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|Education||Illinois State University|
|Alma mater||Austin High School|
(m. 1990;div. 2001)
|Children||3; including Skylar Townsend|
Robert Townsend (born February 6, 1957) is an American actor, director, comedian, and writer.Townsend is best known for directing the films Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Eddie Murphy Raw (1987), The Meteor Man (1993), The Five Heartbeats (1991) and various other films and stand-up specials. He is especially known for his eponymous self-titled character, Robert Peterson as the starring role as on The WB sitcom The Parent 'Hood (1995–1999), a series which he created and of which directed select episodes. Townsend is also known for his role as Donald "Duck" Matthews in his 1991 film The Five Heartbeats. He later wrote, directed and produced Making The Five Heartbeats (2018), a documentary film about the production process and behind the scenes insight into creating the film. Townsend is also known for his production company Townsend Entertainment which has produced films Playin' for Love , In the Hive and more. During the 1980s and early–1990s, Townsend gained national exposure through his stand-up comedy routines and appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson . Townsend has worked with talent including Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman, Chris Tucker, Beyoncé, Denzel Washington and many more.
Townsend was born in Chicago, Illinois, the second of four childrento Shirley (née Jenkins) and Ed Townsend. His mother ended up raising him and his three siblings as a single parent. Growing up on the city's west side, Townsend attended Austin High School; graduating in 1975. He became interested in acting as a teenager. During a reading of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex in high school, Townsend captured the attention of Chicago’s X Bag Theatre, The Experimental Black Actors Guild. Townsend later auditioned for parts at Chicago's Experimental Black Actors' Guild and performed in local plays studying at the famed Second City comedy workshop for improvisation in 1974. Townsend had a brief uncredited role in the 1975 movie Cooley High .
After high school, Townsend enrolled at Illinois State University, studied a year and later moved to New York to study at the Negro Ensemble Company. Townsend's mother believed that he should complete his college education, but he felt that college took time away from his passion for acting, and he soon dropped out of school to pursue his acting career full-time.
Townsend auditioned to be part of Saturday Night Live's 1980–1981 cast, but was rejected in favor of Eddie Murphy. In 1982, Townsend appeared as one of the main characters in the PBS series Another Page, a program produced by Kentucky Educational Television that taught literacy to adults through serialized stories. Townsend later appeared in small parts in films like A Soldier's Story (1984), directed by Norman Jewison, and after its success garnered much more substantial parts in films like The Mighty Quinn (1989) with Denzel Washington.
In 1987, Townsend wrote, directed and produced Hollywood Shuffle, a satire based on the hardships and obstacles that black actors undergo in the film industry. The success of his first project helped him establish himself in the industry.Another of his films was The Five Heartbeats based on 1960s R&B male groups and the tribulations of the music industry. Townsend created and produced two television variety shows—the CableACE award–winning Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime for HBO, and the Fox Television variety show Townsend Television (1993). He also created and starred in the WB Network's sitcom The Parent 'Hood which originally ran from January 1995 to July 1999. In 2018, Townsend also directed 2 episodes for the B.E.T. Series American Soul which began airing in 2019. The show is about Don Cornelius and Soul Train . Townsend was programming director at the Black Family Channel, but the network folded in 2007. Townsend created The Robert Townsend Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to introduce and help new unsigned filmmakers.
Townsend directed the 2001 TV movie, Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story for which Cole won the NAACP Image Award as Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Townsend also directed two television movies in 2001 and 2002 respectively, Carmen: A Hip Hopera and 10,000 Black Men Named George . In 2013 Townsend was nominated for an Ovation Award in the category of "Lead Actor in a Musical" for his role as Dan in the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts production of Next to Normal .
Townsend was married to Cheri Jonesfrom September 15, 1990, to August 9, 2001. Together they have two daughters, Sierra and Skylar (Skye Townsend), both entertainers, and a son, Isiah.
