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Groundbreaking Actor Earle Hyman Dies At 91

Groundbreaking Actor Earle Hyman Dies At 91  Promo Image

A veteran actor of stage and screen who was most famous for his role on "The Cosby Show," has died.

Earle Hyman was 91.

He died on Nov. 17 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, the Daily Mail reports.

Jordan Strohl, a representative for The Actors Fund, confirmed the news.

On "The Cosby Show," Hyman played Russell Huxtable, the father to Bill Cosby's Cliff Huxtable, and the grandfather to Cliff's children. 

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He appeared in 40 episodes over the show's nine-season run and earned a guest performer Emmy nomination for the role in 1986.

His television work also included soap operas, police dramas, and made-for-TV movies, but it was in the theatre where Hyman spent most of his career, notes The New York Times.

Breaking racial stereotypes, Hyman made his Broadway debut as a teenager in 1943, and was a charter member of the American Shakespeare Theatre.

Like many black American actors and musicians of the day, he found more employment opportunities in Europe than in his home country.

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He lived and worked in England for five years, where he performed 13 roles in 10 Shakespeare plays, including the lead in a televised "Hamlet." 

But Scandinavia is where he spent most of his professional life, arriving in Norway in 1957. "The first time I stepped on that soil I fell in love with it," he told The Associated Press in 1988. "I felt I'd been there before."

He became fluent in Norwegian and Danish, and performed in Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm in plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen and O'Neill.

In a 1991 interview with The New York Times, he spoke about the difference of being a black stage actor in Europe as opposed to the United States:

It used to be that casting black actors in traditionally white roles seemed daring, like marching in the street, and maybe things have gotten better and maybe they haven't. ... But just the fact that people still ask that question -- should we or shouldn't we? -- proves that things have not come a long way. In Norway, where I have performed for three decades, I have played a Norwegian archbishop and no one has raised a question. Here I am almost 65 years old and I'm still saying that all roles should be available to all actors of talent, regardless of race. Why should I be deprived of seeing a great black actress play Hedda Gabler?

His highbrow stage experience was often utilized on "The Cosby Show," where he would recite Shakespeare while giving sage advice to his son and grandchildren.

He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in New York in 1997.

Sources: Daily Mail, The New York Times / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Getty Images via Daily Mail, NBC/Getty Images via Daily Mail

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