Family & Companions
A black character player of numerous period TV miniseries, usually cast as mature, overly proper, stylish women, Olivia Cole is perhaps best recalled for her Emmy-winning turn as Mathilda, wife of Chicken George (Ben Vereen) and great-grandmother of Alex Haley on the famed miniseries "Roots" (ABC, 1977). Her other miniseries leads have included playing Maggie Rogers, the head maid at the Executive Mansion in "Backstairs at The White House" (1979), and Miss Sophie, the waspish, snoopy arbiter of morality aghast that lesbians are afoot in "The Women of Brewster Place" (ABC, 1989) and its 1990 short-lived series spin-off. After completing studies at RADA in London, Cole spent several years honing her craft in regional theater. She landed her first regular TV role on the CBS daytime soap "The Guiding Light" before segueing to features and primetime in the mid-70s. Her film roles include small supporting parts in "Heroes" (1977) and "Coming Home" (1978). She was particularly effective as the long-suffering wife of the bitter husband and father (Paul Winfield) in the 1984 production of James Baldwin's "Go Tell It On the Mountain." Cole has appeared as Ned Beatty's district supervisor on the CBS sitcom "Szysznyk" (1977) and later played Michael Keaton's social worker boss on "Report to Murphy" (ABC, 1982). Finding herself typecast in period pieces and as characters that were older and dowdier than herself, the actress became less active in film and TV in the 90s. Her final film role came in the Ice Cube comedy "First Sunday" (2008). Olivia Cole died of a heart attack in Mexico in January 2018. She was 75.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Performed with the American Shakespeare Festival
Made her New York stage debut in a production of "The School for Scandal"
Made her screen-acting debut on "Guiding Light"
Made her feature film debut in "Heroes"
Played wife to Chicken George, great-great grandmother of Alex Haley, on "Roots"
Co-starred as Ms. Harrison, the boss, on "Szyznyk"
Was executive mansion maid in the NBC miniseries "Backstairs at the White House"
Was a regular on the CBS sitcom "Report to Murphy"
Cast as snoopy neighbor in miniseries "The Women of Brewster Place" (ABC), continued role on short-lived weekly series
Guest-starred on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS)
Appeared in her final film role, as Momma T on the crime comedy "First Sunday"