Mario Van Peebles

Though he was the son of legendary blaxploitation filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, actor and director Mario Van Peebles made his own name both in front of and behind the camera in numerous film and television projects. After a few years of finding his footing as an actor, Van Peebles broke through with a memorable turn in "Heartbreak Ridge" (1986), which opened the doors to bigger and better things, including directing. He made his debut in the director's chair with episodes of "21 Jump Street" (Fox. 1987-1991) and "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1990), though it was his hit feature debut, "New Jack City" (1991) that propelled him to the next level. But Van Peebles stumbled with both "Posse" (1993) and "Panther" (1995), while flailing a bit onscreen in rather unworthy B-thrillers and television movies. Following a small, but solid performance as Malcolm X in "Ali" (2001), Van Peebles triumphantly returned to feature filmmaking with "Baadasssss!," an intensely entertaining depiction of his father's struggles to film his seminal movie "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" (1971). While his career endured several ups and downs, there was no doubt that Van Peebles always remained a potent force both onscreen and off.