Clarence Gilyard

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Clarence Gilyard
Gilyard in 2018
Clarence Darnell Gilyard Jr.

(1955-12-24) December 24, 1955 (age 65)
Other namesClarence A. Gilyard
Education California State University, Dominguez Hills (BA)
Southern Methodist University (MFA)
OccupationUniversity professor, actor, author
Years active1981–2005
Spouse(s)Elena (second wife; 2001–present)

Clarence Darnell Gilyard Jr. [1] (born December 24, 1955) [1] is an American university professor, actor, and author who has been featured in movies, television and regional theatre since 1980. He is sometimes credited as Clarence A. Gilyard.


Gilyard is known for his roles as second private investigator and right-hand man Conrad McMasters to Ben Matlock (played by Andy Griffith) on the legal drama series Matlock from 1989 to 1993; Pastor Bruce Barnes in the Left Behind movie trilogy; Cordell Walker's (played by Chuck Norris) Texas Ranger partner, James "Jimmy" Trivette, in the 1990s crime drama Walker, Texas Ranger ; Theo, the terrorist computer expert in Die Hard ; and Lieutenant (junior grade) Marcus "Sundown" Williams in Top Gun .

Early life and education

Gilyard was born into a military family in Moses Lake, Washington, on Christmas Eve, in 1955, the son of Barbara and Clarence Gilyard, Sr., a U.S. Air Force officer. Gilyard is the second of six children. [1] His family was originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but Gilyard grew up on Air Force bases in Hawaii, Texas, and Florida. Raised primarily as a Lutheran, he became Catholic in the 1990s. [1] [2] [3]

During his young adulthood, Gilyard lived in the San Bernardino suburb of Rialto, California, and attended Eisenhower High School. He was an excellent student, graduating in 1974, and afterward spent a year as an Air Force Academy cadet before leaving the service to attend Sterling College. [4] In college, he played football, and became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He also received a tennis scholarship, but dropped out of school before completing his studies.

While living with his parents in high school, Gilyard was preoccupied with women, alcohol, and occasionally, drugs. [1] His parents urged him to move out, so he relocated to Long Beach, California, with a friend. He attended California State University, Long Beach, majoring in acting, and worked as a waiter while seeking acting opportunities. He completed his bachelor's degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills. [5] [6]

Gilyard worked with a housemate at a clothing store, where he was promoted to manager. He left this to work briefly selling industrial chemicals. [1] In 2003, Gilyard returned to school, receiving a master of fine arts in theatre performance at Southern Methodist University.


In 1979, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. Among other work, a role in the play Bleacher Bums made him what one magazine called "the first black actor to play a cheerleader", [1] before he segued into television roles. As a character actor, Gilyard has made guest appearances on TV shows such as Diff'rent Strokes , The Facts of Life , 227 , Simon & Simon , and Riptide . In 1982–1983, Gilyard was cast in the final season of the NBC TV series CHiPs as Officer Benjamin Webster, opposite Erik Estrada. He co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 1984 NBC sitcom The Duck Factory. He appeared in a commercial for McDonald's in 1987.[ citation needed ]

Gilyard's movie debut in 1986 was as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer, Lt. (jg) Marcus "Sundown" Williams, in Top Gun. He was also a military man in the 1986 film The Karate Kid Part II . He appeared in the 1988 action film Die Hard as Theo, a computer expert and thief. He also appeared as Reverend Bruce Barnes Left Behind: The Movie and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force .

He played the role of Ben Matlock's private investigator, Conrad McMasters, on Matlock, opposite Andy Griffith, from 1989 to 1993. He replaced Kene Holliday, who was fired for his dependency on drugs and alcohol. Gilyard appeared in almost every Matlock episode during his first three seasons on the show. When the show moved from NBC to ABC for the series' seventh season, production moved from Los Angeles to Wilmington, North Carolina. Andy Griffith suggested to Gilyard that he move there, too, which he did, before departing to work on a pilot for another series at CBS the following year.

