Famed film and TV actor, Clarence Williams III (Purple Rain, Tales from the Hood) has died, according to Deadline. The Tony-nominated thespian was most known for his role as Linc Hayes on the popular 1970s cop drama, The Mod Squad. His management team announced Williams succumbed to colon cancer on Friday, June 4. No memorial arrangements have been planned at this time.
According to Deadline, Williams’ experience with the arts began at a young age as music was a part of his family. Born in Harlem in 1939, his father and grandfather were competent musicians with the latter, Clarence Williams, being a regular collaborator with blues great, Bessie Smith (“Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” “Back-Water Blues“). His path took him to acting after participating in a YMCA production of Dark of the Moon which starred fellow Harlemite, Cicely Tyson (How to Get Away with Murder, Mama Flora’s Family).
After enlisting in the war, Williams returned to civilian life and pursued his acting full time, according to Deadline. He would earn a Tony nomination for best actor in a play for 1965’s Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. Three years later he would land the role on Aaron Spelling’s (T.J. Hooker, Surrender) new age police drama, The Mod Squad.
Deadline reports The Mod Squad aired on ABC from 1968-1973. Williams was joined by Peggy Lipton’s (Twin Peaks, Popular) Julie Barnes and Michael Cole’s (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Last Child) Pete Cochran as three troubled youth who found themselves a part of the police force’s new undercover unit. The three weren’t polished officers with the ability to blend in certain settings, making it easier to apprehend suspects. The series helped legitimize the hippie counterculture that was rising at the time as the show explored difficult topics such as the Vietnam War and racism. The series was later adapted as a 1999 film starring Claire Danes (My So-Called Life, Homeland), Omar Epps (A Fatal Affair, Juice) and Giovanni Ribisi (Friends, The Other Sister).
According to Deadline, Williams went on to appear in many films of different genres. In 1984, he played Prince’s (Musicology, Diamonds and Pearls) abusive father in the musical cult classic, Purple Rain. He then displayed his comedic chops in Keenan Ivory Wayans’ (In Living Color, Hollywood Shuffle) 1988 parody, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. And many 90’s kids will know his face from his role in Rusty Cundieff’s (Fear of a Black Hat, Tales From the Hood 3) 1995 horror anthology film, Tales From the Hood.
Deadline reports Williams married actress Gloria Foster (The Cool Word, The Matrix) in 1967. That union lasted for 17 years. He is survived by his sister, Sondra Pugh; daughter, Jamey Phillips; a niece, and grandniece and grandnephews.