|Born||William Henry Duke, Jr.
February 26, 1943
Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.A
|Occupation||Actor / Director|
|Years active||1976 – Present|
William Henry "Bill" Duke, Jr. (born February 26, 1943) is an American actor and film director with over 35 years of experience. Known for his physically imposing frame, Duke's work frequently dwells within the action film idiom as well as crime and drama genres but also includes comedy.
Duke was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of Ethel Louise (née Douglas) and William Henry Duke Sr. He received his first instruction in the performing arts and in creative writing at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie under Professor Constance Kuhn in drama and Professor Howard Winn in creative writing. His first major acting role at Dutchess was as the lead in Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones. After graduation from Dutchess he went on to Boston University for further instruction in drama and for his B.A. After studying at New York University's Tisch School of Arts and the AFI Conservatory, he appeared on Broadway in the 1971 Melvin Van Peebles musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. He directed episodes of several noteworthy 1980s television series, including Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice. Known to family as Maccy Bub after a cat he owned in his youth named Macintosh and the waterproof jacket he often wore.
Standing an imposing 6 ft 4½ in and featuring a closely shaved head, Duke first became a familiar face to moviegoers in Car Wash (1976) where he portrayed fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary Abdullah Mohammed Akbar (formerly known as Duane), and expanded his repertoire with American Gigolo (1980) where he played a gay pimp. And in the early 1980s he produced and starred in a short-lived CBS TV series Palmerstown, USA about the life, times and relationships between a black family and a white family in a small rural town in the 1930s.
As the action-film-oriented genre became more popular, Duke's presence was perfect to portray a myriad of "tough guy" roles, chiefly alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando and Predator, as well as a DEA chief in The Limey (1999) which was an uncredited role; and a police chief in the Carl Weathers movie Action Jackson. He played a detective investigating a murder in Menace II Society, in which he uttered the famous line, "You know you done fucked up now... you know that, don't you?". He played a corrupt law enforcement agent in two films opposite Mel Gibson - Bird on a Wire (as FBI) and Payback (as a police detective). Duke appears in X-Men: The Last Stand as Trask and in the 2005 film Get Rich or Die Tryin' as Levar.
Duke directed the TV movie The Killing Floor in 1985. He began directing theatrical films in the 1990s with crime dramas A Rage in Harlem (1991), Deep Cover (1992) and Hoodlum (1997). He also directed The Cemetery Club (1993) and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), starring Whoopi Goldberg. For television, Duke directed the A&E Network original film, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2000). In 2007 he directed the reenactments in the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves produced by Unity Productions Foundation. Duke continues to act and direct for both the small and silver screens. He is also a mentor for young African Americans aspiring to work in the performance arts.
Duke made an early appearance on Kojak as Sylk in the episode "Bad Dude," in the third season of the series. He guest-starred in the fourth episode of Lost in its third season as Warden Harris, in the episode "Every Man for Himself". He also guest-starred in Battlestar Galactica in the season two episode "Black Market".
Duke was cast as recurring character Capt. Parish in the action television series/crime drama Fastlane.
Duke made a guest appearance on Baisden After Dark in the episode broadcast on July 18, 2008.
Duke also guest-starred on Cold Case as Grover Boone, a corrupt politician, in the 2008 episode "Street Money".
Duke voiced a detective in the episode "Thank You for Not Snitching" of the animated television series The Boondocks. The character and his entire scene were references to Menace II Society.
- Official website
- Bill Duke at the Internet Movie Database
- Bill Duke interview about The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery at the Internet Archive