Ebony Repertory Theatre (ERT – Producing Artistic Director, Wren T. Brown) announced today that Tony Award-winning actor Roger Robinson died Wednesday, September 26, 2018, in Escondido, California from a complicated heart condition. He was 78.
Mr. Robinson was born May 2, 1940, in Seattle Washington to Roger Robinson, a musician and Naomi Robinson, an educator. He attended school in Bellevue Washington, where he graduated from Bellevue High School in 1958. He briefly attended Everett Junior College in Everett Washington. Eager to begin a career as an actor, he moved to Los Angeles California in 1959. During his time in Los Angeles, he worked a variety of jobs before joining the United States Navy in September of 1960. He did his military basic training at the San Diego Naval Base and upon completion was sent to the Naval School of Music and then received orders to join the third Naval District Band in Brooklyn, New York, where he played the oboe and tenor saxophone.
He began studying acting with renowned director and teacher Lloyd Richards. In 1963, while still in the Navy, he auditioned and was hired for the role of a soldier in the Off-Broadway play, A Walk in Darkness. This marked his New York professional (Equity) theater debut. He continued to study acting with Mr. Richards and upon his discharge from active duty, he took an acting job in a Summer Stock Theatre based in Cape May, New Jersey.
Mr. Robinson made his Broadway debut in 1969 in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? Subsequent Broadway appearances include: Ain’t Suppose to Die a Natural Death, The Amen Corner (Musical), The Iceman Cometh, Drowning Crow, The Miser, and Seven Guitars, which garnered him his first Tony Award nomination. In 2009, he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for the revival of Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
He also appeared in over 30 Off-Broadway plays and has played major roles in most of the prestigious regional theaters in the US. At the Royal National Theatre in London, he played the role of Becker in August Wilson's Jitney (Olivier Award winner). Robinson’s final stage performance was in the Off-Broadway production of Some Old Black Man. He is the first African American to receive the Richard Seff Award, presented annually by the Actors' Equity Foundation to an actor fifty years of age or older for his performance in a supporting role in a Broadway or off-Broadway production.
Robinson's television credits include the television miniseries King, The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which was the CBS pilot for Kojak, where he played the role of Gil Weaver for four seasons. He was a Universal Studios contract player for four years and guest starred in over 75 television shows. He guest starred or recurred on Ironside, Starsky and Hutch, The Jeffersons, A Man Called Hawk, Law & Order, New York Undercover, Homicide: Life on the Street, ER, NYPD Blue, Kate Brasher, Rubicon, How to Get Away with Murder, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Elementary.
His film credits include Believe in Me (1971), Willie Dynamite (1974), Newman's Law (1974), Meteor (1979), It's My Turn (1980), The Lonely Guy (1984), Who's the Man? (1993), Wedding Daze (2006), and Brother to Brother (2004). The latter won him the LA Outfest Grand Jury Award Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film and a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male. He recently completed work on the independent feature film Foreclosure.
Roger Robinson is survived by his sister Tina Robinson.
Two celebrations of his life are currently being planned to take place in Los Angeles and New York. Dates and details to be announced.