Ernest Lee Thomas
Ernest Lee Thomas
Ernest Thomas, 2008
Ernest Lee Thomas
March 26, 1949
Gary, Indiana, U.S.
Ernest Lee Thomas (born March 26, 1949) is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Roger "Raj" Thomas on the 1970s ABC sitcom What's Happening!!, and its 1980s syndicated sequel, What's Happening Now!!, and for his recurring role as Mr. Omar on Everybody Hates Chris.
Early career and What's Happening!!
Thomas was born in Gary, Indiana and began his professional acting career as a Broadway actor, appearing in the 1974 revival production of Love for Love and in the 1975 revival of The Member of the Wedding. Both shows starred actress Glenn Close. Shortly after he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a TV/film actor. In the fall of 1975 he received a role on an episode of The Jeffersons. It was during the taping of the show that he learned of an audition for the upcoming comedy sitcom What's Happening!!, loosely based on the 1975 film Cooley High. He eventually went on to win the role of Roger "Raj" Thomas on the show, which aired from 1976 to 1979.
During the show's run, Thomas was involved in other acting film and TV projects including Baretta, Roots, The Brady Bunch Hour and the film A Piece of the Action starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Though the series rated well, What's Happening!! was cancelled after its third season in the early spring of 1979.
What's Happening Now!! and later career
After a six-year hiatus from TV and film acting, Ernest resumed his role as Roger "Raj" Thomas in the sequel What's Happening Now!! The show aired in first-run syndication from 1985 to 1988.
Ernest Thomas is also one of the stars of rocker/horror movie director Rob Zombie's 2012 film The Lords of Salem in which he plays a local town's radio DJ.
Since the show's cancellation Thomas has guest starred on a number of popular TV dramas and sitcoms including In the Heat of the Night, (which co-starred his TV wife Anne-Marie Johnson, from What's Happening Now!!), The Parent 'Hood, Martin (which starred his What's Happening Now!! co-star Martin Lawrence), Soul Food, The Steve Harvey Show, All About the Andersons and more recently Just Jordan. He has also appeared in a number of films, including a supporting role in Malcolm X and a cameo in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. He later had a recurring role as funeral director, Mr. Omar, on the TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. He had an uncredited guest spot as Ernest T "Bass" on the TV Show Are We There Yet? It was titled, "The Satchel Paige Episode" and had him playing a Flavor Flav type personality.
He has an eye condition called amblyopia.
- 1976-1979: What's Happening!! (TV Series) - Roger 'Raj' Thomas
- 1977: A Piece of the Action - John
- 1985-1988: What's Happening Now!! (TV Series) - Roger 'Raj' Thomas
- 1991: Kiss and Be Killed - Det. Ross
- 1992: Malcolm X - Sidney
- 2003: The Watermelon Heist - Jailer
- 2003: Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star - Ernest Thomas
- 2005-2009: Everybody Hates Chris (TV Series) - Mr. Omar / Funeral Director / Radical Man
- 2007: Paroled - Royce Henderson
- 2009: Funny People - Yo Teach Principal
- 2012: The Lords of Salem - Chip McDonald (Frankenstein and the Witchhunter) (uncredited)
- 2013: The Pastor and Mrs. Jones - Pastor
- 2014: Basketball Girlfriend - Lenny
- 2014: Revenge - Neville
- 2014: The Slimbones - Uncle AB
- 2015: Mega Shark vs. Kolossus - Admiral Titus Jackson
- 2015: Chocolate City - Diner Manager
- 2016: '79 Parts - Priore
- 2016: Stop Bullying Now: Live from the Big House - Himself
- 2016 - Earworm (short)
- 2017: Chocolate City: Vegas Strip - Mr. Williams
- 2017: The Gods - Olympus
- 2017: Two Wolves - Olivier