What Happened!? 10 Of Our Favorite Movie And TV Characters Who Passed Away Too Soon In Real Life

November 1, 2012  |  
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It’s always sad when people pass away, especially exceptionally talented people who leave this earth at a young age. Whether it’s from illnesses, accidents, or cold-blooded murder, these 10 actors and actresses’ deaths were shocking because they were very unexpected. Here’s a shout out to those who we enjoyed for their great roles who left us way too soon.

Michelle Thomas, aka, Myra from “Family Matters”

I used to love everything about “Family Matters,” especially during the much lauded Steve Urkel years. And when you think of Steve Urkel, not only do you think of his love Laura Winslow, but you have to think of his character’s past steady girlfriend, Myra Monkhouse. Played by Michelle Thomas, Myra was a bubbly but nice character, who could, under jealous circumstances, get a little feisty. She was in the role of Myra from ’93 to ’98. In real life, Thomas died unexpectedly in 1998. Just a year earlier the actress was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer, and she went on to undergo surgery twice for tumors. In the end, Thomas died in December of 1998 surrounded by friends and family in the hospital. She was only 29.

Merlin Santana, aka, Romeo from “The Steve Harvey Show”

Who wasn’t fawning over Merlin Santana back in the day? He got his start playing Rudy Huxtable’s boo, Stanley, on “The Cosby Show” and was Moesha’s boo, Ohagi, on “Moesha,” but many people know him for playing fine a** Romeo Santana on “The Steve Harvey Show.” His character was something of a womanizer, but he was always a nice sight to see every time the show came on. Sadly, Santana was killed in 2002 as he was shot six times while sitting in a car in LA. The man who shot him, who was later caught and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences and 70 years, did so because his girlfriend, 15 at the time, falsely accused Santana of raping her. Santana was only 26.

Lamont Bentley, aka, Hakeem from “Moesha”

For anyone who loved “Moesha,” you have to remember Hakeem Campbell. Not only was he the object of Kim Parker’s affections for as long as she was on the show, but his character was also the honey bunny of Moesha near the end of the show. Hakeem was silly but smart, and hardworking with a big appetite (that’s why he was always at Mo’s house). Bentley was killed in a tragic motor accident in California in 2005. The actor’s vehicle went over an embankment and he was ejected out of his car into traffic where he was hit by five cars. Bentley was only 31 at the time.

Yvette Wilson

Speaking of “Moesha,” I was also a fan of the eclectically dressed Andell Wilkerson, a family friend and the owner of “The Den,” the joint that Moesha, her friends and classmates liked to hang out at after school. Of course, her character went on to do the spinoff, “The Parkers,” and was Nikki Parker’s best friend. Wilson actually passed away in June of this year after battling cervical cancer as well as kidney disease, which she needed a transplant for and was in the process of raising money to get. Wilson was only 48.

Robin Harris

Harris was a much loved comedian who could be seen in movies like House Party as Pops, as well as Do The Right Thing. Around the time of his death, a movie was in the works that was based on his stand up routine about his girlfriend Jamika and his adventures babysitting her son and “Bébé’s kids,” and the mischief the kids were into. When Harris passed, Faizon Love wound up being the voice of Harris’s character in the actual animated feature film. Harris died of a heart attack after a sold-out stand up performance in Chicago. The comedian was only 36.

Carlton Williams II, aka, “Clinton” in Crooklyn 

It was a surprise to me that this actor had passed. Like most black folks, I was a huge fan of Crooklyn as a child coming from a large family, and his character was the often annoying big brother of the Carmichael clan, Clinton (he’s sitting next to Alfre Woodard’s character above). With his big glasses and love for the Knicks, Clinton used to bully around his little sister, Troy, and argue with his mother. In real life, the actor passed away in 2003 after battling with complications from Sickle Cell Anemia. He was about 24 years of age around the time of his passing.

Nell Carter, aka, Nell Harper from “Gimme A Break!”

Man, “Gimme A Break!” was my ish! Nell Carter with her awesome singing voice (which she used to sing the theme song to the show) played the lead character, housekeeper Nell Harper. She was so good on the job that she was nominated for several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her work. The real Nell on the other hand battled major health issues over the years, including drug addiction and suffering two brain aneurysms. But in 2003, Carter passed away from heart disease that was complicated by her diabetes. I was a huge fan of Nell Carter when I was younger, so when she passed in 2003 I was pretty sad. Carter was 54.

Brittany Murphy

The bubbly star from Clueless and “King of the Hill” (she was the voice of Luanne) was the chick I think everybody liked most from Clueless (aside from Alicia’s character of Cher of course). She wasn’t really as stuck up as Dionne and Cher tried to mold her to be. After dating Ashton Kutcher in real life and starring in a string of romantic comedies, Murphy suddenly passed away in 2009 from pneumonia, anemia and a mixture of prescription medications she was taking. After her husband was found dead in their home less than a year later from similar causes, toxic mold in their home was called into question though it was never proven as the ultimate reasoning behind both deaths. Murphy was only 32.

Fred Berry, aka Rerun from “What’s Happening!!”

Who wasn’t winding up and popping and locking courtesy of the dance moves picked up from watching “Rerun” bust a move on “What’s Happening!!”? He wasn’t the brightest character, and hell, he really didn’t have much to say half the time (and when he did, he was yelling like a mug), but that’s not why we were checking for Rerun. Anywho, Berry, who was forever typecasted as Rerun and had a hard time finding work outside of that character, passed away in 2003. At the time, he was recovering from the effects of a stroke. Berry was 52.

Bernie Mac

How I could a do a list like this and NOT include Bernie Mac!? The Mac Man blew up big after years of taking on small roles in movies, and stand up.  Before we knew it, the comedian became a household name thanks to “The Original Kings of Comedy” and his own series, “The Bernie Mac Show.” In 2008, Mac passed away unexpectedly from complications stemming from his condition, sarcoidosis, which was complicated by pneumonia. Mac had sarcoidosis for years and publicly acknowledged it three years before his death when he thought it was in remission. Mac was 50 at the time of his passing. He now has a street named after him in the Englewood community in Chicago.

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