Best known for her performances in shows like the 1970s mini series "Backstairs at the White House" and "Roots," Emmy-winning actress Olivia Cole has died at the age of 75.
Susie Schwarz, Cole's agent at SDB Partners, told The Hollywood Reporter that Cole had died at her house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. As reported by The New York Times, Cole's suffered a heart attack.
Olivia Cole was born Nov. 26, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, and was the only daughter of her parents, who later moved with her to Harlem, New York. She attended the Hunter College High School, Bard College in New York and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
When she returned to the U.S. in 1964, she appeared in the play "Romeo and Juliet," at the American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut.
Cole made her big Broadway stage debut in 1966, in a revival of "The School for Scandal" which was just one of the many stage appearances the actress made during her career. She then landed a gig on the CBS soap opera "Guiding Light" as Deborah Mehren.
Cole was married to the late actor Richard Venture, who died just a month earlier. They met while starring in a play at the Arena Stage, in Washington, D.C.
Venture, while filming the Costa-Gavras drama "Missing" (1982), discovered the town of San Miguel de Allende. The couple got divorced a couple of years later after which Cole, according to Schwarz, lived in Mexico for about 30 years.
For the role of Matlida, the wife of Ben Vereen’s Chicken George and the mother of Georg Stanford Brown’s Tom, on Alex Haley’s "Roots," which was broadcasted on ABC in January 1977 on eight consecutive nights and was watched by an estimated 140 million people, Cole received an Emmy for best supporting actress.
Cole also played the role of a gossipy Miss Sophie on the 1989 miniseries "The Women of Brewster Place" and on a subsequent series that was short-lived, alongside actress Oprah Winfrey.
In the 1979 miniseries, "Backstairs at The White House," which was nine hours long, Cole’s role was a memorable one as Maggie Rogers, the mother of Leslie Uggam’s Lillian Rogers Parks. Over the decades, both the women had been maids for U.S. presidents. Cole received another Emmy nomination for her performance in the series, as an outstanding lead actress in a limited series special, which went on to "establish her with the possible exception of Cicely Tyson, as the finest black dramatic actress in Hollywood," as noted by People magazine in 1979.
Cole also showcased her acting skills when she appeared as Corrine in the best picture Oscar nominee "Coming Home" in 1978, in "Some Kind of Hero" with actor Richard Pryor in 1982, and in James Baldwin’s "Go Tell it on the Mountain" opposite Paul Winfield, in 1984. A more recent role was with actor Ice Cube in "First Sunday" in 2008.
Cole has no known survivors, according to The Hollywood Reporter.