Ernest Lee Thomas
Ernest Thomas, 2008
Ernest Lee Thomas
March 26, 1949
Gary, Indiana, U.S.
Ernest Lee Thomas (born March 26, 1949) is an American actor.He is best known for his role as Roger "Raj" Thomas on the 1970s ABC sitcom What's Happening!! , and its 1980s syndicated sequel, What's Happening Now!! , and for his recurring role as Mr. Omar on Everybody Hates Chris .
The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Walt Disney Television, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in Burbank, California on Riverside Drive, directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios and adjacent to the Roy E. Disney Animation Building. The network's secondary offices, and headquarters of its news division, is in New York City, New York, at their broadcast center at 77 West 66th Street in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
What's Happening!! is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from August 5, 1976, to April 28, 1979, premiering as a summer series. With good ratings and reviews, and after the failure of several other series on the network, What's Happening!! returned as a weekly series from November 1976 until its April 1979 conclusion; ratings were modest. What's Happening!! was loosely based on the Eric Monte-penned film Cooley High. From 1985 to 1988, a sequel series titled What's Happening Now!! aired in first-run syndication, with most of the major cast members reprising their roles.
What's Happening Now!! is an American sitcom sequel to the original ABC 1976–79 sitcom What's Happening!! focusing on its main characters as adults. It aired in first-run broadcast syndication from September 7, 1985, to March 26, 1988.
Thomas was born in Gary, Indiana and began his professional acting career as a Broadway actor, appearing in the 1974 revival production of Love for Love and in the 1975 revival of The Member of the Wedding . Both shows starred actress Glenn Close. Shortly after he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a TV/film actor. In the fall of 1975 he received a role on an episode of The Jeffersons . It was during the taping of the show that he learned of an audition for the upcoming comedy sitcom What's Happening!! , loosely based on the 1975 film Cooley High . He eventually went on to win the role of Roger "Raj" Thomas on the show, which aired from 1976 to 1979.
Gary is a city in Lake County, Indiana, United States, 25 miles (40 km) from downtown Chicago, Illinois. Gary is adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park and borders southern Lake Michigan. Gary was named after lawyer Elbert Henry Gary, who was the founding chairman of the United States Steel Corporation. The city is known for its large steel mills, and as the birthplace of the Jackson 5 music group.
Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
The Member of the Wedding is a 1946 novel by Southern writer Carson McCullers. It took McCullers five years to complete, although she interrupted the work for a few months to write the novella The Ballad of the Sad Café.
During the show's run, Thomas was involved in other acting film and TV projects including Baretta , Roots , The Brady Bunch Hour and the film A Piece of the Action starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Though the series rated well, What's Happening!! was cancelled after its third season in the early spring of 1979.
Baretta is an American detective television series which ran on ABC from 1975–78.
Roots is an American television miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The series first aired on ABC in January 1977. Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third-highest-rated episode for any type of television series, and the second-most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history. It was produced on a budget of $6.6 million. The series introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte.
The Brady Bunch Hour is an American variety show featuring skits and songs produced by Sid & Marty Krofft Productions in association with Paramount Television that aired on ABC from November 28, 1976 to May 25, 1977.
After a six-year hiatus from TV and film acting, Ernest resumed his role as Roger "Raj" Thomas in the sequel What's Happening Now!! The show aired in first-run syndication from 1985 to 1988.
Ernest Thomas is also one of the stars of rocker/horror movie director Rob Zombie's 2012 film The Lords of Salem in which he plays a local town's radio DJ.
The Lords of Salem is a 2012 American supernatural horror film written, produced and directed by Rob Zombie, and starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, María Conchita Alonso, Andrew Prine, and Meg Foster. The plot focuses on a troubled female disc jockey in Salem, Massachusetts, whose life becomes entangled with a coven of ancient Satan-worshipping women.
Since the show's cancellation Thomas has guest starred on a number of popular TV dramas and sitcoms including In the Heat of the Night , (which co-starred his TV wife Anne-Marie Johnson, from What's Happening Now!!), The Parent 'Hood , Martin (which starred his What's Happening Now!! co-star Martin Lawrence), Soul Food , The Steve Harvey Show , All About the Andersons and more recently Just Jordan . He has also appeared in a number of films, including a supporting role in Malcolm X and a cameo in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star . He later had a recurring role as funeral director, Mr. Omar, on the TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris . He had an uncredited guest spot as Ernest T "Bass" on the TV Show Are We There Yet? It was titled, "The Satchel Paige Episode" and had him playing a Flavor Flav type personality.
In the Heat of the Night is an American drama television series based on the 1967 film and the 1965 novel of the same title. It starred Carroll O'Connor as police chief Bill Gillespie and Howard Rollins as police detective Virgil Tibbs, and was broadcast on NBC from March 6, 1988 until May 19, 1992, then on CBS from October 28, 1992 until May 16, 1995. Its executive producers were Fred Silverman, Juanita Bartlett and O'Connor.
Anne-Marie Johnson is an American actress and impressionist, who has starred in film and on television. She is known for her roles as Nadine Hudson Thomas on What's Happening Now!!, Aileen Lewis on Double Trouble, Althea Tibbs on In the Heat of the Night, and as a cast member on In Living Color during its final season.
The Parent 'Hood is an American sitcom that aired on The WB from January 18, 1995 to July 25, 1999. The series starred Robert Townsend and Suzzanne Douglas. Originally to have been titled Father Knows Nothing, the series was one of the four sitcoms that aired as part of the original Wednesday night two-hour lineup that helped launch The WB network.
He has an eye condition called amblyopia.
George Edward Cole, OBE was an English actor whose career spanned more than 70 years. He was best known for playing Arthur Daley in the long-running ITV comedy-drama show Minder and Flash Harry in the early St Trinian's films.
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Reina King is an American former film and television actress. She began her acting career with the role of Carolyn Williams (1985–1986), the foster child of Roger "Raj" and Nadine Hudson-Thomas on the TV sitcom What's Happening Now!!—a sequel to the popular 1970s TV sitcom What's Happening!!. In 1987, she played Tiffany James in the movie Maid to Order and in 1988, she played actress Alfre Woodard's oldest daughter, Lanell Cooley, in the movie Scrooged. Reina also appeared in one episode of the sitcom 227 in 1988; the same sitcom her sister Regina King starred in as Brenda Jenkins. In 1990, she played Rhonda in the film To Sleep with Anger with Mary Alice. And in 1998, Reina was in the short film A Hollow Place as the mother of Corliss Young.
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