Where Are They Now? Black TV Fathers
Happy Father’s Day, Darlings! Through the lens of the media, African Americans have been viewed in a very marginalized way. Stereotypes were magnified, and they began to become the way the world saw us. However, through the use of scripted programming, the world was introduced to an image that defied the expectations of many believers of the Moynihan Report, and showed that though there are some deadbeat dads, that’s not true in every Black household. So to honor these men who tried to show a more rounded view of Black culture, here is a list of Black TV fathers. I hope you all enjoy, and to all of the fathers, happy father’s day!
Bill Cosby – “The Cosby Show”
Bill Cosby was a comedian who was growing in prominence when he caught the attention of NBC. They cast him in the dramatic series “I Spy.” Through that he went on to create the lovable, memorable character of Cliff Huxtable and his wonderful family.
After the end of the popular series, Mr. Cosby seemed to never take a break. He created an empire with shows like “Fat Albert,” “A Different World,” “The Cosby Mysteries,” and “Little Bill.” He did these things all while endorsing many products, like Jell-O pudding. Though his views have been polarizing, the mogul has continued to work, tour as a comedian, and at the tender age of 76 is in talks with NBC for creating a new show, a family comedy set in Los Angeles.
James Avery – Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
James Avery wasn’t just a father, he was a father figure to wayward nephew-in-law, Will, when he moved in with the Banks family. As Uncle Phil, James played the sometimes antagonistic, but all the time wise patriarch in the hit series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Fresh from his six year run in the comically acclaimed series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” James Avery dove into the role of Alonzo Sparks in the series “Sparks” which lasted two seasons. After “Sparks” ended he went on to act, act, and act. Hardly missing a beat, James Avery appeared in a series of acting and voice acting roles like: “In the House,” The Prince of Egypt, “Pepper Ann,” Dr. DoLittle 2, “The Closer,” “Soul Food” the series, “Sherri,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and Go, Bolivia, Go!
He also finished the movie Wish I Was Here, with Zach Braff, but sadly didn’t get a chance to see the completed movie, because he passed on December 31, 2013. This amazing, talented, and versatile actor will continue to be missed.
John Amos – “Good Times”
Did anyone else know that “Good Times” was a spin-off from the show “Maude”? Learn something new everyday, right?
In the wildly popular series “Good Times,” John Amos portrayed the patriarch, James Evans Sr for two seasons. However, when the show began to take the focus off of the family, and put it on JJ’s foolishness, John and Esther Rolle protested. However, John Amos was more verbally combative, which lead to his character dying (“Damn, damn, damn!”)
John never missed a beat after leaving the show. He went on to appear in the miniseries, “Roots,” where he was nominated for a number of Emmys, and has had a strong acting career. Not just appearing in popular movies and shows like Coming to America, “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Hunter,” “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “The West Wing,” Madea’s Witness Protection, he’s a force in theater, and he just finished filming Bad Ass 3, which will be released in 2015.
Redd Foxx – “Sanford and Son.”
While working as a dishwasher, John Sanford met a young man named Malcolm Little, and the two became friends. Who would know that the two would become two prolific men? After the urging of his friend, Malcolm, John Sanford adopted the name Redd Foxx and started doing comedy. Malcolm Little went on to become Malcolm X, one of our most well known Civil Rights Activists of all time.
After becoming a hit on the comedy circuit, Redd Foxx was offered a television show that was an adaptation of the BBC series “Steptoe and Son.” This show would go on to be known as “Sanford and Son.”
Redd Foxx was raking in money from the popular series, but was spending it as fast as he was making it. He appeared in a few series and movies once he began to have tax troubles like “Sanford,” Harlem Nights, and “The Royal Family.” Sadly, he died on the set of “The Royal Family,” and was reportedly over 3 million dollars in debt to the IRS.
However, his legacy as an amazing comedian has outlived any rumors of his spending. Not only did he help some of his other minority comedian friends get a foot in, he paved the way for comedians like Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, and Jamie Foxx (who used Foxx’s moniker in remembrance of him).
Hal Williams – “227”
Lester Jenkins was “that dude” on “227.” Playing the husband of the hilarious Marla Gibb’s character, Mary.
Hal Williams, who had a substantial acting career before and during “227” has continued to have one after the successful series ended. He went on appear in shows like “The Sinbad Show,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “Suddenly Susan,” and most recently “The First Family.”
Reginald VelJohnson – “Family Matters”
Carl Winslow wasn’t just the father on “Family matters,” he was a working cop who progressed through the force to lieutenant. Not only that, he was able to not hurt Steve Urkel! Miracles, y’all!
After “Family Matters,” Reginald VelJohnson explored his talents in writing by penning a critically acclaimed anthology named Division Street. He also continues to act on/off Broadway stages. A small list of movies and TV shows he’s done since “Family Matters,” and Die Hard: “That’s So Raven,” “I’m in the Band,” “Tron Uprising,” “Hart of Dixie,” Sunday Evening Haircut, and 12 Dog Days of Christmas, which will be released this year.
Malik Yoba – “New York Undercover”
“New York Undercover” was the first scripted drama that I can remember watching, and as a child, I fell in love with it. The writing was phenomenal, and the show perfectly balanced the gritty life of an undercover cop, while being a single father trying to raise his son the right way.
