The TV world is in mourning with a report that has confirmed that Earle Hyman, known for playing Bill Cosby’s father, Russell Huxtable on The Cosby Show, has passed away (91) at Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J. This was confirmed by his nephew, Rick Ferguson. It is not clear if there will be a public memorial service.
Earle Hyman was born on October 11, 1926, in Rocky Mount, N.C., the son of school teachers who had Native-American and African-American roots. He had been raised in Brooklyn and started his movie career with an appearance as The Smoking Man in the 1945 Oscar Best Picture winner, The Lost Weekend. A year earlier, the actor had made his Broadway debut in Anna Lucasta and appeared in The Merchant of Venice, No Time for Sergeants, Mister Johnson (Saint Joan). He was an admirer of Ibsen, and he had taken a vacation to Norway and owned property in the country. Here is what he had to say about Norway in a 1988 interview.
“The only place I’m a star in the true sense of the word is Norway. There they come to see me and hope the play is all right. I’m the only foreign actor and only black actor who performs in both Norwegian languages.”
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the actor had guest-starred on many TV shows like Camera Three, East Side/West Side and The Defenders. He had roles on the silver screen in the war movie, The Bamboo Prison (1954), Afrikaneren (1966), The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972) and Fighting Back (1982). In 1984, he had landed the role of Russell Huxtable, father of Bill Cosby character Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable and appeared in 40 episodes through eight seasons of the sitcom. He had reprised the role in a 1987 episode of A Different World. He received an Emmy nomination in 1986 for outstanding guest performer in a Season 2 episode of The Cosby Show titled Happy Anniversary. Here is what the actor had to say about the episode:
“That’s the one episode that was the most loved, most seen. People just loved it. It just shot off the charts. We just had a ball, and the atmosphere just went over into a kind of reality. We were no longer Clarice and Earle, we were really Anna and Russell Huxtable.”
Aside from The Cosby Show, the actor’s well-known role was voicing Panthro, Red Eye and many characters on the hit animated series Thundercats, working in 125 episodes between 1985 and 1989. His appearances in film and TV were scant, appearing in a 1996 TV movie called Hijacked: Flight 285, a 2000 TV movie The Moving of Sophia Myles, a 2001 guest starring spot on Twice in a Lifetime and his final performance as a spectator on Saturday Night Live in 2015.
The death had been reported on by The Hollywood Reporter over the weekend.