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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  • KAMALA1218

    Michelle Thomas was such a beautiful girl shame.

  • Craig D. Casimir

    “he was ejected out of his car into traffic where he was hit by five cars.” Damn

  • alicia

    I think brandy is cursed…maybe..maybe not

  • Charlene Lopez

    Dam poor Merlin…sad very sad……RIP all those lives and what might have been….gone too soon.

  • anothachick

    wow Nell Carter was on drugs? Whoa.

  • True G.R.I.T.S

    smh i knew i was goin to marry Merlin Santana when i got older. r.i.p to every1 on this list…the great thing about actors is that u can always watch them again, and again, even tho they’r gone..

  • Crystal Johnson

    I’ll always remember Michelle Thomas as Justine on The Cosby Show. Who can forget Theo singing “Justine, Justine”

  • Cheryle Thepearl Roberson

    wow thats mess up!!

  • James Raulerson

    Whats even more chilling is i didnt even know half of them where dead, I knew Britanny Murphy was obviously, it was all over the news ….. makes ya think tho…

  • PhoenixRizing

    Wow! I didn’t know Clinton from Crooklyn had Sickle Cell! I lost my brother (age 16), two best friends (18 & 23), 2 acquaintances (14 & 30) & a mentor (46) to SC. I have it, too. I HATE THIS DISEASE!!! After over 100yrs of being medically documented, there’s STILL no cure!! SHAME!! SMH!!!

  • Maile00

    It’s like the Moesha curse! This list just made me sad…never realized Hakeem had such a horrific death. 🙁

  • Nicole

    Is it me or almost the entire damn cast of moesha went through hard life perils?

  • emc8

    Did anyone ever look at Brittany Murphy’s mother, Sharon? She was living in the house when both Brittany and Simon died. Strange she never got sick living in the same house.

  • emc8

    You did a poor job with Michelle Thomas. She was Theo Huxtable’s long time girlfriend in The Cosbys as well as Malcolm Jamal Warner’s girlfriend in real life. After Family Ties, she was a cast member on The Young and the Restless. Malcolm Jamal Warner was by her side until the very end; she passed away in his arms.

  • TryThinking

    You can tell the idiot who wrote this article started out by sharing the untimely and surprising deaths of some almost-stars…THEN she ran out of folks and began reporting on the deaths of people EVERYONE knew have been dead for YEARS! Come on…Nell Carter??? Who didn’t know about that? Robin Harris???? I try to check out Madame Noire as often as possible, but it is so hard to slug through all the simple-minded, tacky, ghetto mess. “Hip-Hop & Celebrity Baby Names”? Takeisha? Deshawn? Why in the world would we want to encourage our young people to give their children comic book-quality names? When are we going to begin holding our own publications and businesses to the same standard as “their’s”?

  • Rachael

    I forgot that “Justine” from the Cosby Show was also on the Family Matters as “Myra”. I don’t know which character ran longer, but I came from a generation serious about the Cosby Show and A Different World. She will always be “Justine” to me. May they all rest in peace.

  • JT

    Wow, I didn’t know Robin Harris was just 36. And I knew Merlin Santana was shot, but I had no idea it was because he was falsely accused of rape. Nor was I aware of just how bad Lamont Bentley’s death was; I heard about the car accident but not the ejection and subsequent 5-car run-over. It is true that we all do have our appointed time, but to go in such a manner is just sad.

  • crazygemini12

    I always think of Michelle Thomas as Justine from “The Cosby Show” so I must really be showing my age here.

    • PhoenixRizing

      I’M WITH YOU! And I remember Theo singing “JUSTIIIINE!!!! JUSTIIIIIINE!!!!” Growling & whatnot! LOL! We do that to my aunt, whose name is also Justine. The late 80s & early 90s were a GREAT time in tv! Not like half of the stuff on now.

  • Taunya73

    I had no idea that Lamont Bentley had passed.

  • Jas

    Anyone else notice how much Lauren London resembles Michelle Thomas??? Practically twins. Michelle was very pretty!

  • Sharese

    Michelle Thomas aka Myra, also played Justine (Theo’s main girlfriend) on the Cosby Show for years.

  • pickneychile

    Man…I still remember Bernie Mac telling Oprah…”Growing up we were so poor, my grandfather had to DRAW a piece of cheese to give to the mouse behind the refrigerator!” All sad losses.

  • lol

    I see a pattern emerging…. all black

  • lulu f

    myra always reminded me of an aunt of mine. She died of cancer a couple of years ago also. I hate it that looking at her in that picture, there was cancer growing in her body. F*** CANCER!

