Bearing talent and good looks in equal measure, African American actor Omar Epps first became visible to audiences and critics alike with his 1992 film debut in Ernest R. Dickerson's urban drama Juice. Epps shone in his role as one of a group of four Harlem friends trying to make good, with the praise he earned for his work paving the way for steady industry employment.
Born Omar Hashim Epps in Brooklyn, New York, on July 23, 1973, Epps was raised by his mother, an elementary school principal. He nurtured his interest in acting at both the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the New York High School for the Performing Arts. After his breakthrough in Juice, Epps ran the risk of being typecast, playing athletes in a series of films. However, his performances were consistently solid, and he earned particular acclaim for his portrayal of a young man attending college on an athletic scholarship in John Singleton's Higher Learning (1995). Around this same time, Epps also excelled in a brief recurring role as an emotionally stressed intern on E.R.; he would later identify that role as the one that made it possible for audiences to finally put a name to his face.