Lynne Thigpen

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Lynne Thigpen
Thigpen as Miss Barrett in the 1989 dramatized biographical film Lean On Me
Born Cherlynne Theresa Thigpen
(1948-12-22)December 22, 1948
Joliet, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 12, 2003(2003-03-12) (aged 54)
Marina del Rey, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cerebral Hemorrhage
Resting place Elmhurst Cemetery,
(Joliet, Illinois)
Other names Lynne Richmond
Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Occupation Actress
Years active 1971–2003
Awards 1992 Obie Award – (Boesman and Lena)
1997 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – (An American Daughter)
1999 Obie Award – (Jar the Floor)

Cherlynne Theresa "Lynne" Thigpen (December 22, 1948 – March 12, 2003) was an American actress, best known for her role as "The Chief" in the various Carmen Sandiego television series from 1991-1997. For her varied television work, Thigpen was nominated for six Daytime Emmy Awards; she won a Tony Award in 1997 for portraying Dr. Judith Kaufman in An American Daughter.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Joliet, Illinois, Thigpen obtained a degree in teaching. She taught English in high school briefly while studying theatre and dance at the University of Illinois.[citation needed]



Thigpen moved to New York City in 1971 to begin her career as a stage actress. She had a long and prolific theater career, and appeared in numerous musicals including Godspell, The Night That Made America Famous, The Magic Show, Working, Tintypes, and An American Daughter (for which she won her Tony Award for her portrayal of Dr. Judith Kaufman in 1997).


Her first feature film role was Lynne in Godspell (1973), co-starring opposite Victor Garber and David Haskell. She appeared notably as the omniscient Radio DJ in The Warriors (1979), and as Leonna Barrett, the mother of an expelled student in Lean on Me (1989), a story of famous American high school principal Joe Louis Clark. She had a role in Shaft (2000), alongside Samuel L. Jackson, as Carla Howard, the murder victim's mother. She also played the Second President of the World Congress in Bicentennial Man (1999). Her last film was Anger Management (2003), starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson (which was released only a month following her death and paid tribute to her in the end credits).


Thigpen was perhaps best known for playing Luna in the television show, Bear in the Big Blue House as well as "The Chief" of the ACME Detective Agency in the long-running PBS children's geography game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which involves both education and comedy, and, on occasion, musical performance. She remained The Chief in the successor show, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, but of ACME Time Net. She also appeared in many other television series during her career, most notably in a recurring role as Grace Keefer on the ABC daytime drama All My Children and a supporting role as Ella Mae Farmer, a crime analyst for the Washington, D.C. police department, on the CBS crime drama The District. She guest-starred in episodes of Gimme A Break!, L.A. Law, Law & Order, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Thirtysomething.

Audio productions[edit]

She appeared in radio skits of the Garrison Keillor program The American Radio Company of the Air.[1] Her voice was also heard on over 20 audio books, primarily works with socially relevant themes.[2]


Thigpen died of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2003[3] in her Marina del Rey, California home after complaining of headaches for several days. Drugs and foul play were ruled out by the coroner's autopsy, which found "acute cardiac dysfunction, non-traumatic systemic and spontaneous intraventricular hemorrhage and hemorrhage in the brain." She was entombed next to her parents at Elmhurst Cemetery in her hometown, Joliet, Illinois.

Response and legacy[edit]

When Thigpen died, the Season 3 finale of The District had a tribute to her character, Ella Mae Farmer.[citation needed]

Thigpen's death also led to a three-year hiatus of Bear in the Big Blue House,[citation needed] and a planned film version of Bear was put on hold. Two years after Thigpen's death, Bear star, Tara Mooney, who played the character Shadow, stated in an interview with Ray D'Arcy on Today FM, "The crew's hearts just weren't in it anymore".[citation needed]

Thigpen was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna the moon in Bear in the Big Blue House, but she lost to Jeff Corwin.[citation needed]

Thigpen's friends and family established a non-profit foundation, The Lynne Thigpen - Bobo Lewis Foundation, to help young actors and actresses learn how to survive and succeed in New York theater and to mentor the next generation of Broadway stars.[citation needed]

Her final film, Anger Management (2003), was dedicated to her memory.

Also, Lynne Thigpen Elementary School in her hometown (Joliet, IL) was named in her honor.[4]



  • Godspell: 1973
  • The Night That Made America Famous: 1975
  • The Magic Show: 1976
  • Working
  • But Never Jam Today 1979
  • Tintypes: 1980-81
  • August Wilson's Fences: 1988
  • Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena: Obie award, 1992
  • A Month of Sundays
  • Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter:1996-7 (Tony Award 1997)
  • Jar the Floor
  • Playhouse Disney Live on Stage!/Bear in the Big Blue House Live on Stage as Luna the Moon






Awards and honors[edit]

  • Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet, IL[4]


  1. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion Timeline". July 6, 1974. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Muppet Central Articles - Tributes: Lynne Thigpen". March 13, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ The Associated Press (March 14, 2003). "Lynne Thigpen, Actress in CBS's 'District,' Dies at 54". New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Lynne Thigpen School". Retrieved January 29, 2013. 

External links[edit]