|Cooley High||1975||Basketball player seen in the gym room (uncredited)|
|The Monkey Hustle||1976||Musician|
|Streets of Fire||1984||Lester - The Sorels|
|A Soldier's Story||1984||Cpl. Ellis|
|Hollywood Shuffle||1987||Bobby Taylor (Director/Producer/Writer)|
|Eddie Murphy Raw||1987||(Director)|
|The Mighty Quinn||1989||Maubee|
|The Five Heartbeats||1991||Donald "Duck" Matthews (Director/Producer/Writer)|
|Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime||1991||(Producer/Performer)|
|The Meteor Man||1993||Jefferson Reed/Meteor Man (Director/Producer/Writer)|
|The Parent 'Hood||1995–1999||Robert Peterson (Co-Creator)|
|Up, Up and Away||2000||Jim Marshall/Bronze Eagle (Director)|
|Carmen: A Hip Hopera||2001||(Director)|
|Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story||2001||(Director)|
|10,000 Black Men Named George||2002||(Director)|
|I Was a Teenage Faust||2002||Mr. Five|
|Black Listed||2003||Alan Chambers (Director)|
|Of Boys and Men||2008||Holden Cole|
|In the Hive||2012||(Director)|
|Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire||2012||Vampire Actor #1 (voice)|
|Bill Cosby 77||2014||(Director)|
|Playin' for Love||2015||(Director/Performer/Producer)|
|Making The Five Heartbeats||2018||(Director)|
Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. is an American actor, director, and producer. He has been described as an actor who reconfigured "the concept of classic movie stardom", associating with characters defined by their grace, dignity, humanity, and inner strength. He has received seventeen NAACP Image Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, one Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for playing Union Army soldier Private Trip in the historical drama film Glory (1989), and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in the crime thriller Training Day (2001). In 2020, The New York Times ranked him as the greatest actor of the 21st century.
Edward Allen Harris is an American actor, producer, director, and screenwriter. His performances in Apollo 13 (1995), The Truman Show (1998), Pollock (2000) and The Hours (2002) earned him critical acclaim in addition to Academy Award nominations. Harris has appeared in several leading and supporting roles, such as in Knightriders (1981), Creepshow (1982), The Right Stuff (1983), The Abyss (1989), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), The Firm (1993), Nixon (1995), The Rock (1996), Stepmom (1998), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Enemy at the Gates (2001), A History of Violence (2005), Gone Baby Gone (2007), Snowpiercer (2013), Pain & Gain (2013), Run All Night (2015) and Mother! (2017). In addition to directing Pollock, Harris also directed the western Appaloosa (2008).
Robert John Odenkirk is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer. He is best known for his role as lawyer Saul Goodman on the AMC crime drama series Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul, for which he received four nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He is also known for the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David, which he co-created and starred in with fellow comic and friend David Cross.
Keenen Ivory Desuma Wayans Sr. is an American actor, comedian, filmmaker, and a member of the Wayans family of entertainers. He first came to prominence as the host and the creator of the 1990–1994 Fox sketch comedy series In Living Color. He has produced, directed and/or written several films, starting with Hollywood Shuffle, which he cowrote, in 1987.
Carmen: A Hip Hopera is a 2001 American made-for-television drama musical romance film produced by MTV and directed by Robert Townsend. The film stars Beyoncé Knowles in her debut acting role, Mekhi Phifer, Mos Def, Rah Digga, Wyclef Jean, Da Brat, Joy Bryant, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Jermaine Dupri and Lil' Bow Wow. It is based upon the 1875 opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac. The film is set in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in modern times and features a mostly original hip-hop/R&B score in place of Bizet's opera.
Robert Conrad was an American film and television actor, singer, and stuntman. He is best known for his role in the 1965–1969 television series The Wild Wild West, playing the sophisticated Secret Service agent James T. West. He portrayed World War II ace Pappy Boyington in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep. In addition to acting, he was a singer and recorded several pop/rock songs in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Bob Conrad. He hosted a weekly two-hour national radio show on CRN Digital Talk Radio beginning in 2008.
Leon Preston Robinson, usually credited as simply Leon, is an American actor and singer, who began his professional career as a film actor in the early 1980s. Robinson is best known for his roles as David Ruffin in the TV Movie The Temptations (1998), J.T. Matthews in the 1991 Robert Townsend film The Five Heartbeats, Derice Bannock in the 1993 film Cool Runnings, Shep in the 1994 basketball drama film Above the Rim, and Little Richard in the 2000 film Little Richard.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka is a 1988 American blaxploitation parody film written, directed by, and starring Keenen Ivory Wayans in his feature film directorial debut. Featured in the film are several noteworthy African-American actors who were part of the genre of blaxploitation: Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, and Isaac Hayes. Other actors in the film are Kadeem Hardison, Ja'net Dubois, John Witherspoon, Damon Wayans, Clarence Williams III, and Chris Rock. The film is also the film debut of comedian Robin Harris, who appears as a bartender.
