It is with heavy hearts that we report television actor and theater great Earle Hyman passed away* November 17th, 2017, at the age of 91. Hyman was born October 11th, 1926 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, of African-American and Native American ancestry. Hyman’s parents, Zachariah Hyman (Tuscarora) and Maria Lilly Plummer (Haliwa-Saponi/Nottoway), moved their family to Brooklyn, New York, where Hyman primarily grew up.
According to an interview in The Villager, Hyman’s interest in theater started at the age of 13 after seeing a production of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. Hyman stated,
“The first play I ever saw was a present from my parents on my 13th birthday — Nazimova in ‘Ghosts’ at Brighton Beach on the subway circuit — and I just freaked out.”
Hyman would go on to make his Broadway stage debut as a teenager in 1943 in Run, Little Chillun, and later joined the American Negro Theater. The following year, Hyman began a two-year run playing the role of Rudolf on Broadway in Anna Lucasta, starring Hilda Simms in the title role. He became a charter member of the American Shakespeare Theatre beginning with its first season in 1955 and played the role of Othello in the 1957 season. Throughout his career, he continued to take on challenging characters playing side by side with great likes Andy Griffith (No Time for Sergeants 1958) and Luther Adler (The Merchants of Venice 1973). It was in 1980 when Hyman would get his shot at the lead, playing Oscar in The Lady from Dubuque, earning a Tony Award Nomination for Best Featured Actor.
His career on Broadway would span nearly 50 years with a total of 16 productions to his name with his work earning him a Theater World Award in 1965, and the 1988 St. Olav Award for his work in Norweigan Theater, a language for which he is also fluent.
In the television world his career spanned nearly 60 years with his first credited work being Look up and Live in 1954; Throughout the years he would continue playing various small screen roles including adaptions of Macbeth (1968), Julius Caesar (1979), and Coriolanus (1979).
However, He is best known for his role on the iconic sitcom The Cosby Show, where he played Russell Huxtable, father to Heathcliffe Huxtable played by Bill Cosby. His work garnered him a 1986 Primetime Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series.” During this time, he also did work for the animated series “Thundercats,” where he played the voice of Pantho for five seasons.
Hyman is also related to the iconic singer and Broadway actress, the late Phyllis Hyman (Sophisticated Ladies 1981) and rising recording artist/actress Myriam Hyman (@Robynhoodmusic)
R.I.P. Earle Hyman (Best Featured Actor nominee @thetonyawards 1980 for ‘The Lady from Dubuque’) #YouAreBroadwayBlack • With over 15 Broadway credits to his name Earle Hyman was an American stage, TV, & film actor most notably known for his role on The Cosby Show as Cliff’s father, Russell Huxtable as well as the voice of Panthro on Thundercats. He made his Broadway debut in 1943 in ‘Run, Little Chillun’ & would later join the American Negro Theatre. Born October 11th, 1926 we honor his life and the contributions he made with his stellar craft. (Relation to music legend Phyllis Hyman & rising star @robynhoodmusic Miriam A. Hyman)
*We received this news shortly after his passing on the early morning of November 17th from a few close, reliable sources who reached out to us. Out of respect for his family & those who loved him personally we held the information until today.