William Henry Duke Jr.
February 26, 1943
Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer, screenwriter|
|Height||1.94 m (6 ft 4 in)|
|Awards||American Black Film Festival Career Achievement Award, Lifetime achievement Directors Guild of America|
William Henry Duke Jr. (born February 26, 1943) is an American actor and film director. Known for his physically imposing frame, Duke works primarily in the action and crime drama genres often as a character related to law enforcement. Frequently a character actor, he has starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando and Predator, and has appeared in films like American Gigolo, No Man's Land, Bird on a Wire, Menace II Society, Exit Wounds, Payback, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Mandy. In television, he is best known as Agent Percy Odell in Black Lightning.
He has directed episodes of numerous television series including Cagney & Lacey, Dallas, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, The Twilight Zone, and American Playhouse, and the crime films Deep Cover and A Rage in Harlem, for which he was nominated for a Palme d'Or, as well as the comedy Sister Act 2.
Early life and education
Duke was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of Ethel Louise (née Douglas) and William Henry Duke Sr. He attended Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park and later received his first instruction in the performing arts and in creative writing at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie. Duke worked menial jobs 7 days a week to cover his living expenses and intended to halt his education until Dr. James Hall, a DCC Dean gave Duke a personal check to cover room, board and books for his next 3 years at Boston University, where (Duke) had secured an academic-based scholarship, intending to pursue medical school after graduation, to please his parents. "My room smelled like formaldehyde."[This quote needs a citation] He later switched to English Education and then instruction in dance and drama for the completion of his B.A.
Duke then did graduate work at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Unable to secure quite enough acting working, he pan-handled, as well as shop-lifted groceries. He did, however, appear on Broadway in the 1971 Melvin Van Peebles musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. With acting roles dried up, Duke next attended the prestigious AFI Conservatory to study filmmaking.
Standing at an imposing 6 feet 4+1⁄2 inches (1.94 m) and with 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). He expanded his repertoire with American Gigolo (1980), where he played a gay pimp, who co-orchestrates a murder, pinned on star Richard Gere.
As the action-film-oriented genre became more popular, Duke portrayed a string of tough guys. He worked opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger with a small role in Commando. Then alongside Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura in the scifi action thriller Predator, followed by a role as a police chief in the 1988 Carl Weathers vehicle Action Jackson. Duke appeared uncredited as a DEA officer in The Limey (1999), as well as a police chief opposite Steven Seagal in Exit Wounds. In Menace II Society (1993), he played a police investigator who tricks the main character into contradicting himself during an interrogation, then tries to rattle him by repeating the line, "You done fucked up, you know that, don't you?" The line became often-quoted. He played a corrupt law enforcement agent in two films opposite Mel Gibson—Bird on a Wire (as an FBI agent) and Payback (as a police detective). Duke appeared as Trask in X-Men: The Last Stand, Washington in National Security, Levar in Get Rich or Die Tryin', Nokes in Bad Country and Caruthers in Mandy.
In the early 1980s, Duke accidentally secured a directing job on Knots Landing, due to a secretarial or clerical error at AFI Conservatory. However, the producers were pleased with his work, and he was kept on, eventually directing 10 episodes of the show. This made him one of the first four black television directors. Duke then directed episodes of Knots Landing's mother show Dallas and its sister show Falcon Crest (6 episodes). Next came action and cop shows Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice and Starman. He credits the benevolence and humanity of people like Larry Hagman and Jane Wyman for his early TV directing success, while he occasionally heard derogatory remarks, and even racial slurs, from crew members, including the Teamsters.
Duke directed the TV movie The Killing Floor in 1984. 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 the Whoopi Goldberg comedy sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993).
For television, Duke directed the A&E Network original film, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2000). In 2007 he directed the historical reenactments in the award-winning PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves.
Duke made an appearance on Kojak in 1976, 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".
Duke had a starring role in the short-lived TV series Palmerstown, U.S.A., produced by Norman Lear and Roots author, Alex Haley. Although the series was critically acclaimed and won an Emmy, it ran for only 17 episodes in the 1980–81 television season.