  • He looked like a young Denzil Washington. I can only imagine what he
    would have matured into. I hope the young woman responsible for
    instigating the circumstance that cost him his life really understands
    how irresponsible her actions were and understands that what goes
    around, comes around!!!!Iam beautiful woman and I love good man…..inter racial romance is my dream… so I joined —blackwhitePlanet.С0M—–it’s where to- connect with
    beautiful and excellent people!I grew up watching all of these folks, it’s sad to know that they’ve all
    passed, but at least their work was left behind so they’ll always be
    remembered! RIP to everyone on this list!

  • Ambitious12

    r.i.p Talented people you will all be missed. I had a huge crush on Romeo back in the day and Lamont too and Bernie and Issac hayes they broke my heart when they passed. R.I.P



  • Reese

    I miss the comedy of Bernie Mac so much. “Him down stairsssss.”

    • my turn my turn

      i will beat you to the white meat shows! lmbo

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  • MsGV

    Whitney Houston – Ray J

  • ahem .. Sherman Hensley anyone??? They seriously forgot George Jefferson? He died just a few months ago you have those people from the older sitcoms but not him? wow. RIP to all on this list I loved and still do love their work Moesha and the Parkers was the joint so was the Steve Harvey Show, Family Matters and all the rest.

    • CPM

      The article is about tv and movie actors who died young, or at least well before their time. Sherman Helmsley was in his 70s, I believe, when he passed.

    • TROLL

      He lived a long life he didn’t die early

  • Luvly216

    You forgot waymon from low down dirty shame. He died before the movie came out. “good morning shame!” lol

    • PhoenixRizing

      MAN, I LOVED HIM IN THAT!!! When we take family vacays, that’s how I bust into my sister’s room….LOL

  • dreamer40

    aLSO no mention that Brittany Murphy actually started out pre-Clueless on Sister, Sister as Tia/Tamera’s best friend. I hate when a lot of white actor/actress bios neglect the black shows and movies they started out on (eg. Marisa Tomei and Jim Carrey too!)

    • SunshineBlossom

      Well in the case of Marisa Tomei on A Different World, I actually preferred the seasons without her and “Denise Huxtable”–although I will sit through it in a marathon.

  • blacklatina

    I love Merlín santana on “the steve harvey show” he was awesome and the only afro latino on tv,he even speak spanish on the show with his tv
    father.He is truly missed.

  • The Dyv

    I remember Michelle and Merlin Santana from The Cosby Show. Every girl had a crush on “Stanley” the next day after he made his first appearance as Rudy’s new boo. RIP to all these talented individuals!

  • rwilliams482

    is it me or does the show moesha seem cursed?

  • MrsB

    Why do people keep saying “died before there time?” Every single body as to leave here one day. It is inevitable. Being a loved celebrity doesn’t make you immune to human tribulation

    • badblessings

      They say it because idealistically we are to live until the average age of death which is not in your 20’s 30’s 40’s 50’s 60’s.. And when it happens we are more shocked than we would normally be..

      • MrsB

        Nah, the young die everyday. its a fact of life…babies too. REALITY

    • MrsB

      Sorry, but if God called you home, then it was your time to go. AGE DOES NOT MATTER

  • CurlyBoo

    man i wish i didn’t click on this. I had no idea Lamont Bentley died & so tragic at that. Rest in Peace for all these talented people.

  • ANTMilf

    This made me cry, all of them gone before their time. May they all RIP.

  • mdoubs

    I still cannot believe Hakeem is gone…seeing him in the reruns of Moesha just breaks my heart… :'(

  • Guest

    This is really sad. Hakeem death just broke my heart… :'(

  • Jennifer Jones

    Bernie Mac was also on moesha at one point he played Andell’s love interest Moesha’s uncle. thats so weird so many people died from one show! thats incredibly sad. reading this was also sad but i appreciated this post.


    Where arevthe kids from “Crooklyn”??

  • Native_Noir

    Wow, this is so sad. I think I can remember where I was and what I was doing when I got word of most of their passings, including some not on this list (RIP Tupac & Aaliyah). As someone stated, gone but not forgotten.

  • Guest

    All of these are tragic. Dying violently at the hands of someone especially over false accusations as in the case of Merlin Santana is absolutely crazy!!! He looked like a young Denzil Washington. I can only imagine what he would have matured into. I hope the young woman responsible for instigating the circumstance that cost him his life really understands how irresponsible her actions were and understands that what goes around, comes around!!!!

