The slender, classically beautiful Joy Bryant made a stunning feature debut in Denzel Washington's first directorial effort "Antwone Fisher," and while her stunning looks certainly got her noticed, the model-turned-actress has also built her career on both brains and talent. As an enrollee in the A Better Chance program, an organization that reaches out to minority talent to enrich their academic opportunities, Bryant earned an academic scholarship to Yale University. While enrolled as a full-time student at Yale, the actress was discovered by a modeling scout from Next Models Management and subsequently pursued a career as a fashion model in Paris, later entering into an exclusive contract with Tommy Hilfiger and appearing as a cover subject for the Victoria's Secret lingerie catalogue, as well as in a number of prestigious print campaigns.
Bryant made her onscreen debut in the MTV original telefim "Carmen: A Hip Hopera," opposite Beyonce Knowles and Mekhi Phifer, followed by a small role in the Warner Bros. feature comedy "Showtime" opposite Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro. She caught widespread attention in 2002 after Washington tapped her for the role of Cheryl, the understanding girlfriend of the troubled Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke). Bryant's next role was in Bille Woodruff's music-driven, coming-of-age drama "Honey," playing the best friend of an inner-city woman (Jessica Alba) who fulfills her dream of becoming a video choreographer and is confronted with unsuspecting setbacks. She next appeared in "Baadassss!" (2004), writer-director-star Mario Van Peebles' depiction of his father Melvin's struggles to film the seminal 1971 film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Son," with Bryant lighting up every scene she appeared in as Melvin's secretary Priscilla.
The actress gained more prominence, albeit in a small, but integral role, in the voodoo horror thriller, "The Skeleton Key" (2005), starring Kate Hudson as a hospice worker sent to an isolated plantation in the bayous of Louisiana to care for a speechless invalid (John Hurt). Meanwhile, the forces of evil trapped behind an attic door are unleashed, forcing the hospice worker and her patient to fight, then flee for their lives. Despite the acting talent of the main characters, a promising premise and acclaimed director Iain Softley at the helm, "Skeleton Key" fell flat from cheap thrills and chintzy dialogue. Bryant was better served by her role in director Jim Sheridan's urban drama "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" (2005), in which she played Charlene, the childhood love interest of drug dealer and aspiring rap artist Marcus, played by 50 Cent (whose real life experiences inspired the film's storyline).