Yaphet Kotto

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Yaphet Kotto
Yaphet Koto.jpg
Kotto in 1995
Born
Yaphet Frederick Kotto

(1939-11-15) November 15, 1939 (age 79)
ResidenceBaltimore, Maryland, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationActor
Years active1963–present
Height6 ft 4 in (193 cm)[1]
Weight248 lb (112 kg)[1]
Spouse(s)
  • Rita Dittman
    (m. 1959; div. 1976)
  • Toni Pettyjohn
    (m. 1976; div. 1989)
  • Tessie Sinahon (m. 1998)
Children6

Yaphet Frederick Kotto (born November 15, 1939) is an American actor known for numerous film roles, as well as starring in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–99) as Lieutenant Al Giardello. His films include the science-fiction/horror film Alien (1979), and the Arnold Schwarzenegger science-fiction/action film The Running Man (1987). He portrayed the main villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973). He appeared opposite Robert De Niro in the comedy thriller Midnight Run (1988) as FBI agent Alonzo Mosely.

Early life[edit]

Kotto was born in New York City. His mother was Gladys Marie, a nurse and U.S. Army officer. His father is Avraham Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), a businessman from Cameroon who immigrated to the United States in the 1920s. In his autobiography titled Royalty, Kotto writes that his father was "the crown prince of Cameroon." However, Cameroon is a republic and its monarchs have limited responsibilities as auxiliaries of the state, which they must support at all times, Cameroon being a typical example of an intrastate African monarchy.[2]

Kotto said he learned that his father's family was royal in adult life while studying his family's lineage, and said he is also a descendant of Queen Victoria, through Princess Nakande, daughter of King Doualla Manga Bell of Cameroon, who Kotto says had an affair with Britain's Edward VII while he was the prince of Wales in the late 19th century.[3][4] According to Kotto, his father was an observant Jew who spoke Hebrew. Kotto's mother, who was of Panamanian descent, converted to Judaism before marrying his father.[5] Kotto claims that his great-grandfather, whom he names "King Alexander Bell" ruled the Douala region of Cameroon in the late-19th century and was also a practicing Jew.[2]

Kotto has said that his paternal family originated from Israel many centuries ago, migrating to Egypt and then Cameroon, and have been African Jews for many generations.[6][7] His claim of being a descendant of Queen Victoria has been denied by the Buckingham Palace press office.[3]

Kotto has said that being a black Jew made it more difficult for him as a child. "It was rough coming up," Kotto said. "And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights."[8][9]

The Bell family is a very powerful, well-known and respected royal family in the Wouri estuary of what is now the Republic of Cameroon, with authority over the township of Bell. They were leaders of the Duala people long before Cameroon became a republic. The European colonists were the first to call the Duala leaders kings. The first Duala leader to use the title was King Ndumbe Lobe Bell, who succeeded his father Lobé Bébé Bell in 1858 and ruled until 1897. In 1914, King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell was executed for high treason by the Germans, who suppressed the monarchy in the colony they controlled. Under the laws of the current Republic of Cameroon (founded 1960), the reigning prince is considered an auxiliary of the state which he must support at all times. On January 24, 2014 Jean Yves Dieudonné Gaston Eboumbou Douala Manga Bell succeeded his father Prince René Douala Manga Bell.[10][11]

Career[edit]

By the age of sixteen, Kotto was studying acting at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio, and at 19, he made his professional acting debut in Othello. He was a member of the Actors Studio in New York. Kotto got his start in acting on Broadway, where he appeared in The Great White Hope, among other productions.

His film debut was in 1963, aged 23, in an uncredited role in 4 For Texas.[12] He performed in Michael Roemer's Nothing But a Man (1964) and played a supporting role in the caper film The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). He played John Auston, a confused Marine Lance Corporal, in the 1968 episode, "King of the Hill", on the first season of Hawaii Five-O.

