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June 09, 2015

Smooth Operator

Ramin Zahed

As drug kingpin Lemond Bishop on CBS's me Good Wife, Mike Colter doesn't just play the bad guy — he's been known to steal the scene.

So it's not surprising that he's reveling in the role of the enigmatic operator that nobody on the legal drama wants to cross.

"I approach him as if he were a businessman or an accountant," Colter says of his character. "He is a charming guy. He probably throws a great party or he'd buy you a drink at the bar, and you'd never think that he was involved with the drug world."

Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Colter became intrigued by acting at age 10, when he saw the Norman Jewison film A Soldier's Story.

"It really struck a chord with me because all the stars of that production were black guys, and they were telling this great story. My imagination was very vivid, and I thought, 'Hey, I can do this, too.'"

In high school, he formed a drama club and, naturally, became president. He went on to earn a B.A. in theater at the University of South Carolina and an M.F.A. from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

He struggled for work, but eventually got a big break: the 6'3" actor was cast as boxer Big Willie Little in the Clint Eastwood film that would became Oscar's best picture: Million Dollar Baby.

On television, he's been seen in American Horror Story and The Following, and in the digital arena, he'll appear in Netflix's new A.K.A. Jessica Jones. "It's amazing how much the digital universe has expanded our definition of home entertainment," he notes.

As for The Good Wife, Colter says he's been reminded how working on a series that inspires passionate viewing can create an intimate bond with fans.

"The other day, this woman came up to me and said, 'You know, you're in my bedroom every week!' and I thought, 'She's right.' It's something to look forward to, and you don't even have to leave home!"

Photos by Sierra Prescott

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