Duke was cast as recurring character Capt. Parish in the action television series/crime drama Fastlane. He made a guest appearance on Baisden After Dark in the episode broadcast on July 18, 2008 and 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. Duke appears in Busta Rhymes' music video "Dangerous". Duke also appears in an episode of Law & Order: SVU as a lawyer. In May 2017, Duke appeared on episode 6 of the first season of the Outdoor Channel show Hollywood Weapons: Fact or Fiction?. Duke discussed with host Terry Schappert his time filming Predator, his character Sgt. Mac Elliot, and what it was like to fire an M134 Minigun.
He has served on the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute, as a member of the California Film Commission board, appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, in the Time Warner Endowed Chair in the Department of Radio Television and Film at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and as a member of the National Endowment for the Humanities, appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Duke is also the founder & owner of the Duke Media Foundation that helps prepare young people for a career in all aspects of film, video and TV production. Duke became a teacher of Transcendental Meditation in Ethiopia in 1973 under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
|1978||Love Is Not Enough||'Happy' Jordan||TV Movie|
|Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force||Sgt. Langford||TV Movie|
|1980||American Gigolo||Leon James|
|1986||Dallas: The Early Years||Seth Foster||TV Movie|
|1987||Predator||Sgt. Mac Eliot|
|No Man's Land||Malcolm|
|1988||Action Jackson||Capt. Earl Armbruster|
|1989||Street of No Return||Lt. Borel|
|1990||Bird on a Wire||FBI Agent Albert "Diggs" Diggins|
|1993||Menace II Society||Detective|
|Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit||Mr. Johnson|
|1998||Always Outnumbered||Blackbird Wills||TV Movie|
|Susan's Plan||Dect. Scott|
|Black Jaq||Ivor 'Max' Maxwell||TV Movie|
|The Limey||Head DEA Agent|
|Exit Wounds||Chief Hinges|
|2002||Love and a Bullet||Mysterious Voice on Phone|
|Red Dragon||Police Chief|
|2003||National Security||Lieutenant Washington|
|2005||Get Rich or Die Tryin||Levar Cahill|
|2006||X-Men: The Last Stand||Secretary Bolivar Trask|
|2009||Level 26: Dark Origins||Jack Mitchell||Short|
|The Big Bang||Drummer|
|2012||Freaky Deaky||Wendell Robinson|
|2013||Battledogs||President Donald Sheridan||TV Movie|
|2014||Bad Country||John Nokes|
|2016||Restored Me||Officer Brantley|
|Beyond the Silence||District Attorney Adam Stevenson|
|Clipped Wings, They Do Fly||District Attorney Adam Stevenson|
|2019||High Flying Bird||Spence|
|Hollow Point||Senior Guard James|
|2021||No Sudden Move||Aldrick Watkins|
|2022||In Search of Tomorrow||Himself||Documentary|
|1972-75||ABC Afterschool Specials||Mr. Sands||Episode: "Santiago’s Ark" & "Santiago's America"|
|1976||Kojak||Sylk||Episode: "Bad Dude"|
|On the Rocks||Episode: "High Noon"|
|1978||Starsky & Hutch||Officer Dryden||Episode: "Hutchinson for Murder One"|
|Charlie’s Angels||David Pearl||Episode: "Angels on the Run"|
|1980-81||Palmerstown, U.S.A.||Luther Freeman||Main Cast|
|1981||Benson||Mad-Dog||Episode: "The Grass Ain't Greener"|
|1987||Starman||Steven Putnam||Episode: "The System"|
|1989||American Playhouse||FBI Agent #2||Episode: "The Meeting"|
|1994||New York Undercover||Hitman||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1998||Biography||Narrator||Episode: "Nat King Cole: Loved in Return"|
|2002||Justice League||Detective (voice)||Episode: "The Brave and the Bold"|
|2002-03||Fastlane||Capt. Bob Parish||Recurring Cast|
|2003-04||Karen Sisco||Amos Andrews||Main Cast|
|2006||Battlestar Galactica||Phelan||Episode: "Black Market"|
|Lost||Warden Harris||Episode: "Every Man for Himself"|
|2007||The Boondocks||Detective (voice)||Episode: "Thank You for Not Snitching"|
|2008||Cold Case||Grover Boone '05/'08||Episode: "Street Money"|
|My Own Worst Enemy||Serge Khabako||Episode: "Love in All the Wrong Places"|
