Dule Hill, tap dancer, actor and producer, was born Karim Dule’ Hill, the younger of two sons, to Jamaican-born parents Jennifer and Bertholomu Hillshire; his father was an entrepreneur and his mother taught ballet at the Marie Wildey School of Dance in East Orange, New Jer- sey. Raised in Sayreville, at the age of three he began ballet and tap classes at his mother’s school in East Orange, New Jersey. At age ten, he got his first big theatrical break when the producers of the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid cast Hill as understudy to the star Sav- ion Glover. He continued in that starring role on the musical’s national tour, where he worked with Harold Nicholas of the famed Nicholas Brothers for the next sixteen months; he also later
appeared with Gregory Hines and Jimmy Slyde. During Hill’s senior year of high school, he appeared in his first feature film, Sugar Hill (1993) as the young character that would later be played by Wesley Snipes. He was also seen in national commercials for Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal, and was cast as one of the City Kids in the Saturday-morning television series produced by the puppeteer Jim Henson’s company. More dancing roles followed in the musicals Shenandoah, and Little Rascals, but it was in the 1989 Broadway production of Black and Blue, where Hill exposed to the work of Fayard Nicholas, Cholly Atkins, and Henry LeTang, and performed with Lon Chaney, George Hillman, and Jimmy Slyde, that Hill became fully initiated into the esteemed black rhythm tap tradition, and began to regard himself as primarily a tap dancer.
Continuing his career in dance, in 1996 Hill joined Savion Glover’s original cast of hard-hitting hoofers in the Tony Award-winning Broadway smash Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, where he re-teamed with Glover. He spent two- and-one-half years on the show and earned favorable notices from casting directors, despite this having to abandon his college studies. Despite the enormous success of Noise/Funk, which could have catapulted Hill into a full-time career as a tap dancer, his next career boost came in 1999 with starring roles with Freddie Prinze Jr. in the hit feature film She’s All That and Love Songs, opposite Louis Gossett Jr. That same year, Hill was cast on The West Wing as Charlie Young, personal aide to President Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen); the show ran several seasons, over which time Hill’s role was developed: during the sixth season of the series, Charlie became a Special Aide to the Chief of Staff. Hill’s next role was as pharmaceutical salesman-private detective Burton “Gus” Guster on the USA Network televi- sion comedy-drama Psych. In 2011, Hill returned to Broadway to star in the Alicia Keyes-produced play Stick Fly, which tells the story of two brothers who both decide to bring home new girlfriends for a family reunion of Martha’s Vineyard.
Despite Hill’s enormous popularity and name recognition as a television and stage actor, he views himself as a tap dancer. “I consider myself a tap dancer first,” he told Lizzie Goodman for New York Magazine, adding that he had a
tap dance floor set up in his trailer at The West Wing and at Psych. For Hill, there is not much that separates tap from dramatic performance. “It’s all choreography,” he explains, “it’s a dance. From the time I walk onstage until the lights go out.”