Bill Cobbs, prolific and wisecracking character actor, dies at 90

NEW YORK (AP) — Bill Cobbs, the veteran character actor who became a omnipresent presence on screen as an older man, has died. He was 90 years old.

Cobbs died Tuesday at his home in Inland Empire, Calif., surrounded by family and friends, his publicist Chuck I. Jones said. Natural causes are the likely cause of death, Jones said.

A Cleveland native, Cobbs has starred in films such as The Hudsucker Proxy, The Bodyguard and Night at the Museum. He made his big screen debut in a fleeting role in the 1974 film “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.” He became a lifelong actor with about 200 film and television credits. The lion’s share of those came in his 50s, 60s and 70s, when filmmakers and television producers turned to him again and again to imbue small but pivotal parts with a withered, worn-out spirituality.

Cobbs has appeared on television shows including “The Sopranos,” “The West Wing,” “Sesame Street” and “Good Times.” He was Whitney Houston’s manager in The Bodyguard (1992), the mysterious man of the hour in the Coen brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), and the doctor in John Sayles’ Sunshine State (2002). He played the coach in “Air Bud” (1997), the security guard in “Night at the Museum” (2006) and the father in “The Gregory Hines Show.”

Cobbs rarely gets the kinds of major parts that stand out and win awards. Instead, Cobbs was a familiar, memorable man who left an impression on audiences, regardless of his screen time. He won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Performance in a Daytime Program for “Dino Dana” in 2020.

See also  BTS singer Jin joins the South Korean army and gets a Buzz Cut

Wendell Pierce, who worked alongside Cobbs on “I’ll Fly Away” and “The Gregory Hines Show.” Remember Cobbs “As a father figure, mentor, and creative artist he has been a mentor to me through the way he has led his life as an actor,” he wrote on social media platform X.

Wilbert Francisco Cobbs was born on June 16, 1934, and served eight years in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school in Cleveland. In the years following his service, Cobbs worked selling cars. One day, a customer asked him if he wanted to act in a play. Cobbs made his stage debut in 1969. He began acting in Cleveland theater and later moved to New York where he joined the Negro Ensemble Company, working alongside Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

Cobbs later said that acting resonated with him as a way to express the human condition, particularly during the civil rights movement of the late 1960s.

“To be an artist, you have to have a sense of giving.” Cobbs said in a 2004 interview. “Art is a bit like prayer, isn’t it? We respond to what we see around us, what we feel, and how things affect us mentally and spiritually.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *