of his 1986 film. DeWanda was born in Jessup, Maryland and raised in Woodlawn, Laurel and Baltimore. She began acting her sophomore year of at Atholton High School when her high school theatre director, Nathan Rosen offered her a part in a production en lieu of detention. In 2006, she graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a bachelor's in fine arts in drama and urban studies. During her undergraduate years she worked as a resident assistant and a stocker at Trader Joe's.