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Earle Hyman

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Earle Hyman
George Earle Plummer

(1926-10-11)October 11, 1926
DiedNovember 17, 2017(2017-11-17) (aged 91)
Other namesEarl Hyman
Years active1943–2001

Earle Hyman (born George Earle Plummer; October 11, 1926 – November 17, 2017) was an American stage, television, and film actor. Hyman is known for his role on ThunderCats as the voice of Panthro and various other characters. He also appeared on The Cosby Show as Cliff's father, Russell Huxtable. Singer Phyllis Hyman was his cousin.

Life and career[edit]

Hyman was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, as George Earle Plummer according to the North Carolina Birth Index. He claimed Native American ancestry.[1] His parents, Zachariah Hyman and Maria Lilly Plummer seeking better educational opportunities, moved their family from the south [2] to Brooklyn, New York in the late 1920s, where Hyman primarily grew up.[1] Hyman knew at age 4 that he wanted to become an actor after performing a poem at a church play and was determined to become one after seeing a production of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts.

"The first play I ever saw was a present from my parents on my 13th birthday — Nazimova in Ghosts at Brighton Beach on the subway circuit — and I just freaked out."[3][4][5]

He studied acting at HB Studio[6] in New York City. He made his Broadway stage debut as a teenager in 1943 in Run, Little Chillun, and later joined the American Negro Theater. The following year, Hyman began a two-year run playing the role of Rudolf on Broadway in Anna Lucasta, starring Hilda Simms in the title role.[7] He was a member of the American Shakespeare Theatre beginning with its first season in 1955, and played the role of Othello in the 1957 season.[8]

In December 1958 he came to London to play the leading role in Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, by Errol John, at the Royal Court.[9]

In 1959 he again appeared in the West End, this time in the first London production of A Raisin In the Sun alongside Kim Hamilton. The show ran at the Adelphi Theatre and was directed again by Lloyd Richards. A life member of The Actors Studio,[10] Hyman appeared throughout his career in productions in both the United States and Norway, where he also owned property. In 1965, he won a Theatre World Award and in 1988, he was awarded the St Olav's medal for his work in Norwegian theater.

In addition to his stage work, Hyman appeared in various television and film roles including adaptions of Macbeth (1968), Julius Caesar (1979), and Coriolanus (1979), and voiced Panthro on the animated television series ThunderCats (1985–1989). He played two roles (at different times) on television's The Edge of Night.

One of his most well known roles, that of Russell Huxtable in The Cosby Show, earned him an Emmy Award nomination in 1986. He played the father of lead character Cliff Huxtable, played by actor Bill Cosby, despite only being 11 years older than Cosby.[11]


Hyman died at age 91 on November 17, 2017, at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey.[11]

In June 2020, the Folger Shakespeare Library, a private research library in Washington D.C., acquired Hyman's personal items and memorabilia to be displayed as the Earle Hyman Collection. In personal correspondences Hyman wrote that he and Rolf Sirnes (1926–2004), a Norwegian seaman, had lived together for fifty years. Hyman described their relationship as a passionate friendship and wrote that Sirnes was his partner.[12]

Connections to Norway[edit]

In Norway, Hyman was seen as a friend of the country[13] and had a cabin in Skånevik.[14]

Earle Hyman learned to speak Norwegian through Sirnes, who was originally from Haugesund. In the 1990s, they lived in New York City.[15]


