Tony-Winning Actor Roger Robinson, Celebrated August Wilson Interpreter, Dies at 78
by Andy Lefkowitz Broadway.com 9/’28/2018
Roger Robinson, a talented star of the New York theater scene whose four-decade Broadway career was capped by a Tony Award win for his performance in an August Wilson classic, died on September 26 in Escondido, CA. Robinson's death was confirmed by publicist Patty Onagan, who said the cause of death was a complicated heart condition. Robinson was 78.
Born on May 2, 1940 in Seattle, Washington, Robinson made his first off-Broadway appearance in Walk in Darkness (1963), later making his Broadway debut beside Al Pacino in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? (1969). He was seen again on Broadway shortly after in The Miser (1969), followed by later turns in Amen Corner (1983) and The Iceman Cometh (1985).
Robinson earned his first Tony nomination for his performance as Hedley in the Broadway-premiere production of Seven Guitars (1996) by August Wilson, a playwright who would remain a constant in Robinson's career.
In 2009, Lincoln Center Theater produced a new staging of Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, directed by Bartlett Sher and featuring Robinson in the supporting role of Bynum Walker. The performance earned Robinson a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play; he also became the first African-American actor to win the Richard Seff Award, an honor presented by Actors' Equity to a veteran character actor 50 years of age or older for an exceptional performance. Over the course of his career, Robinson appeared in six productions of the 10 plays in Wilson's century cycle, which charts the African-American experience over each decade of the 20th century.
Robinson's additional stage credits include a Broadway performance in Drowning Crow (2004) and off-Broadway turns in Who's Got His Own (1966), The Trials of Brother Jero/The Strong Breed (1967), Do Lord Remember Me (1984), Of Mice and Men (1987) and The Middle of Nowhere (1988). In 2013, Robinson directed an off-Broadway production of Strawberry & Chocolate.
On-screen, Robinson earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his acclaimed performance in Brother to Brother (2004). He was also seen in a recurring turn as Mac Harkness in How to Get Away with Murder (2016-2018).
In a backstage interview following his Tony win, Robinson spoke with Broadway.com Editor-in-Chief Paul Wontorek about performing the work of August Wilson: "It's like a symphony—every note, every word has to be where August wrote it. It's precise. It calls for tremendous concentration, but it's also fun. It's like a challenge; every night you step out there to do it and hit those notes with everybody. It's a wonderful experience. I really am happy that I am an actor."
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