  • It’s still hard for me to watch Bernie’s stuff sometimes; that made me cry.

  • FromUR2UB

    Wiley Draper, who played Michael Jackson as a teenager and young adult in ‘The Jacksons: An American Dream’; died from a rare form of leukemia at age 24. Shirley Hemphill, who played Shirley the waitress on ‘What’s Happening’, died at age 52. All, very sad.

  • CriticXtreme

    All of these were major losses. RIP!

  • shame on you


  • Cree

    I had read somewhere Hakeem committed suicide

  • you could see they public hairs in my bernie mac voice(players club)

    • chi-town we don’t pay them country boys no than

    • lmfaoo.!! I needed tht laugh, man I miss Bernie Mac so much

    • Pearl

      Bernie singing “magilla, gorilla…magilllla gorilllla”…..lol…RIP Bernie…

  • LMJ82

    I’m glad that you all mentioned Clinton from Crooklyn! He was the first person to cross my mind when I saw the title of this article…I love Crooklyn!! And yes, Lamont Bentley’s death does horrific- just sad. Getting into a car accident, being ejected and then getting run over by 5 cars is NOT the best way to go….Smh. RIP to all. :-/

  • Shiron

    I think it’s neat that they mentioned some people that we don’t hear about anymore. I’m glad to see them list Nell Carter who was an extremely talented woman–and of course Bernie Mac–I am still heart-broken over his death. 🙁

  • JuJu Bean

    I miss Bernie Mac like he was a beloved family member! This list really goes to show you how short life is, and to cherish the people you love.

  • Downsouth

    Why is there no mention of Michelle Thomas being known first as Theo’s girlfriend, “Justine Justine” on the Cosby Show? How young is your staff for this website! She also ended her acting career on the Y&R and Malcolm Jamal Warner, aka Theo, was with her during her final days at her bedside. RIP to all…..Damn I loved Romeo and Bullethead!!

    • Anthony

      She’s the 1st one mentioned. What are you talking about?

      • Downsouth

        Anthony, I said why is there no mention of her from her Cosby Show days, not that she wasn’t mentioned at all. The post about her only makes note of her Family Matter acting role.

        • papaya

          I never knew Justine was a part of the Cosby Show. who did she play?

          • Nunya

            Her name is Michelle Thomas. And you just answered your own question: JUSTINE.

            Jesus. Pay attention.

            • Papaya.

              Clearly I seen her picture on the article. If I would of known I wouldn’t ask ….

              I never knew her actual name.

          • EZNOW

            How did you miss the cosby episode of Theo singing “JUSTINE JUSTINE”? Must not have been a real Cosby show watcher..he was referring to her, and they were together for years in real life.

            Well. i wanted to post the link but we know how that goes on these sites….

  • That’s a lot from Moesha :(… Bernie broke my heart tho!

    • Dev2008

      Yes, Bernie broke mine too. All so sad.

  • Janelle

    Myra from family matters
    Romeo from the Steve Harvey show
    Hakeem and aundell from moesha
    The pops from house party
    Clinton from crooklyn
    Nell Harper from gimmie a break
    Brittany Murphy
    Rerun from what’s happening
    Bernie Mac

    • NONEYA

      Going this pages is a true pain in the ash!!!

      • You got that right! Thanks for the post.

      • Mina

        Oh lord I thought it was just me. But truth be told. We go off. And they still jack our browser with ridiculous where you CAN’T even turn off the volume. Really MN??

        • rzakia

          You have to download Google Chrome as your browser instead of Internet Explorer. It’s so much faster and you can use the ad blocker. I just downloaded and it’s so helpful not only for this site but for other sites where they have a lot of ads and redirecting.

  • Lamont Bentley’s death sounds so horrific! WOW, just tragic! I grew up watching all of these folks, it’s sad to know that they’ve all passed, but at least their work was left behind so they’ll always be remembered! RIP to everyone on this list!

  • JaneDoe

    Gone too soon.. So sad. I grew up watching these folks

  • Jesse

    I read somewhere that the cast of the Moesha show was cursed. Was that the only picture they could find of the boy who played Clinton?

    • theBAYAREArealist

      I think the cast of different strokes are the cursed ones.

  • sabrina

    So sad. Life is so short </3

  • all of them gone way too soon.

    • Thozzy


  • IllyPhilly

    Dang, I was just watching Moesha thinking about alot of that cast being dead. Chilling.

    • Taunya73

      Now that you think about it, it is a little chilling thinking about how many of them that are no longer here.