Anthony was born and raised in Compton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. His mother, Doris, as a telephone operator and actress, and his father, Sterling Bowman, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, who moved to Los Angeles to work in the steel mill industry before opening a chain of three clothis stores. According to a DNA analysis, Anthony descends from the Bubi people of Bioki Island, and from the Tikar, Hausa, and Fulani people of Cameroon.
Anthony has stated that his first attempt at stand up comedy was a failure. He appeared at The Comedy Act Theater billed as comedian "Tasty Tony, the One and Only, and if there's another, he's a phony." When his stage name was announced, he was booed off the stage before ever saying a word. Although this experience was a blow to his ego, he did meet his future friend and fellow comedic actor Guy Torry there, who consoled him after the show and encouraged him to keep getting up on stage. He and Guy would later act together in the Eddie Murphy film titled Life. Anthony is an alumnus of the Hollywood High School Performing Arts Magnet's Class of 1988 and Howard University. He trained with actors such as Avery Brooks, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis.
His television work includes a lead role in the teen series Hang Time as Teddy Broadis. He had many one-off and guest roles on major series such as NYPD Blue, Malcolm & Eddie, In the House, and Ally McBeal
Recurring roles were on several series such as 'Til Death and The Bernie Mac Show. He was the central character in the series All About the Andersons, which lasted for one season on The WB. Anthony joined the cast of the long-running NBC crime drama Law & Order in 2008. He previously starred in two other crime series, Fox's K-Ville and Fox's cable channel FX's The Shield. Anthony is an Atom.com Web show Matumbo Goldberg.
After his film debut in Liberty Heights, Anthony has been performing as an actor, often in comedic roles, for many years. Among his more prominent feature films are Kangaroo Jack, My Baby's Daddy, Hustle & Flow, and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. In June 2010, he was cast in a minor role in Scream 4.
In 2009, Anthony directed a one-minute short film featuring his Law & Order co-star, Jeremy Sisto. The short was made for the Responsibility project, a joint initiative of NBC and Liberty Mutual Group. The short aired during the Law & Order episode Reality Bites on October 16, 2009