Robert Townsend (actor)
February 6, 1957 |
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, film director, writer|
Early life 
Townsend was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Shirley (née Jenkins) and Ed Townsend. Raised by a single mother with four children, Townsend became an actor, comedian, writer, producer, director, and network programming CEO. He has two daughters: Sierra and Skylar (Skye Townsend), both entertainers. He has a son named Isiah.
During a reading of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex at school, Robert captured the class and effortlessly transformed into a character which captured the attention of Chicago’s X Bag Theatre, The Experimental Black Actors Guild. His start began at the Improvisation, a renowned comedy club, launching his career as a comedian.
In 1974, Townsend auditioned for parts at Chicago's Experimental Black Actors' Guild and performed in local plays studying at the famed Second City comedy workshop for improvisation. Townsend enrolled at Illinois State University, studied a year and later moved to New York to study at the Negro Ensemble Company. Townsend's mother believed that he should complete his college education, Townsend felt college took time away from his passion for acting. He soon dropped out of school to pursue an acting career full time.
He wrote, directed and produced Hollywood Shuffle a satire based on the hardships and obstacles that black actors undergo in film industry. The success of his first project helped him establish credit in the industry. One of his films was musical The Five Heartbeats based on 1960s R&B male groups and the tribulations of the music industry. Townsend has worked with Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman, Chris Tucker, Beyoncé and Denzel Washington.
Television credits 
Townsend had a brief uncredited role in the movie Cooley High (1975). His career included stand-up comedy routines which appeared on cable television. Townsend auditioned to be part of Saturday Night Live's' 1980-1981 cast, but was rejected when Eddie Murphy was chosen instead. During the 1980s and early 1990s Townsend gained national exposure through his many appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Townsend established himself when he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the comedy Hollywood Shuffle his 1987 film about struggling black actors in Hollywood. Prior to Shuffle, he appeared in small parts in films like A Soldier's Story (1984), directed by Norman Jewison, and after its success garnered much more substantial parts in films like The Mighty Quinn (1989) with Denzel Washington. He created and produced two television variety shows—the CableACE award–winning Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime for HBO, and the Fox Television Variety Show Townsend Television (1993). He also created and starred in the WB Network's sitcom The Parent 'Hood (1995).
Townsend was director of programming at the Black Family Channel, but the network folded in 2007. Townsend created The Robert Townsend Foundation. The mission of the non-profit organization is to aid introduce new unsigned filmmakers.
Awards and other credits 
At the 2001 NAACP talie Cole Story (2000), for which she won the Image Award for best actress. Townsend also produced the television films Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001) and 10,000 Black Men Named George.
|This section requires expansion. (August 2011)|
- Cooley High (1975)
- Monkey Hustle (1976)
- Streets of Fire (1984)
- A Soldier's Story (1984)
- American Flyers (1985)
- Ratboy (1986)
- Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
- The Mighty Quinn (1989)
- The Five Heartbeats (1991)
- The Meteor Man (1993)
- The Parent 'Hood (1995–1999)
- Up, Up, and Away (2000)
- Holiday Heart (2000)
- Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001)
- Black Listed (2003)
- Of Boys and Men (2008)
- Phantom Punch (2009)
Further reading 
- Alexander, George. Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk About the Magic of Cinema. Harlem Moon. 2003.
- Collier, Aldore. Robert Townsend: a new kind of Hollywood dreamer. Actor-producer-director plans to make films that uplift and transform Black audiences. Ebony Magazine. 1 June 1991.
- Rogers, Brent. Robert Townsend Article in Perspectives. Sustaining Digital History. 12 November 2007.
- The New York Times
- "As Robert Townsend Sees It : He's Fighting Stereotypes With 'Meteor Man' and New TV Show". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
- "About". Robert Townsend.
- The New York Times