Forever to be recalled as Linc Hayes, the Afro-sporting member of "The Mod Squad" trio, whose favorite expression was "Solid!," Clarence Williams III has gone on to become an established character actor, particularly rediscovered in the 1980s and 90s by young African-American directors. Born and raised in Harlem, Williams began his career in theater with a small part in "Dark of the Moon" (c. 1957) and then moved to Broadway where he had five lines in the 1960 production of "The Long Dream." After a stint in the Air Force, he returned to NYC, where he won critical praise and awards for his work on Broadway in "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground" (1964). Though his stage appearances would run in spurts after his TV and film breaks, Williams never abandoned the theater and won much praise starring opposite Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard's "Night and Day" (1979).
After a few minor TV roles (e.g. an episode of "Daktari"), Williams was brought to Hollywood to play Linc Hayes, former street offender turned undercover cop on "The Mod Squad" (ABC, 1968-73). Rather than be cast in similar roles on TV or in "Blaxploitation" films, Williams fled Hollywood when the series folded, although he did reprise the role of Linc in a 1979 TV-movie. But it was not until the 90s that he began acting in TV regularly again, now in his almost patented, intense style in such projects as John Frankenheimer's "Against the Wall" (HBO, 1994) in which he was a leader of the Attica prison riots.
Juicy film roles did not come until middle age, when he was cast as Prince's abusive father in "Purple Rain" (1984), which brought him to the attention of Hollywood studios once again. While not cast exclusively by the new young breed of Black directors, he became a favorite. Keenan Ivory Wayans cast Williams as the burned out community activist, Kalinga, in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988). Bill Duke cast him as a righteous cop in "Deep Cover" (1992). Rusty Cundieff featured Williams in "Tales From the Hood" (1995). He was also memorable as the Wesley Snipes' heroin-addicted father who overdoses and dies in a startling scene in "Sugar Hill" (1994).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
New York stage debut, "Dark of the Moon" (date approximate)
Broadway debut, "The Long Dream"
Film debut, "The Cool World"
Starred on Broadway in "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground"
Served as artist in residence at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
TV episodic debut, "Daktari" (CBS)
Starred opposite Maggie Smith in "Night and Day" on Broadway
Played Prince's abusive father in "Purple Rain"
Appeared as Kalinga in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"
Cast as drug-addicted father in "Sugar Hill"
Featured as prison rebel Chaka in "Against the Wall" (HBO)
Portrayed Jelly Roll Morton in "The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean/The Legend of 1900" (released in an edited version in the USA in 1999)
Co-starred in "The General's Daughter"
Made memorable guest appearance on "Law & Order"