|2011||Chaos||General Margolis||Episode: "Core Fortitude"|
|2015||Between||Gord's Father||Episode: "End of the Rope"|
|2016||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Ed Pastrino||Episode: "Intersecting Lives" & "Heartfelt Passages"|
|2018-21||Black Lightning||Agent Percy Odell||Recurring Cast: Season 2-3, Guest: Season 4|
|2020||Ghost Tape||Byron Dixon||Main Cast|
|2021||The Oval||Curtis||Episode: "Like a Boss" & "Doomsday"|
|1984||The Killing Floor|
|1989||Raisin In The Sun|
|1991||A Rage in Harlem|
|1993||The Cemetery Club|
|1993||Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit|
|2000||The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery|
|2001||Angel: One More Road to Cross|||
|2007||Cover||Also a producer|
|2009||Not Easily Broken|
|2011||Dark Girls||Also a producer|
- "ACTOR BILL DUKE MOVES FROM PLAYING HEAVIES TO ACTING OUT HIS DREAMS AS DIRECTOR OF 'HARLEM'". DeseretNews.com. May 16, 1991. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
- Duke, Bill. "My 40-Year Career on Screen and behind the Camera". Rowman. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
- "Bill Duke Biography (1943–)". filmreference.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Bill Duke Biography – Yahoo! Movies". Archived from the original on April 30, 2006.
- Thomas, Nick (November 16, 2018). "Bill Duke recounts steps to success". The Spectrum. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Simonson, Robert (September 29, 2004). "Death Lives as Harlem Revival of Van Peebles Work Begins Sept. 29". Playbill. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
- "Bill Duke". Metrograph. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
- Video on YouTube
- Gaydos, Steven (December 8, 2018). "Bill Duke Remembers the Theater Training That Helped Him". Variety. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- "Slave's Royal Lineage Chronicled in New Film". NPR. February 4, 2008. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Barnes, Mike (February 12, 2016). "Bayard Johnson, 'Tarzan and the Lost City' Screenwriter, Dies at 63". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- N'Duka, Amanda (July 18, 2019). "Bill Duke To Helm 'The PThe Diane Latiker Story' Feature". Deadline. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- "Bill Duke". The History Makers. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- "Norman Lear and Alex Haley's Palmerstown, U.S.A. returns on GeTTV". GetTV. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Video on YouTube
- "Bill Duke - My 40-Year Career on Screen and Behind the Camera". Acappella Books. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- "Terry and the Minigun (TV Episode 2017)". Hollywood Weapons: Fact or Fiction?.
- Mangum, Trey (October 9, 2018). "Robert Townsend And Bill Duke Join 'Black Lightning' Season 2". Shadow and Act. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
- "A Tribute to Director Bill Duke". DGA. February 23, 2010. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Ellis, George (2015). A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision 2nd Editio. ISBN 9781508944256.
- McNary, Dave (May 3, 2004). "California teaming with producer". Variety. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
- "Governor Schwarzenegger announces appointmets to California Film Commission". IATSE. May 15, 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- "Howard University to Get $2 Million for Communications Chair". Diverse Education. April 26, 1999. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- "President Clinton names Bill Duke to the National Council on the Humanities". White House. October 16, 2000. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Duke, Bill (2018). Bill Duke : my 40-year career on screen and behind the camera. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781538105566.
- "Bill Duke and Wayne Brady are now Honorary Members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity". Watch The Yard.
- "Angel: One More Road to Cross" – via IMDb.