Brock Peters

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Brock Peters
Brock Peters 1961.JPG
Peters, 1961.
Born George Fisher
(1927-07-02)July 2, 1927
Harlem, New York City, New York, U.S.
Died August 23, 2005(2005-08-23) (aged 78)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other names Brock G. Peters
Education High School of Music & Art
City College of New York
Occupation Actor
Years active 1949–2005
Spouse(s) Dolores Daniels
(m. 1961; d. 1989)
Children 1
From To Kill a Mockingbird (film) (1962), Gregory Peck and Brock Peters

Brock Peters or Brock G. Peters (born George Fisher; July 2, 1927 – August 23, 2005) was an American actor, best known for playing the role of Tom Robinson in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird and for his role as "Crown" in the 1959 film version of Porgy and Bess. In later years, he gained recognition among Star Trek fans for his portrayals of Fleet Admiral Cartwright in two of the Star Trek feature films and Joseph Sisko, father of Benjamin Sisko, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He was also notable for his role as Hatcher in Soylent Green.[1] Guest star on 1968 episode "Act of Faith", tv series The Outcasts starring Don Murray & Otis Young.

Early life

Peters was born George Fisher in New York City, the son of Alma A. (née Norford) and Sonnie Fisher, a Senegalese[citation needed] sailor with the French Navy.[1][2] Peters set his sights on a show business career early on, at the age of 10. Avidly encouraged by his mother Alma to pursue a musical career, he studied the violin from 10 to 14 years of age, but found his singing talents were more prodigious and upon enrolling at New York's famed High School of Music & Art, immediately signed up for several productions in the musical theatre program. Upon graduation, Peters initially fielded more odd jobs than acting jobs, often working as a hospital orderly at night while he worked his way through physical education studies at City College of New York (CCNY), but still stayed connected to the burgeoning theatre and creative community in New York, occasionally doing background parts in musical plays like "Black Aida".

After auditioning and landing a spot touring with the Leonard DePaur Infantry Chorus (of which he was a civilian member from 1945 to 1947), however, he officially quit CCNY. Peters often joked that he "grew up" in the chorus, as his vocal range changed from baritone to bass baritone during his years with them. DePaur subsequently gave him the lead in the Chorus' popular rendition of "John Henry" (which became a repertoire mainstay of Peters in later years, singing the work on one of his two solo albums produced by United Artists Records in the 1960s). Peters at that time with the Chorus was still performing under the name of George Fisher, but was encouraged by his agent to change it to something a bit more memorable. Future African American entrepreneur Peter Brock was a childhood friend and as he had always liked the name, Peters merely switched the order and presented the idea to his agent. After auditioning and landing a stage role in the touring company of Porgy and Bess in 1949 on the great contralto Etta Moten's suggestion, he went on tour with the opera, where the opera's statesman as Porgy, William Warfield, commended his performances and requested Peters as his understudy. It was during this time touring in Europe with the opera that celebrated African American actor-singer-activist Paul Robeson saw him in his career-defining role as "Crown" and purportedly declared him "a young Paul Robeson".

Career

Peters with Fess Parker on Daniel Boone in the "Pompey" episode, 1964.

Peters made his film debut in Carmen Jones in 1954, but began to make a name for himself in such films as To Kill a Mockingbird and The L-Shaped Room. He received a Tony nomination for his starring stint in Broadway's Lost in the Stars.

Peters sang background vocals on the 1956 hit "Day-O" by Harry Belafonte, as well as on Belafonte's 1957 hit, "Mama Look a Boo-Boo". He led the chorus at recording sessions for Belafonte's 1956 album Calypso. He also sang on the song "Where" from Randy Weston's 1959 album Live at the Five Spot and shared vocal duties with Martha Flowers on Weston's album of the following year, Uhuru Afrika. During this time, Peters and Belafonte became fast friends, sharing similar political views and approaches to their careers. In 1963, he played Matthew Robinson in Heavens Above, a British satirical-comedy film starring Peter Sellers, directed by John and Roy Boulting. He played a supporting role as the gangster Rodriguez in the 1965 film, The Pawnbroker. He was a special guest star in the third season of The Streets of San Francisco, playing the character "Jacob" in the episode called "Jacob's Boy" (1974).

In the film Abe Lincoln, Freedom Fighter (1978), Peters plays Henry, a freed black slave who is falsely accused of robbery but, defended by Abraham Lincoln, is found not guilty due to the fact he has a damaged hand and could not have committed the crime. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Peters plays Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, whom Atticus Finch shows could not have committed because his hand (and arm) were damaged. In 1970 Peters portrayed the voice of African-American boxer Jack Johnson in Bill Cayton's film of the same name, and it is in this role that he can be heard at the end of Miles Davis' soundtrack album, Jack Johnson, saying: "I'm Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I'm black. They never let me forget it. I'm black all right! I'll never let them forget it!"

Between 1981 and 1996, Peters provided the voice of Darth Vader for the radio adaptation of the original Star Wars trilogy for National Public Radio.[3] He also played the role of a Colonial prosecutor trying to make a murder case against Starbuck in an episode of the original Battlestar Galactica.

He appeared in the films Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as Fleet Admiral Cartwright of Starfleet Command.[4] Peters portrayed Joseph Sisko, father of Deep Space Nine's commanding officer, Benjamin Sisko, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In 1993, he was a member of the jury at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.[5] In early 2005, six months before his death, Peters guest-starred in an episode of JAG during its final season, "Bridging the Gulf", season 10 episode 15. Peters worked with Charlton Heston on several theater productions in the 1940s and 1950s. The two became friends and subsequently worked together on several films, including Major Dundee, Soylent Green, and Two-Minute Warning. He voiced Lucius Fox in several episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and Morris Grant/Soul Power in the animated series Static Shock (2000–2004).

Personal life and death

Peters was once romantically involved with actress Ja'net Dubois.[6] Peters was married to Dolores 'DiDi' Daniels from 1961 until her death in 1989. Their daughter Lisa Jo Peters was born November 3, 1962. Peters delivered the eulogy at Gregory Peck's funeral in 2003. His character, Tom Robinson, was defended by Peck's Atticus Finch in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird.[7][8] He died in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer on August 23, 2005, at the age of 78.[1] Peters is buried in the Revelation section at Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Cemetery, in North Hollywood, CA.

Selected filmography

Other notable performances

References

  1. ^ a b c Mel Watkins (August 24, 2005). "Brock Peters of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Is Dead at 78". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-29. Brock Peters, the versatile film and stage actor, singer and producer who first rose to prominence in the [1960s and 1970s] with his powerful singing voice and poignant screen portrayals of angry, belligerent black men, died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 78. The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his companion, Marilyn Darby, told The Associated Press. ... 
  2. ^ "Brock Peters Biography (1927–2005)". Filmreference.com. 
  3. ^ Robb, Brian J. (2012). A Brief Guide to Star Wars. London: Hachette. ISBN 9781780335834. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Brock Peters Biography". StarTrek.com. CBS Studios. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  5. ^ "Berlinale: 1993 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  6. ^ JET Magazine - November 12, 1959
  7. ^ Rubin, Joel; Hoffman, Alice (June 17, 2003). "Peck Memorial Honors Beloved Actor and Man". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 15, 2015. 
  8. ^ McLaughlin, Katie (February 3, 2012). "'Mockingbird' film at 50: Lessons on tolerance, justice, fatherhood hold true". CNN. Retrieved June 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Brock Peters Is Chosen For Role in 'Pawnbroker'". New York Times. September 24, 1963. Retrieved 2015-01-29. 

External links

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