Dawson was born in New York City, New York. Her mother, Isabel Celeste, is a writer and singer who is of Puerto Rican and Afro-Cuban descent. Isabel was sixteen years old when Rosario was born; she never married Rosario's biological father, Patrick C. Harris. When Rosario was one year old, her mother married Greg Dawson, a construction worker, who "loved and raised Rosario as his own daughter (Dawson has stated that "He's always been my dad").Dawson has a half-brother, Clay, who is four years younger. Isabel and Greg divorced in 2006.
At the age of 21, Isabel moved the family into an abandoned building squat on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where she and her husband renovated an apartment and installed the plumbing and electrical wiring for the building, creating affordable housing where Rosario and Clay would grow up. Dawson has cited this part of her history when explaining how she learned that "If you wanted something better, you had to do it all yourself.
As a child, Dawson made a brief appearance on Sesame Street. At the age of 15, she was subsequently discovered on her front porch step by photographer Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, where Korine lauded her as being perfect for a part he had written in his screenplay that would become the controversial 1995 film Kids. She went on to star in varied roles, ranging from independent films to big budget blockbusters including Rent, He Got Game, and Men in Black II.
Dawson researching her role in Eagle Eye, 2007.
In 1999, Dawson teamed up with Prince for the re-release of his 1980s hit "1999. The new remixed version featured the actress in an introductory voice over, offering commentary on the state of the world in the year before the new millennium. The same year, she appeared in The Chemical Brothers' video for the song "Out of Control" from the album Surrender. She is also featured on the track "She Lives In My Lap" from the second disc of the OutKast album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, in which she speaks the intro and a brief interlude towards the end. In 2001, she appeared in the movie, Josie and the Pussycats.
Dawson in 2009.
Dawson starred as Naturelle Rivera, the love interest of a convicted drug dealer played by Edward Norton, in the 2002 Spike Lee film drama, 25th Hour. In the 2004 Oliver Stone film Alexander, she played the bride of Alexander the Great. In the autumn of 2005, Dawson appeared on stage as Julia in the Public Theater's "Shakespeare in the Park" revival of Two Gentlemen of Verona. It was her first appearance on stage. “That park is so beautiful,” she said of New York's Central Park.
In the film adaptation of the popular musical Rent in 2005, she played the exotic dancer Mimi Marquez, replacing Daphne Rubin-Vega, who was pregnant and unable to play the part. She also appeared in the adaptation of the graphic novel Sin City, co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, portraying Gail, a prostitute-dominatrix. Also in that year, she appeared in a graphically violent scene in the Rob Zombie film The Devil's Rejects. Though the scene was cut from the final film, it is available in the deleted scenes on the DVD release.
Dawson at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
She starred as Becky in 2006's Clerks II, and mentioned in Back to the Well, the making-of documentary, that the donkey show sequence was what made her decide to take the role. In May of the same year, Dawson, an avid comic book fan, co-created the comic book miniseries Occult Crimes Taskforce. She was at the 2007 Comic-Con to promote the comic. She co-starred with former Rent alum Tracie Thoms in the Quentin Tarantino throwback movie Death Proof in 2007, part of the Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature Grind House. She teamed up with friend Talia Lugacy, whom she met at the Lee Strasberg Academy, to produce and star in Descent. On July 7, 2007, Dawson presented at the American leg of Live Earth.
In 2008, Dawson starred with Will Smith in Seven Pounds and in the Steven Spielberg produced Eagle Eye. Beginning in August, she starred in Gemini Division, an online TV series. In the computer animated series Afterworld she voiced the character Officer Delondre Baines. On January 17, 2009, Dawson hosted Saturday Night Live. Later in the year, she voiced Artemis of Bana-Mighdall in the animated film Wonder Woman.
In 2009, Dawson performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.
In 2009, Dawson also voiced the character of Velvet Von Black in Rob Zombie's animated feature, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.
For the Kasabian album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, she is featured singing on the track "West Ryder Silver Bullet".
In 2010, she starred in the movies Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, as Persephone, and Unstoppable, as railway yardmaster Connie.
Dawson dated former Sex and the City star Jason Lewis for two years. They lived together in Los Angeles until they separated in November 2006. She started dating director Danny Boyle in 2012, after having been cast in his 2013 film Trance.
