams graduated from Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1998. After he graduated from high school his father began teaching history in northern Maine, while his mother continued to work in pottery.
Williams attended Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he majored in African American studies and film and media arts. He graduated in 2003 and moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.
Williams made his television debut in 2006 with a guest role on the NBC crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He then had recurring roles on the ABC daytime soap opera One Life to Live (2006–2007) and the BET comedy series Greek (2007–2008).
In 2009, Williams was cast as Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. He quickly became a fan favorite and remained on the show for 13 seasons, departing in 2022.
In addition to his work on Grey's Anatomy, Williams has also appeared in a number of films and television shows. He has starred in films such as The Cabin in the Woods (2012), The Butler (2013), and Another Kind of Wedding (2017). He has also had recurring roles on television shows such as New Girl (2013) and Station 19 (2019–present).
Williams is also a passionate activist. He is a founding partner of the production company farWord Inc. and the executive producer of "Question Bridge: Black Males," a series of transmedia art installations on display as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture's permanent collection. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Advancement Project, a leading national civil rights advocacy organization.