Born in Point Pleasant, N.J. on Aug. 8, 1976, Cypress was the second child of an African-American/Native American father and a Hungarian/German mother. As a child, Cypress grew up on a steady diet of "late night monster movies and early morning cartoons," according to her older brother, accomplished comic book artist-creator, Toby Cypress (best known for his 2006 graphic novel, The Tourist). A diligent student, Cypress studied at Boston University and later, at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, before finally winning a spot at Rutgers University's prestigious Mason Gross School of the Arts. There, Cypress met Barbara Marchant, a respected acting teacher and future mentor.
Before her acting career took off, Tawny followed an academic path, attending Boston University, Westminster Choir College in Princeton, and Mason Gross at Rutgers. In 2000, she appeared in an episode of NYPD Blue and made her big-screen debut with a small part in Autumn in New York alongside Winona Ryder. She also landed the recurring role of Assistant DA Sharon Burns on Third Watch that year -- a role that continued until 2005. Cypress played Cassandra on 100 Centre Street during the 2001-‘02 season, and appeared as J.D. in the made-for-TV movie The Time Tunnel in 2002.
However, Cypress continued to find her greatest success on the small screen. In 2001, Cypress landed her first regular series role as Cassandra Rodriguez in Sidney Lumet's gritty courtroom drama, "100 Centre Street" (A&E, 2001-02). After that show's demise, Cypress played a semi-recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Sharon Burns on the Emmy-winning series, "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005). The first half of the new millennium saw Cypress paying the bills with a string of guest-star roles on such high-profile skeins as "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001- ) and the short-lived urban crime drama, "Hack" (CBS, 2002-04), before securing a regular role on the short-lived cult fave, "Jonny Zero" (Fox, 2005). Well-received, but ratings-challenged, "Jonny Zero" won the dubious honor of being Fox's least watched original drama of 2005.