Patton was born Paula Maxine Patton in Los Angeles to a Caucasian mother, Joyce, a school teacher, and an African-American father, Charles Patton, a lawyer. She started college at UC Berkeley, transferred to USC Film School after her first year, and graduated magna cum laude. Shortly after completing her studies, she won a three-month assignment making documentaries for PBS. Later she worked for the Discovery Health Channel as producer for the show Medical Diaries.
Patton’s first acting role was in 2005’s Hitch, which starred Will Smith and Eva Mendes. She followed that with a small part in the drama London and appeared alongside OutKast members Andre Benjamin and Big Boi in Idlewild.
Patton was also the leading lady in the 2006 film Déjà Vu, a thriller starring Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer and played television reporter Kate Madison in 2008’s Swing Vote. She appeared in the film Mirrors, alongside Kiefer Sutherland, in 2008. She also appeared[when?] in her husband Robin Thicke’s “Lost Without You” video.
In Precious, a film based on the novel Push by Sapphire, Patton plays Blu Rain, a teacher at an alternative high school in New York. There she encounters and mentors the main character Precious.
In fall 2010, Patton was announced as succeeding Sharon Stone as the new full-time assistant district attorney on the NBC legal drama, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. However, Patton landed the lead female role in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and thus her role on SVU was reduced to one episode. She was replaced by Melissa Sagemiller
Patton is married to songwriter/singer Robin Thicke, son of Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring. Their son, named Julian Fuego, was born on April 6, 2010.