Year Title Role Notes
1945 The Lost Weekend Smoking Man Uncredited
1954 The Bamboo Prison Doc Jackson, medic
1966 Afrikaneren Raymond Alternative title: The African
1972 The Possession of Joel Delaney Charles Credited Earl Hyman
1975 The Super Cops Police Detective Uncredited
1979 Julius Caesar Cicero
Coriolanus Cominius
1982 Fighting Back Police Chief Freeman Alternative title: Death Vengeance
1985 Thundercats – HO: The Movie Panthro Voice
1987 Light Years Maxum Voice, Alternative title: Gandahar
Year Title Role Notes
1957 Hallmark Hall of Fame Adam 1 episode
The United States Steel Hour Jim 1 episode
1963 Espionage Premier Djatuma 1 episode
East Side/West Side Mr. Marsden 1 episode
1964 The Nurses Buratta 1 episode
Playdate Crouch 1 episode
The Defenders District Attorney 1 episode
1965 Seaway Tom Nkomo 1 episode
1968 Macbeth Macbeth Television movie
1969 Sesame Street "Big" tuba player Film about "Big and Little" musician friends, first aired on Episode 16[16]
1980 The Ivory Ape Inspector St. George Television movie
1982 Long Day's Journey Into Night James Tyrone Television movie
1984 The Edge of Night Bailiff Unknown episodes
1984–1992 The Cosby Show Russell Huxtable 40 episodes
1985 The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus King Awgwa Voice, Television movie
1985–1989 ThunderCats Panthro / Redeye Voice, 125 episodes
1987 A Different World Russell Huxtable Episode: "Sometimes You Get the Bear, Sometimes the Bear Gets You"
1989 A Man Called Hawk Jefferson Adams Episode: "Passing the Bar"
1994 Seier'n er vår Sammy Unknown episodes
1995 All My Children Mr. Patterson Unknown episodes
1996 Hijacked: Flight 285 Wayne Edwards Television movie
1997 Cosby Rev. Mitchell 1 episode
2000 The Moving of Sophia Myles Bishop Heath Television movie
2001 Twice in a Lifetime Charley Freeman Episode: "Moonshine Over Harlem"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Category Film, series or play
1956 Theatre World Award Won
1980 Tony Award Nominated Best Featured Actor in a Play The Lady From Dubuque
1983 CableACE Award Won Actor in a Dramatic Presentation Long Day's Journey Into Night
1986 Emmy Award Nominated Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series The Cosby Show (For episode "Happy Anniversary")
2009 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement Won N/A n/A


  1. ^ a b "Tony & Emmy Nominated Actor Earle Hyman Passes Away at 91". Broadway Black. Black Broadway T&L Productions. 18 November 2017. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  2. ^ Debold, Elizabeth (26 June 2020). "Announcing the Earle Hyman Collection". Folger University. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  3. ^ "From Ibsen to Pinter and back again Earle Hyman's long journey with the masters". Thevillager.com. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  4. ^ Winer, Laurie (1991-03-24). "From Cosby's Father to Colonel Pickering, By Way of Norway". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  5. ^ Debold, Elizabeth (26 June 2020). "Announcing the Earle Hyman Collection". Folger College. Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  6. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  7. ^ Buckley, Michael (2005-10-23). "Stage and Screen Star Earle Hyman". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 2008-12-24. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  8. ^ Cooper, Roberta Krensky (1986), The American Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford 1955–1985, Folger Books, p. 43, ISBN 0-918016-88-6
  9. ^ Stephens, Frances (1959). ""Moon on a Rainbow Shawl"". Theatre World Annual (London). A Pictorial Review of West End Productions with a record of Plays and Players. London: Barrie & Rockliff. p. 89.
  10. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  11. ^ a b "Earle Hyman, Grandpa Huxtable on 'The Cosby Show,' Dies at 91". The Hollywood Reporter. 19 November 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  12. ^ DeBold, Elizabeth (26 June 2020). "Announcing the Earle Hyman Collection". Folger College. Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Give my regards to Norway" from The Washington Post (29.11.2006)
  14. ^ "Earle Hyman snart hjem til Norge" Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine from skaanevik.no (in Norwegian)
  15. ^ Karin Muri, "Bestefar Cosby kaster masken", VG, 28 August 1994. (in Norwegian)
  16. ^ Classic Sesame Street – "Big and Little"

External links[edit]