Dawson at the 2008 Willow Awards
Dawson is involved with the Lower East Side Girls Club and supports other charities such as environmental group Global Cool, the ONE Campaign, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Stay Close.org (a poster and public service ad campaign for PFLAG where she is featured with her uncle Frank Jump) International Rescue Committee, and Voto Latino, and she participated in the Vagina Monologues. She is on the V-Day Board. She attended both the Democratic National Convention (in 2008) as well as the Republican National Convention (also in 2008). In October 2008, Dawson became a spokeswoman for TripAdvisor.com’s philanthropy program, More Than Footprints, involving Conservation International, Doctors Without Borders, National Geographic Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Save The Children. Also in October 2008, she lent her voice to the RESPECT! Campaign,a movement aimed at preventing domestic violence. She recorded a voice message for the Giverespect.org Web site stressing the importance of respect in helping stop domestic violence. In 2012 Dawson partnered with SodaStream International in launching the first annual Unbottle the World Day, a campaign conceived in an effort to raise awareness to the impact of cans and plastic bottles on the environment.
Film Year Title Role Notes
1995 Kids Ruby
1997 Girls' Night Out Girl Short film
1998 He Got Game Lala Bonilla
1998 Side Streets Marisol Hidalgo
1999 Light It Up Stephanie Williams
2000 Down to You Lana
2000 King of the Jungle Veronica
2001 Josie and the Pussycats Valerie Brown
2001 Sidewalks of New York Maria Tedesko
2001 Trigger Happy Dee
2001 Chelsea Walls Audrey
2002 Ash Wednesday Grace Quinonez
2002 The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest Alisa
2002 Men in Black II Laura Vasquez
2002 The Adventures of Pluto Nash Dina Lake
2002 Love in the Time of Money Anna
2002 25th Hour Naturelle Riviera
2003 V-Day: Until the Violence Stops Herself Documentary film
2003 This Girl's Life Martine
2003 Shattered Glass Andy Fox
2003 The Rundown Mariana
2004 Alexander Roxana
2005 This Revolution Tina Santiago
2005 Sin City Gail
2005 Little Black Dress Haley Short film
2005 Rent Mimi Marquez
2006 Clerks II Rebecca "Becky" Scott
2006 A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Laurie
2007 Death Proof Abernathy Ross
2007 Descent Maya Also Producer
2008 Explicit Ills Babo's Mom
2008 Eagle Eye Zoe Perez
2008 Killshot Donna
2008 Seven Pounds Emily Posa NAACP Image Award For Best Actress
2009 Wonder Woman Artemis Voice role
2009 The Haunted World of El Superbeasto Velvet Von Black Voice role
2009 The People Speak Herself Documentary film
2010 Awake Robin Short film
2010 Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Persephone
2010 Unstoppable Connie Hooper
2011 Miss Representation Herself Documentary film
2011 Girl Walks Into a Bar June
2011 Zookeeper Kate Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Female Movie Star
2011 10 Years Mary
2011 Five Lili TV film
Nominated—Black Reel Awards for Best Actress in a Television Miniseries or Movie
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Nominated-Imagen Awards for Best Actress/Television
Nominated-NAMIC Vision Awards for Best Performance - Drama
2012 Fire with Fire Talia Durham
2013 Trance Elizabeth
2013 Gimme Shelter June Bailey
2013 Chavez Dolores Huerta
2013 Parts Per Billion Mia
2014 Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Gail
2014 Queen of the Night post-production
TBA Finally Famous (film) Filming
Television Year Title Role Notes
2003 Punk'd Herself (season 1: episode 8)
2007 Robot Chicken Clara Palmer / Dean's Girlfriend / Woman "More Blood, More Chocolate" (season 3: episode 8)
2008 Gemini Division Anna Diaz Web series; 50 episodes; executive producer
2009 Saturday Night Live Herself "Rosario Dawson/Fleet Foxes" (season 34: episode 13)
2009 SpongeBob SquarePants Herself "Truth or Square" (season 6: episode 23-24)
Video games Year Title Role Notes
2006 Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure Tina Voice role
2012 Syndicate Lily Drawl Voice role