A matriarchal supporting actress of film and television whose quick wit and instantly likable persona has served her well on stage and screen, Irma P. Hall has found frequent work in such African-American-oriented dramas as A Family Thing, Soul Food, and Beloved. Equally effective with comedic roles in such features as Nothing to Lose and The Ladykillers, the multi-talented educator, poet, and actress actually stumbled into a career before the cameras by accident -- impressing director Raymond St. Jacques at a poetry reading so much that the filmmaker requested she essay a role in his 1973 crime film Book of Numbers. Her acting career subsequently snowballed, and it didn't take long for the increasingly busy actress to make quite a name for herself on both the stage and screen.
The Texas native's early career consisted of teaching foreign languages at public schools in her home state. An interest in acting eventually led the then educator and poet to co-found a small repertory theater in Dallas. In 1973, Hall's performance in Book of Numbers resulted in frequent small-screen work. Her career continued to blossom throughout the 1980s, and with feature-film work increasing in the 1990s, she became more recognizable than ever thanks to work in such features as Backdraft and Straight Talk. Despite the fact that the roles she essayed were frequently relegated to the supporting variety, her onscreen presence was undeniable, and Hall continued throughout the decade with roles in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Beloved. In A Family Thing, her role as a kindly blind African-American woman who helps her family warm to their newly discovered white relative earned Hall a Chicago Film Critics Association Award. An Image award for her role in the feature Soul Food followed in 1997 -- the same year she was voted "Chicagoan of the Year."