Family & Companions
Robert Townsend is known as a multi-talented figure who graduated from stand-up comedy to film, 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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Made film debut with a bit part in "Cooley High"
Early TV movie appearance in the CBS docudrama, "Women at West Point"
Made New York stage debut in "Take It from the Top" at the Henry Street Settlement
Made featured film acting debut in "Willie and Phil"
Made first film as director/writer/actor/producer with "Hollywood Shuffle"
Purchased Hollywood Professional School and renamed it Tinsel Townsend Studios to turn into a mini-studio
Executive produced, hosted, and wrote for "Townsend Television", a variety series on Fox
Co-starred in and co-executive produced "The Parent 'Hood" (The WB)
Hosted the syndicated weekly series "Mowtown Live"
Directed the NBC biopic "The Little Richard Story"
Helmed the TV biopic "The Natalie Cole Story" (NBC)
Was director of the MTV special "Carmen: A Hip Hopera"
Appeared in "Of Boys and Men"
Was the executive producer of "Diary of a Single Mom"
Directed a pair of Bill Cosby documentary projects, "Bill Cosby: Far From Finished" and "Bill Cosby: 77"
Directed and produced "Playin' for Love"