In 1993, he began another long-time co-starring role opposite Chuck Norris on Walker, Texas Ranger. Gilyard portrayed fellow Texas Ranger and best friend of Walker, James "Jimmy" Trivette. Near the end of the series, Norris' character married his longtime girlfriend, an assistant district attorney, while Gilyard's character was given a girlfriend. Gilyard had a cameo appearance in the 2005 television movie, Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire.

In 2012, after taking time off to teach, Gilyard began appearing onscreen again, mostly in independent projects. In 2014, he appeared in the religious film A Matter of Faith.

On January 17, 2016, Gilyard performed the role of Hoak Colburn onstage at the University of New Mexico's Popejoy Hall in the Neil Simon Festival's Driving Miss Daisy , opposite his former Walker, Texas Ranger co-star, Sheree J. Wilson. [7]

In the 2018 edition of the football video game Madden NFL , Gilyard plays high-school coach Devin Wade in the "Longshot" section of the game. Two years later, Gilyard reprised his role as criminal gang-member Theo from Die Hard, alongside star Bruce Willis, in a commercial for Advance Auto Parts' DieHard brand of car batteries. [8]

He is an associate professor in the College of Fine Arts – Department of Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. [5]

Personal life

Gilyard serves as the consultant of the communications committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He has been married twice and has five children. His second wife, Elena, and he have been married since 2001. [1]



1986 Top Gun Sundown
The Karate Kid Part II G.I. #1
1987 Off the Mark James B. White
1988 Die Hard Theo
2000 Left Behind: The Movie Bruce Barnes
2002 Left Behind II: Tribulation Force
2012Little MonstersBen Foreman
2013From AboveJeremiah Ward
2014 A Matter of Faith Professor Portland
2015The TrackPsychiatrist
2016The BeastAuguste Porter
The SectorReverend Raines
2019The Perfect RaceCoach Michaels
TBAThe DriverLee StaplesFilming


1981 Diff'rent Strokes Frank Simpson / The Student2 episodes
1982 Making the Grade N/AEpisode: Teach Me Tonight
1982–1983 CHiPs Officer Benjamin Webster20 episodes
1983 The Kid with the 200 I.Q. N/ATV Movie
1984 Things Are Looking Up Clement McCallister
The Duck Factory Roland Culp13 episodes
Riptide William CollinsEpisode: It's a Vial Sort of Business
1985Solomon's UniverseCaseyTV Movie
1986 Simon & Simon Wally StokesEpisode: A.W.O.L.
1987 227 Harold BaileyEpisode: Matchmakers
The Facts of Life MattEpisode: The More the Marrier
1989 L.A. Takedown Mustafa JacksonTV Movie
1989–1993 Matlock Conrad McMasters 85 episodes
1990 The Great Los Angeles Earthquake Roy BryantTV Movie
1993-2001 Walker, Texas Ranger James Trivette 196 episodes
1994 Walker Texas Ranger 3: Deadly Reunion TV Movie
1999 Sons of Thunder Episode: Flighting Back
2005 Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire TV Movie
2018Christmas on the CoastFletcher ReeseTV Movie
TBAEleanor's BenchReginaldTV Movie; Filming


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  2. "Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Junior)". Archived from the original on 2008-06-04.
  3. Pattison, Mark (2005-06-10). "Actor Gilyard finds Catholicism is role for a lifetime". The Tidings . Archived from the original on 2011-04-10. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  4. "Clarence Gilyard Biography – Yahoo! Movies".
  5. 1 2 "Clarence Gilyard, M.F.A." University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  6. "Clarence Gilyard: Professor, Stage & Screen Acting/ Film". University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  7. "The Neil Simon Festival's Driving Miss Daisy". Popejoy Hall, The University of New Mexico: Popejoy Presents. Archived from the original on March 4, 2015.
  8. Ramos, Dino-Ray (October 18, 2020). "Bruce Willis Reprises His Role As John McClane In Commercial For Die Hard…Car Batteries". Deadline Hollywood . Retrieved October 19, 2020.