Why Alexx Woods From CSI: Miami Looks So Familiar

Even the most casual/accidental viewer of CBS' long-running investigative procedural, "CSI: Miami," has caught a glimpse or two of the team's best-known medical examiner, Alexx Woods. For six seasons and 145 episodes, the empathetic and compassionate Woods bonds with the bodies on her table, always seeing them for the living people they once were as opposed to the lifeless corpses they become. 

After officially resigning from her position in Episode 19 of Season 6, titled "Rock and a Hard Place," Woods returns to assist the team on three more cases, making her final appearance in Season 8's fifth episode, "Bad Seed." Though the Emmy-nominated, Black Reel Award-winning actor behind the sympathetic medical examiner — Khandi Alexander — has since starred in HBO's "Treme" and ABC's "Scandal" (via IMDb), those most familiar with her from her work in "CSI: Miami" may find they recognize her from a series of other popular TV shows and films as well. 

1993 was a busy year for actor Khandi Alexander

Though Alexander's career began with a starring role in a music video for David Bowie's 1980 single, "Fashion," it was her work in a series of early 1990s independent films that helped establish and solidify her portfolio. In 1993 alone, the actor appeared briefly in Vic Armstrong's thriller, "Joshua Tree," Albert and Allen Hughes' Golden Camera-nominated "Menace II Society," the Oscar-nominated film "What's Love Got to do with It" starring Angela Bassett as Tina Turner, and John Singleton's "Poetic Justice," starring Janet Jackson, Regina King, and Tupac Shakur. 

"Poetic Justice" earned Jackson and co-writers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for the tune "Again" (via IMDb), and helped introduce Alexander to a wider audience, despite her limited screen time in the film. The actor finished 1993 off with an important role in the film "Sugar Hill," which tells the story of drug dealer Roemello Skuggs' (Wesley Snipes) struggle to leave the life behind and go clean with his girlfriend Melissa (Theresa Randle). 

In the film, Alexander gives a gut wrenching performance as Roemello's mother, Ella Skuggs, whose addiction and eventual overdose in front of her children is relayed in a devastating flashback. Following "Sugar Hill," the eventual "CSI: Miami" star went on to appear in briefly in "House Party 3" and the dark comedy "Greedy" starring Michael J. Fox, before landing her first lead role in a feature film. 

Alexander gave a commanding performance in No Easy Way

In 1996, the actor landed a lead role in director Jeffrey Fine's "No Easy Way." The film follows newly unemployed concert pianist Matthew Livingston (Alan Boyce) as he struggles to keep his HIV-positive status a secret, ultimately refusing the help of loved ones and doctors. One night, he meets a young street hustler and struggling single mother of two named Diana Campbell (Alexander), and the pair form an unlikely friendship. Unbeknownst to Matthew, Diana is fully aware of his condition the whole time, and as the film unfolds, Diana and Matthew — both stigmatized by (and ostracized from) society for different reasons — grow closer over a series of atypical dates. 

The film and its timely, bold subject matter, as well as the light and straightforward touch with which Fine approaches it, were lauded by critics. Variety's Emanuel Levy praised the actors' performances, saying, "Fine is greatly assisted by his two gifted leads, Boyce and Alexander, who are commanding in almost every scene," and noting that the film was devoid of the melodramatic "customary hysterics and sappiness" that typically accompany such narratives. "Fine keeps a tight rein on the central relationship," Levy wrote, adding that "the unexpected delicacy with which he frames some unruly episodes" was even more impressive. Having fully established herself as a dramatic actor, Alexander then moved effortlessly into the realm of comedy with her next two projects. 

Khandi Alexander portrayed a slap-happy news anchor in NewsRadio

For four seasons and 60 episodes, Khandi Alexander breathed life and dimension into the most formidable anchor of "NewsRadio," Catherine Duke, after replacing the original actor (Ella Joyce) in the series' second episode. As Duke, Alexander refuses to suffer fools gladly, is a staunch nemesis of her insufferable WNYX co-anchor, Phil Hartman's Bill McNeal, and is prone to slapping people in the face. 

