By Carter Higgins –Blackdoctor.org
Despite the fact that he is only 11 years older than Bill Cosby, actor Earle Hyman, 87, portrayed Cliff’s father Russell (Grand Huxtable) on “The Cosby Show.” Hyman earned an Emmy nomination for the role in in 1986. He hasn’t acted since 2001.
Not many of us would have known that Earle was also fascinated with the culture of Norway, spoke the language fluently, owned property there and actually spent much of his time in parts of the country. He first appeared there on stage in the 1950’s, and in the 90’s, he starred in a Norwegian television sitcom. Plus, he is the first cousin once removed of singer Phyllis Hyman.
When asked about his 65+ year career he simply says, “I feel very grateful. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything in the world. I loved it.”
That career stated for him at a very young age. “I wanted to become an actor at the age of four in church. I was asked to learn a little poem for the Christmas pageant and when I did and finished it, people stood up and applauded and I said ‘woo, I like that.’ Then in the same play, my mother played the virgin Mary. But when she passed me, she didn’t look at me, didn’t say anything to me. At that moment, I saw that she wasn’t my mother anymore, she was ‘Mary’ in the play. That’s when I began to see the magic of acting.”
But it was when his parents moved him to Brooklyn was when his love for acting really took off. Earle’s mother was a teacher and his father was a principal. They moved from North Carolina to New York for better educational opportunities for African Americans.
During the summers, Earle would occasionally go back to the small town in North Carolina. There was no library for Blacks when he left, but upon returning one summer, he found they had a built a community center with a library in it for African Americans. “I went into the library and asked the librarian, ‘What’s the biggest book you have?’ and she said ‘Well, I guess that would have to be the complete works of Williams Shakespere’. And from there I was hooked.”
“I never stopped learning getting my self deeper into whater role I played or script I read. I did my homework. Just like if you’re a doctor, or lawyer…
…, you study on what’s the latest and how you be the best ‘you’ than you can. That’s how you get better. That’s how you last.”
That thirst for knowledge of his craft began his 65+ year career as a 17-year-old extra in Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend. And the rest, as they say, is history.
He even took that love for growth when he was hired as the voice of the iconic action cartoon series, Thundercats, as the voice of Panthro, the mechanical engineer, strongarm of the group. The show had legions of fans worldwide with Panthro being one of the fan favorites.
“I loved doing it because I love cats. I’m passionate about cats… They taught me a great deal about acting—about relaxation, not giving too much, about so much.”
Here’s to the magic of acting and the man who showed us that magic time and time again.