Once “New York Undercover” ended and he won three NAACP Image Awards, Malik Yoba ventured into the realm of singing, defended his lips, and continued to act in many shows and movies, like: Why Did I Get Married?, Why Did I Get Married Too?, “Thief,” “Girlfriends,” “Alphas,” “Revolution,” and the new series “Empire.” He also has a host of TV shows and movies that he just completed, so not only will the denizens of Brooklyn continue to see him, but the rest of us will be able to see him as well.
Damon Wayans – “My Wife and Kids”
Being part of the hilariously talented Wayans family is not enough for some. Many of the members go on to have a successful career in entertainment, and Damon Wayans is one of many.
“My Wife and Kids” was a hit with not just black audiences, but was a number one show for a good portion of it’s time on the air, and most of that came in part as Damon played Michael Kyle, Sr., the family’s patriarch.
After the show, Damon continues to act and do comedy. He produced the Showtime comedy series “The Underground,” and was set to be the lead in the adapted UK series “Never Better” in 2008. He has an untitled project coming up, and just recently created the app “Flick Dat,” which seems to be a good move for business-minded folks who don’t want to be boggled down with business cards.
Tim Reid – “Sister Sister”
I’m not sure how plausible the premise to “Sister Sister” was, but I loved the show regardless! Tim Reid played the lovable and patient father, Ray Campbell who opened his door to Tia and her mother, Lisa Landry.
After “Sister Sister,” he continued to work in the entertainment industry, but under multiple factions. Mr. Reid wrote episodes of some of the shows that he appeared in. His production company that first opened in 1989 produced projects, and he continued to act. He appeared in shows like: “Roommates” (with Tamara Mowry-Housley), “That 70s Show,” “Treme” and he just finished the short film Habeas Corpus.
He and his wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid (the second Aunt Viv) continue to be active in different areas of the entertainment field while also being honored with honorary degrees.
Robert Townsend – “The Parent ‘Hood”
Hailed as “The Cosby Show of the 90s,” famed writer, director, and producer Robert Townsend went on to create and produce this gem, and played the protagonist, Robert Peterson.
After “The Parent ‘Hood,” it seems that Robert Townsend went back behind the camera and continued to direct and executive produce projects. Some being B.A.P.S., “Playhouse 22,” Carmen: A Hip Hopera, “Los Americans,” “Diary of a Single Mom,” and Playin’ for Love, which should be released this year.
He also was nominated for his acting and singing abilities in the musical “Next to Normal.”
John Witherspoon – “The Wayans Bros.”
I mean, seriously, who didn’t love “Pops”?!
John Witherspoon played the father of wayward grown sons, Marlon and Shawn as they tried to make their way through life with a little bit of grace, and a whole lot of comedy.
While John Witherspoon was playing “Pops” on the show he also played Ice Cube’s father in the cult classic film Friday. When the show ended, he appeared in the next two following Friday films. He also appeared in projects like: “The Tracy Morgan Show,” “Happily Ever After,” “First Family,” Soul Plane, and this year’s “Black Jesus.” You can hear his signature voice in the hit Aaron McGruder created series “The Boondocks.”
William Allen Young – “Moesha”
“Moesha” was a vehicle for singer Brandy Norwood to show off her acting talents. The show was framed around Moesha’s struggles as a teenager, and her parents trying to be supportive, starting with her father Frank.
Mr. Young continues to be a working actor in this field, and has not seemed to lose any steam after “Moesha.” He appeared in projects the likes of: “Any Day Now,” District 9, “C.S.I.”, and he currently appears in the series “Good Luck Charlie.” In 2013 he reconnected with Brandy to appear in a few episodes of the hit show “The Game.”
Flex Alexander – “One on One”
Flex Alexander played Flex Washington Barnes, Breanna’s single father, played by Kyla Pratt. Once the show ended in it’s sixth season, Flex went on to act in the film Snakes on a Plane. He also appeared in movies and TV shows like Love… and other Four Letter Words, The Hills Have Eyes 2, and “Single Ladies.” Though he was working somewhat consistently, it still wasn’t enough to pay the bills, so Flex and his wife, Shanice decided to go the reality show route on the OWN network.
Terry Crews – “Everybody Hates Chris”
In Chris’s life, there were very few places that he could find solace and great advice, and that’s where his father, Julius, came in. Portrayed by Terry Crews, Julius was the thrifty glue that held the family together.
Terry Crews, who is known for playing extremely comical roles in movies and sitcoms, toned down and showed his range and the family’s patriarch in “Everybody Hates Chris.” Along with his rigorous workout schedule, Terry Crews has kept momentum as a booming acting career.
Terry has appeared in projects like The Expendables 2 & 3, Terminator Salvation, Lottery Ticket, Bridesmaids, “The Newsroom,” “Arrested Development,” Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, “Are We There Yet,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and Blended. If you think he’s going to slow down soon, you’d be slowly mistaken, he just had his book “Manhood: How to Be a Better Man, or Live with One” published, and just signed on to be the new host of “Do You Want to be a Millionaire.”