The series earned Hartman an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, and Alexander a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (via IMDb). The duo's comedic chemistry is one of the series' stronger through lines, as is Duke's ability to go from an intimidating, wisecracking coworker to a compassionate and genuinely understanding friend. Despite all she brings to the table, Alexander's character is often relegated to the sidelines, and the actor ultimately left the five-season series after Season 4, Episode 7, the aptly titled "Catherine Moves On" (via IMDb).

Following her role in the early '90s work sitcom, the actor appeared in an episode of USA's "La Femme Nikita," and during her time in the show, she could simultaneously be found in an equally popular, but far more dramatic, long-running TV series. 

Like so many stars, Alexander landed an arc in NBC's ER

Between 1995 and 2001, the "NewsRadio" anchor could be found in a different kind of work room narrative, as she starred in 29 episodes of NBC's precursor to "Grey's Anatomy" — "ER." The hospital drama series ran for 15 seasons and helped launch the careers of stars like George Clooney and Julianna Margulies, the star of "The Good Wife." 

In the show, Alexander portrays Jackie Robbins, sister to ambitious surgeon Peter Benton ( Eriq La Salle), joining the series in Season 1, Episode 12, titled "Happy New Year." Though the character appears in a number of storylines, she might best be remembered for Season 7's "The Visit." In the season's sixth episode, Dr. Benton's nephew Jesse (Andrew McFarlane), Jackie's son, is brought in for treatment after sustaining a gun shot wound. Unfortunately, despite Benton's best efforts, his nephew succumbs to his injuries, and Alexander's performance as the devastated Jackie remains one of her most memorable moments in the show. 

The character last appeared in the series in 2001's "I'll be Home for Christmas," wherein her brother is finally granted custody of his son Reese Benton, portrayed by Matthew Watkins (via IMDb). Despite starring in two television series simultaneously, Alexander also popped up on the silver screen around the same time, most notably in a 1998 comedy. 

In There's Something About Mary, Alexander overcomes her archetypal limitations

If you're one of those people who knows just about every word of dialogue, every gag, and every trope-y brush stroke from the Farrelly brothers' beloved and still frequently-referenced 1998 hit, "There's Something About Mary," odds are you remember Khandi Alexander's character Joanie. Despite being constrained by her role as the archetypal "tells it like it is" friend of Cameron Diaz's titular character, Alexander steals the scene in her limited interaction with the film's protagonist. 

In a "Sex and the City"-esque restaurant scene early in the film, Mary and her three stock friends are seated around a pile of caesar salads discussing, what else, men. Ever the cool girl revolutionary, Mary talks about wanting a man who can play 36 holes and still have enough energy to go to a ball game and "eat hot dogs and drink beer" — not light beer, but real beer. 

While Sarah Silverman's wisecracking Brenda adds some semblance of realism and relatability to the scene, it's Alexander's Joanie who is perhaps the least one-dimensional of Mary's friends, taking in Mary's ideas and bringing her back down to reality. After appearing in the successful film, for her next role, the actor returned to drama in a series that was, particularly for its time, quite revolutionary and complex. 

Alexander starred in HBO's The Corner

After appearing briefly in a number of television series and projects in 1999, including "NYPD Blue," the TV movie "Partners," and Showtime's "Rude Awakening," Khandi Alexander blew audiences away with her portrayal of struggling addict and mother named Fran Boyd in the HBO miniseries "The Corner" in 2000.

The six-episode series was adapted from David Simon and Ed Burns' "The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood," an unflinching, nonfiction exploration of Baltimore's most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods (via Goodreads). The series, and its source material, relay the still-relevant inadequacies of law enforcement, the government, and society's approach to drug addiction and the wealth, housing, and education gap it causes through the lens of a handful of characters, including Alexander's Boyd. 

"The Corner" swept the 2000 Primetime Emmys, winning the awards for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Outstanding Miniseries, and Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie (via IMDb), and it introduced Alexander's range and abilities to an even greater audience. Though the future "Scandal" star went on to appear briefly in a handful of projects over the next two years, it was her role in "CSI: Miami" as the uniquely sympathetic medical examiner that then helped establish Alexander as a household name and a go-to actor for both television and film.