In 1973 he landed the role of the James Bond villain Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, as well as roles in Across 110th Street and Truck Turner. Kotto portrayed Idi Amin in the 1977 television film Raid on Entebbe. He starred as an auto worker in the 1978 film Blue Collar. The following year he played Parker in the sci-fihorror film Alien. He followed with a supporting role in the 1980 prison drama Brubaker. In 1983, he guest-starred as mobster Charlie "East Side Charlie" Struthers in The A-Team episode "The Out-of-Towners". In 1987, he appeared in the futuristic sci-fi movie The Running Man, and in 1988, in the action-comedy Midnight Run, in which he portrayed Alonzo Moseley, an FBI agent. A memo from Paramount indicates that Kotto was among those being considered for Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which eventually went to Patrick Stewart.[13]

Kotto acting alongside Leif Erickson in the television series The High Chaparral in 1968

Kotto was cast as a religious man living in the southwestern desert country in the 1967 episode, "A Man Called Abraham", on the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor. In the story line, Abraham convinces a killer named Cassidy (Rayford Barnes) that Cassidy can change his heart despite past crimes. When Cassidy is sent to the gallows, Abraham provides spiritual solace. Bing Russell also appeared in this segment.[14]

Kotto portrayed Lieutenant Al Giardello in the long-running television series Homicide: Life on the Street. He has written two books: Royalty, and The Second Coming of Christ, and also wrote scripts for Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–99). In 2014, he voiced "Parker" for the video game Alien: Isolation, reprising the same role he played in the movie Alien in 1979.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Kotto's first marriage was to a German immigrant, Rita Ingrid Dittman, whom he married in 1959. They had three children together before divorcing in 1976. A week after his divorce, Kotto married Toni Pettyjohn, and also had three children together, before divorcing in 1989.[1] Kotto married his third wife, Tessie Sinahon on July 12, 1998.[16]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1963 4 for Texas Extra Uncredited
1964 Nothing But a Man Jocko
1968 The Thomas Crown Affair Carl
1968 5 Card Stud Little George (Mama's bartender)
1970 The Liberation of L.B. Jones Sonny Boy Mosby
1970 Night Chase Ernie Green
1971 Man and Boy Nate Hodges
1972 Bone Bone
1972 The Limit Mark Johnson Also director
1972 Across 110th Street Lt. Pope
1973 Live and Let Die Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big
1974 Truck Turner Harvard Blue
1975 Report to the Commissioner Richard "Crunch" Blackstone
1975 Sharks' Treasure Ben Flynn
1975 Friday Foster Colt Hawkins
1976 Drum Blaise
1976 The Monkey Hustle Big Daddy Foxx
1976 Crunch Richard "Crunch" Blackstone
1976 Raid on Entebbe President Idi Amin Dada Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1978 Blue Collar Smokey James
1979 Alien Technician Dennis Parker
1980 Othello Othello No Commercial Release
1980 Brubaker Richard 'Dickie' Coombes
1980 Rage! Ernie
1982 A House Divided: Denmark Vessey's Rebellion Denmark Vessey
1982 Fighting Back Ivanhoe Washington
1983 The Star Chamber Det. Harry Lowes
1983 For Love and Honor Sgt. China Bell
1983 Women of San Quentin Sgt. Therman Patterson
1984 Terror in the Aisles Himself
1985 Playing With Fire Fire Chief Walker
1985 Warning Sign Major Connolly
1985 The Park is Mine Eubanks
1985 Badge of the Assassin Det. Cliff Fenton NYPD
1986 Harem Agha Kislar
1986 Eye of the Tiger J. B. Deveraux
1987 Prettykill Harris
1987 Desperado Bede
1987 In Self Defense Lt. Tyrell
1987 Terminal Entry Conl. Styles
1987 The Running Man William Laughlin
1988 Midnight Run FBI Special Agent Alonzo Mosely
1989 The Jigsaw Murders Doctor Filmore
1989 Whisper To A Scream Jules Tallard
1989 Prime Target Gilmore Brown
1989 Ministry of Vengeance Mr. Whiteside
1989 Tripwire Lee Pitt
1990 After the Shock William McElroy
1991 Hangfire Police Lieutenant
1991 Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare Doc
1992 Chrome Soldiers Perry Beach
1993 Extreme Justice Larson
1994 The Puppet Masters Ressler
1995 Out of Sync Quincy
1996 Two If by Sea FBI Agent O'Malley
2000 Homicide: The Movie Al Giardello TV movie
2008 Witless Protection Ricardo Bodi (alias Alonzo Mosley)

