Born in Washington D.C., actor James McDaniel studied veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to New York to work in theater, film, and television. His stage credits include Balm in Gilead, A Soldier's Play, and Someone to Watch Over Me. He was also the lead character in both off-Broadway and Broadway productions of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation. (The role was later played by Will Smith in the 1993 film version.) McDaniel made plenty of TV movies and television guest-star appearances in the '80s, and ended up meeting writer/producer Steven Bochco on shows like L.A. Law, Law & Order, Cop Rock, and Hill Street Blues. When Bochco's NYPD Blue premiered in 1993, McDaniel was cast as Lt. Arthur Fancy. As the man in charge of the 15th Precinct, he earned nominations at the Emmy Awards, Image Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He was also the only cast member to direct an episode. In the meantime, McDaniel appeared in the feature films Malcolm X, Truth or Consequences, N.M., and several TV movies. When his character was promoted to captain and sent on assignment in another district, McDaniel left NYPD Blue in search of other projects. In 2000, the actor played Nat "King" Cole in the NBC drama Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story, directed by Robert Townsend. Two years later, McDaniel played opposite Angela Bassett in John Sayles' ensemble drama Sunshine State. He also played an army general in Steven Spielberg's overblown miniseries Taken, broadcast on the Sci Fi channel. McDaniel finally earned his first major starring role in the Showtime original movie Edge of America as a black school teacher who coaches a girls basketball team on an Indian Reservation.