Anton Phillips (born 31 October 1943) is a Jamaican-born British actor who found success appearing in British television. He remains best known for his role as Dr. Bob Mathias in the science fiction series Space 1999.
Life and career
Early life and education
Phillips was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and attended Manchester High School in Mandeville, Jamaica, before his family relocated to Washington, D.C., in the United States, where he graduated from high school. He then moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s and in 1969 attended Rose Bruford College drama school, whose other Jamaican students included Trevor Rhone and Yvonne Brewster.
After drama school Anton Phillips began an acting career in Britain that broke many racial barriers, appearing as the first black actor in many TV series, including General Hospital, The Saint, The Bill, and becoming best known as a cast member of Space 1999.
His professional life has been dedicated to the promotion of black theatre and to that end Phillips started a number of projects that significantly changed the profile of black and Asian theatre in Britain. These included the Carib Theatre Company, the Black Theatre Season, and the Black Theatre Forum, initiatives that were responsible for giving opportunities to many black and Asian writers, actors and theatre technicians.
Under his direction, Carib Theatre's production of The Amen Corner by James Baldwin was the first black-produced and directed play to transfer to the West End of London, an important theatre area. Phillips directed a revival of the play, again at The Tricycle, in 1999.
Major productions have included Remembrance by Derek Walcott, and Sitting in Limbo — a play written by Phillips's then wife, actress Judy Hepburn (about Phyllis Coard and the Grenada revolution), which played in London and toured to Jamaica. Carib Theatre also specialised in theatre in education, and toured schools across London for several years, playing to some 30,000 children.
The Black Theatre Season significantly changed the profile of black and Asian theater in Britain. Before the first season, which started in 1983 at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End, black theatre was largely relegated to draughty church halls and rooms in community centres on the outskirts of cities. However, now black and Asian plays were presented in legitimate theatres with all their facilities of sound, light and comfort. As season followed season for seven years, companies, writers and actors were accorded prominence and respect within the profession and the wider society.
Phillips has also worked for the British Council in Ghana, where in 1994 he directed Trevor Rhone's Old Story Time as the first major production at the newly built National Theatre. Phillips also lectured at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, and for three years was a consultant for the British Council on a special project in Tanzania to create a company of performers and teach them the principals and practice of theatre in education. He has directed in Germany, the Netherlands, and France. He has also managed a 60-strong company of singers, dancers, and musicians from South Africa on a touring tribute to Oliver Tambo that was presented at the Barbican Centre in London and at Salisbury Cathedral, England.
Inspired by the Area Youth Foundation of Kingston, Jamaica, Phillips founded the Stonebridge Area Youth Project (SAY), a performance-based project for disaffected young people between the ages of 14 and 24 based in Stonebridge, a London housing estate. Through performing arts workshops, SAY encouraged youths to re-engage with society by going back into education and learning life-skills to help them into employment. This project lasted for four years. He also directed Oliver Samuels, a Jamaican comic actor, in London's Blue Mountain Theatre for three years of plays that drew audiences of up to 3,000 at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre.
In 2008 Phillips performed, with music from Errol John, Aimé Césaire's powerful epic poem Notebook of a Return to my Native Land, at the George Padmore Institute in London, as a tribute to Césaire.
In addition to being an actor, director and producer, Phillips has contributed to magazines and newspapers, usually writing about the state of black arts in the UK. He has also produced the documentary film Home Sweet Harlesden, a collection of interviews with the first Caribbean immigrants to Britain.
- "Biography – Anton Phillips" Archived 23 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine., Historical Geographies, 23 September 2011.
- "Carib Theatre Company" Archived 23 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Black Plays Archive, National Theatre.
- "Black Theatre Season" Archived 23 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Black Plays Archive, National Theatre.
- Alda Terracciano, "Mainstreaming Africa, Asian and Caribbean Theatre: The Experiments of the Black Theatre Forum" Archived 18 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Chapter One in Dimple Godiwala (ed.), Alternatives Within the Mainstream: British Black and Asian Theatres, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006, pp. 22–60.
- Terry Stoller, Tales of the Tricycle Theatre Archived 17 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Methuen Drama, 2013, pp. 45–48.
- John Heathcote, "The Amen Corner" (review) Archived 8 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Flame, 2000.
- Juwon Ogungbe, "Sitting In Limbo" Archived 26 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Black Perspective online magazine.
- Monica Pinnock, Tribune Magazine[permanent dead link], 23 February 1990.
- James Gibbs, Nkyin-kyin: Essays on the Ghanaian Theatre[permanent dead link], Cross/Cultures 98, Readings in the Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Rodopi, 2009, p. xxiii.
- "Carib Theatre Company" Archived 16 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Brent Council.
- "Notebook of a Return to my Native Land" Archived 18 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine., George Padmore Institute, 1 November 2008.
- Linton Kwesi Johnson, "About the George Padmore Institute" Archived 17 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine., LKJ Records Blog, 17 December 2008.
- Anton Phillips, "Why is racism so rife in the theatre?" Archived 25 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine., The Observer, 10 September 2000.
- "Anton Phillips" Archived 21 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Reggae Film Festival, 2012.
- Tanya Batson-Savage, "Anton Phillips Jamaican Actor, Director and Producer Receives Screen Nation Award" Archived 12 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine., 5 February 2015.