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Robert Townsend

Robert Townsend

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: February 6, 1957 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: actor, director, producer, comedian, screenwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Multi-talented figure who graduated from stand-up comedy to eilm, making his screen acting debut in Paul Mazursky's "Willie and Phil" (1980) and contributing a fine dramatic performance in "A Soldier's Story" (1984). Frustrated at the dearth of significant screen roles for blacks, Townsend scraped together some $100,000 (putting most of it on his assortment of credit cards) to produce, direct, write and star in his witty lampoon of the travails of an aspiring minority actor, "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987). His subsequent credits include Eddie Murphy's concert movie, "Raw" (1987), several cable TV comedy shows and "The Five Heartbeats" (1991), a somewhat old-fashioned show biz comedy-drama about a rhythm and blues singing group set in the 1960s. In interviews, Townsend has decried the anger and negativism that he believes characterizes too much of contemporary black filmmaking. Raised in inner-city Chicago, he sought escape through the films of Frank Capra. This sunny sensibility in the face of adversity characterized "The Meteor Man" (1993), an urban fairy tale about a mild mannered school teacher who is transformed into a crime-fighting superhero. The film contained no profanity or explicit...

Multi-talented figure who graduated from stand-up comedy to eilm, making his screen acting debut in Paul Mazursky's "Willie and Phil" (1980) and contributing a fine dramatic performance in "A Soldier's Story" (1984).

Frustrated at the dearth of significant screen roles for blacks, Townsend scraped together some $100,000 (putting most of it on his assortment of credit cards) to produce, direct, write and star in his witty lampoon of the travails of an aspiring minority actor, "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987). His subsequent credits include Eddie Murphy's concert movie, "Raw" (1987), several cable TV comedy shows and "The Five Heartbeats" (1991), a somewhat old-fashioned show biz comedy-drama about a rhythm and blues singing group set in the 1960s.

In interviews, Townsend has decried the anger and negativism that he believes characterizes too much of contemporary black filmmaking. Raised in inner-city Chicago, he sought escape through the films of Frank Capra. This sunny sensibility in the face of adversity characterized "The Meteor Man" (1993), an urban fairy tale about a mild mannered school teacher who is transformed into a crime-fighting superhero. The film contained no profanity or explicit violence--and fizzled at the box office.

Townsend returned to series TV in 1993 with the short-lived variety series "Townsend Television" (Fox). He scored slightly better with his next effort, the likeable yet unspectacular sitcom "The Parent 'Hood" (1995-99) on the fledgling The WB network. Townsend (who also co-executive produced) played a college professor coping with raising four children in Manhattan.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  In the Hive (2012)
4.
5.
6.
  Hip Hopera: Carmen (2001) Director
7.
  Little Richard (2000) Director
8.
  Holiday Heart (2000) Director
10.
  Love Songs (1999) Director ("A Love Song For Jean And Ellis")

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Playin' for Love (2016)
2.
 Kingdom Come (2012)
3.
 Of Boys and Men (2008)
5.
 I Was A Teenage Faust (2002) Mr. Five
6.
 Undercover Brother (2002) Mr. Ub
7.
 Love Songs (1999) Champ ("A Love Song For Champ")
8.
 Jackie's Back! (1999)
9.
 Joseph's Gift (1998)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Worked with Experimental Black Actors Guild in Chicago at age 16
1974:
Film debut (bit part) in "Cooley High"
:
Stand-up comic with Second City and at NY's Improvisation
1979:
New York stage debut in "Take It from the Top" at the Henry Street Settlement
1979:
Early TV movie appearance in the CBS docudrama, "Women at West Point"
1980:
Film acting debut in "Willie and Phil"
1987:
First film as director-writer-producer "Hollywood Shuffle" (also star)
1990:
Purchased Hollywood Professional School and renamed it Tinsel Townsend Studios to turn into a mini-studio (date approximate)
1993:
Executive produced, hosted, and wrote for "Townsend Television", a variety series on Fox
1995:
Co-starred in and co-executive produced "The Parent 'Hood" (The WB)
1998:
Hosted the syndicated weekly series "Mowtown Live"
2000:
Directed the NBC biopic "The Little Richard Story"
2000:
Helmed the TV biopic "The Natalie Cole Story" (NBC)
2001:
Was director of the MTV special "Carmen: A Hip Hopera"
2008:
Appeared in "Of Boys and Men"
2009:
Was the executive producer of "Diary of a Single Mom"
2013:
Directed "Playin' for Love"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

William Patterson College: Wayne , New Jersey -
Illinois State University: Normal , Illinois -
Hunter College: New York , New York -
Negro Ensemble Company: New York , New York -
Second City Comedy Workshop: Chicago , Illinois -

Notes

"I didn't want to put my name on anything that would suggest to my audience that I was selling out. Hollywood grinds out dispossable movies geared for one good weekend before they die. As Costner showed us, if you want quality roles, you have to create them yourself...."Studios are justifiably nervous when a comedian tries to get serious. History is full of horror stories about those that failed. But I'm still a baby creatively. I refuse to be put in a box. This wasn't going to be "Hollywood Shuffle" with music."--Robert Townsend on "The Five Heartbeats" ("Los Angeles Times", March 29, 1991)

"Some of the things that these black film makers, writers, directors do, if a white person did it, they would be crucified. I'm supposed to look up at the screen and go: 'Oh, it's a black person exploiting me. Oh, as long as it's black-on-black exploitation, I'm cool with that.'

"What it does is keep everybody in slavery. All it says to the kids in those neighborhoods is that you're not going to make it. You're going to die. Why peddle that?"

--From "His Caped Crusade" by Sherryl Connelly in Daily News, August 4, 1993.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Cheri Jones. Real estate agent. Married on September 15, 1990; she filed for divorce on August 7, 2001.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Robert Townsend.
mother:
Shirley Townsend.
daughter:
Sierra Taylor Townsend. Born on September 2, 1991.
daughter:
Skylar Cristan Townsend. Born on September 1, 1993.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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