William Henry Duke Jr. is an American actor, film director, producer, and screenwriter. Known for his physically imposing frame, Duke works primarily in the action and crime drama genres, but occasionally appears in comedy. Frequently a character actor, he has starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando and Predator, and has appeared in films like American Gigolo, No Man's Land, Bird on a Wire, Menace II Society, Exit Wounds, Payback, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Mandy. In television, he is best known as Agent Percy Odell in Black Lightning. He often plays characters related to law enforcement.
The Five Heartbeats is a 1991 musical drama film directed by Robert Townsend, who co-wrote the script with Keenen Ivory Wayans. Produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film's main cast includes Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon Robinson, Harry J. Lennix, Tico Wells, Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers, and Diahann Carroll. The plot of the film follows the three decade career of the rhythm and blues vocal group The Five Heartbeats. The film depicts the rise and fall of a Motown inspired soul act through the eyes of one of the Heartbeats, Donald "Duck" Matthews.
John Weatherspoon, better known as John Witherspoon, was an American actor and comedian who performed in various television shows and films.
Franklyn Ajaye is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and writer. His nickname is "The Jazz Comedian" for his distinctive jazz-inflected style of delivery, timing, and astute use of silence. He released a series of comedy albums starting in 1973 and has acted in film and television shows from the 1970s through the present, including as a primary character in the 1976 ensemble comedy Car Wash and a supporting role in the Sam Peckinpah-directed Convoy (1978).
Hollywood Shuffle is a 1987 American satirical comedy film about the racial stereotypes of African Americans in film and television. The film tracks the attempts of Bobby Taylor to become a successful actor and the mental and external roadblocks he encounters, represented through a series of interspersed vignettes and fantasies. Produced, directed, and co-written by Robert Townsend, the film is semi-autobiographical, reflecting Townsend's experiences as a black actor when he was told he was not "black enough" for certain roles.
Roy Fegan is an American actor, producer, director and president of 3inaRo Entertainment. He is best known for his role as Simon Caine in the 1993 film The Meteor Man.
Denzel Washington is an American actor who made his feature film debut in Carbon Copy (1981). In 1982, Washington made his first appearance in the medical drama St. Elsewhere as Dr. Philip Chandler. The role proved to be the breakthrough in his career. He starred as Private First Class Melvin Peterson in the drama A Soldier's Story (1984). The film was an adaptation of the Off-Broadway play A Soldier's Play (1981–1983) in which Washington had earlier portrayed the same character. In 1987, he played Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist in the Richard Attenborough-directed drama Cry Freedom, for which he received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Two years later, Washington won the award for playing Trip, a former slave-turned-soldier in Civil War film Glory (1989). In 1990, he played the title character in the play The Tragedy of Richard III, and starred in Spike Lee's comedy-drama Mo' Better Blues. Washington received the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival, for playing the eponymous civil rights activist in Lee's Malcolm X (1992).
Don McGuire was an American actor, director, screenwriter, and producer known for his roles such as playing Congo Bill from DC Comics in the 1948 Congo Bill serial.
Lydia Nicole is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer based out of Los Angeles, California. Her career in the entertainment industry began in 1972 with the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation at New York City R&B station, WBLS-FM. In 1981, she made her debut as an actress guest starring on The Greatest American Hero. Nicole is best known for her role as Rafaela in Stand and Deliver, and her current project, web series Common Sense Mamita.
Townsend Entertainment is an American entertainment company, involved primarily in the production of films and television programs. Townsend Entertainment was founded by actor, producer, director and writer Robert Townsend. Its headquarters are located in Beverly Hills, California.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a 2020 American drama film directed by George C. Wolfe and written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. The film, and its source play, focus on Ma Rainey, an influential blues singer, and dramatizes a recording session in 1927 Chicago.
African American cinema dates to the early years of American cinema. Segregation and discrimination were major factors that impacted the American film industry. African Americans in film were frequently depicted according to bigoted stereotypes and caricatured. Black actors in dramatic films were often relegated to bit parts such as maids and nannies for women and natives or servants for men. African American production companies and independent film companies producing movies with African American casts for African American audiences provided greater opportunities. Some of the major studios also made films with African American casts for African American audiences.