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1967 The Big Valley (Death Valley Days) Lobo Brown
Damien
Abraham
Season 2, episode 11: "The Iron Box"
Season 3, episode 15: "The Buffalo Man"
Season 15, episode 26: "A Man Called Abraham"
1968 Bonanza Joshua "Child" Barnett Season 10, episode 2: "Child"
1968 The High Chaparral Sergeant Major Episode 38: "The Buffalo Soldiers"
Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler Award for Best Fictional Television Drama
1968 Daniel Boone Luke Season 5, episode 11: Big, Black and out There
1969 Mannix black jazz musician Gabe Johnson Season 2, episode 18: "Death in a Minor Key"
1969 Hawaii Five-O Marine Lance Corporal John T. Auston Season 1, episode 14: "King of the Hill"
1969 Daniel Boone Jonah Season 5, episode 18: "Jonah"
1970 Gunsmoke Piney Biggs Episode 294: "The Scavengers"
1971 Night Gallery Buckner Season 2, episode 13: "The Messiah on Mott Street"
1977 Roots
1983 The A-Team East-Side Charlie Struthers Series 1 Episode 8 "The Out-0f-Towners" (1983)
1983 For Love and Honor Platoon Sgt. James "China" Bell "The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel" (1987)
1987 Murder, She Wrote Lt. Bradshaw Season 4, Episode 8: "Steal Me a Story" (1987)
1993 seaQuest DSV Captain Jack Clayton Season 1, episode 6: "Treasures of the Tonga Trench"
1993–2000 Homicide: Life on the Street Lieutenant Al Giardello Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (1996-1999)
1994 The Corpse Had a Familiar Face Detective Martin Talbot Television film

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Williams, Monte (January 31, 1994). "The Soul of Diversity". People. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Faxx, Israel (May 6, 1999). "Lt. Giardello Doesn't Skip His Prayers". allbusiness.com. Retrieved January 3, 2016. |archive-url= is malformed: timestamp (help)
  3. ^ a b Zwecker, Bill (March 11, 1997). "Yaphet Kotto tells of royal `link'". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "Yaphet Kotto Biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  5. ^ Crockett, Sandra (February 10, 1993). "Tough act For Yaphet Kotto, seeking softer roles is his life's story". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  6. ^ "Yaphet Kotto Has Jewish Marriage Ceremony". The Tuscaloosa News. July 13, 1998. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  7. ^ Williams, Monte (1994-08-31). "The Soul of Diversity". People. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  8. ^ Bluestein, Gene (1998). Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature. University of Nebraska Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780803219144.
  9. ^ Thomas, Bob (July 17, 1969). "Jewish Negro Actor Lands Broadway Role". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Batamag, Emanuel (January 4, 2013). "Cameroun: qui était Son Altesse Royale le Prince René Douala Manga Bell?". afrik.com (in French). Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  11. ^ Diba, Rita (January 26, 2014). "Un prince régnant officiel au canton Bell". Cameroon Tribune. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Yaphet Kotto Filmography". AllMovie. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  13. ^ Letters of Note: STAR TREK/Casting, lettersofnote.com; August 2010.
  14. ^ "A Man Called Abraham on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Yaphet Kotto on IMDb
  16. ^ Gerhart, Ann; Groer, Annie (July 13, 1998). "Kotto's Repeat Performance". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 27, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]