Roger Robinson, who won a 2009 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance as Bynum Walker in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, passed away September 26 in Escondido, California, due to heart complications. He was 78.
Mr. Robinson, born May 2, 1940, in Seattle, Washington, moved to Los Angeles in 1959 before joining the United States Navy the following year. He did his military basic training at the San Diego Naval Base; upon completion he was sent to the Naval School of Music and then joined the third Naval District Band in Brooklyn, New York, where he played the oboe and tenor saxophone.
It was during this time when he began studying acting with Lloyd Richards, who would later direct him on Broadway in another Wilson work: Seven Guitars. In 1963, while still in the Navy, he was hired for the role of a soldier in the Off-Broadway play A Walk in Darkness, marking his New York professional debut. Upon his discharge from active duty, he took an acting job in a summer stock theatre based in Cape May, New Jersey.
Mr. Robinson made his Broadway debut in 1969 in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? Other Broadway appearances included The Miser, Amen Corner, The Iceman Cometh, and the aforementioned Seven Guitars, which garnered him his first Tony nomination. He subsequently starred in Drowning Crow, and in 2009, he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for the revival of Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
He appeared in over 30 Off-Broadway plays and played the role of Becker in London's National Theatre production of Wilson's Jitney; his final stage performance was in the Off-Broadway production of Some Old Black Man.
Mr. Robinson was the first African American to receive the Richard Seff Award, presented annually by Actors' Equity Foundation to an actor 50 years of age or older for a performance in a supporting role in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production.
Mr. Robinson's numerous screen credits include King, Kojak, Ironside, Starsky and Hutch, The Jeffersons, A Man Called Hawk, Law & Order, New York Undercover, Homicide: Life on the Street, ER, NYPD Blue, Kate Brasher, Rubicon, How to Get Away with Murder, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Elementary, Believe in Me, Newman's Law, Meteor, Wedding Daze, and Brother to Brother, which won him the LA Outfest Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film and a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award.
Mr. Robinson, who recently completed work on the independent film Foreclosure, is survived by his sister Tina Robinson. Celebrations of his life are currently being planned to take place in Los Angeles and New York.