Rodriguez as Dr. Harry Miles in Peyton Place, 1968.
June 13, 1918
|Died||September 6, 2007
Percy Rodriguez (June 13, 1918 – September 6, 2007) was a Canadian actor who appeared in many television shows and films from the 1950s to the 1980s. Born in the Saint-Henri neighborhood in Montreal, his birth surname was "Rodrigues," but after it was misspelled in a Broadway program early in his career, "Rodriguez" became his de facto stage name and most of his acting credits are under that spelling. He was of Afro-Portuguese heritage.
Life and career
Percy was the oldest of three siblings and was of African and Portuguese descent. His father was out of the picture as he left his family. Percy then began working in his early teens to help provide for his family. As Percy continued to grow up he began to enjoy boxing and acting. He became a professional boxer while simultaneously exploring acting jobs. Percy ended up joining Montreal’s Negro Theater Guild and ultimately won the Canadian Drama Festival acting award in 1939. Although Percy won that award, finding a legitimate acting job was difficult, which led to him working as a toolmaker and machinist for 10 years in order to survive.
Rodriguez began his acting career in the 1930s, appearing in stage plays and television series in his native country. He eventually moved to New York City, where he made his Broadway theatre debut in Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic in 1960. Appearing next in The Actors Studio Theatre production of James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie  (and, shortly thereafter, in an abbreviated television adaptation on CBS), Rodriguez subsequently became a life member of the Studio.
Rodriguez first gained widespread notice in 1968 for his role as neurosurgeon Dr. Harry Miles in the primetime soap opera Peyton Place. Rodriguez managed to avoid the stereotypical roles typically given to black actors at the time. His deep, authoritative voice and articulate speaking manner helped Rodriguez to be cast usually as intelligent authority figures. He also narrated numerous movie trailers and documentaries throughout his career. He retired from acting in 1987 but continued to do voiceovers. He spoke of his narration of the trailer for Jaws in the documentary The Shark is Still Working. This was his final public appearance.
Known for his flourishing and distinctive voice, Rodriguez was able to narrate a few Canadian documentary shorts and appeared on television. He played a more prominent role in theater and worked with several African-American actors, such as Al Freeman Jr., Lincoln Kilpatrick, Rosetta LeNoire, Otis Young and Tony nominee Diana Sands. In the 1960s, Percy became one of the few actors who were able to circumvent such restrictive and negative stereotypes throughout his acting career. He was known for applying and projecting quiet authority and inner calm during his roles due to his touch of gray in his hair. He went on to conquer American television in programs such as The Nurses, Naked City, Wild, Wild West, Route 66 and Star Trek. Percy’s biggest role was when he portrayed a neurosurgeon during the final season of the heavily viewed nighttime soap opera, Peyton Place(1964). His role was seen as a breakthrough white-collar role for a black actor. Percy also was involved in the drama; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Through his depictions on television Percy was seen as an excellent supporting character.
Rodriguez played numerous forms of roles including detectives, lawyers, politicians, ambassadors, and doctors. He was part of the interesting mini-movies, The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970), Ring of Passion (1978), Angel Dusted (1981), and Roots: The Next Generations (1979). His on-camera work was coming to an end after playing a doctor in the mini-movie, Perry Mason: The Case of the Sinister Spirit, Rodriguez focused on voice-overs. He is famous for his eerie voicings for the ads and trailers of Jaws (1975) and his narration of Michael Jackson’s musical science fiction, Captain EO (1986) for Disney.
According to Robert J. Thompson, “Television didn't have its equivalent of Jackie Robinson -- there wasn't that one moment when the race barrier was broken. But Rodriguez was one of a very small group of actors who were in a relatively quiet way beginning to get these roles that television was very reluctant in the 1960s to give to black actors."
Rodriguez was seen as a symbol of intelligence, moral strength and leadership during his various roles in the 1960s and 1970s. His upsurge in Hollywood’s stature was due to a few of his earlier Broadway appearances. Rodriguez is well known for helping to break the racial barriers on television. He is a well distinguished-looking actor and went on to become a voice of great distinction behind the camera.
Rodriguez had a daughter Hollis and a son Gerald with his first wife Alameda. Following Alameda's death, he married Karen Cook in 2003. Rodriguez died of kidney problems at his Indio, California home on September 6, 2007 at age 89.
Selected television work
- Carol for Another Christmas (1964)
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The My Friend the Gorilla Affair" (1966) as President Khufu
- Mission: Impossible four episodes (1966–1970)
- Star Trek episode "Court Martial" (1967) as Commodore Stone
- The Fugitive episode "Passage To Helena" Sheriff Dalton (1967)
- Peyton Place (1968–1969) as Dr. Harry Miles
- Then Came Bronson episode "Two Percent of Nothing" (1969)
- The Silent Force as Jason Hart (series regular, 15 episodes) (1970-1971)
- Somerset as The Lieutenant (1971)
- Cannon (1972) episode "A Flight of Hawks"
- Genesis II (1973) as Primus Kimbridge
- Planet of the Apes episode "The Tyrant" (1974) as Aboro
- Good Times episode "Florida's Rich Cousin" (1975) as Cousin Edgar
- The Lives of Jenny Dolan (1975) as Dr. Mallen
- Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers (1976) as Nolan Wainwright
- Roots: The Next Generations (1979) as Boyd Moffatt
- Sanford (1980) as Winston
- Benson (1982–1985) as Judge Harper
- The Atlanta Child Murders (1985) as Maynard Jackson
- T.J. Hooker episode "Lady In Blue" (1983) as Jason
- Sanford and Son episode " The Olympics" (1975) as Lou Turner
- The Plainsman (1966) as Brother John
- The Sweet Ride (1968) as Lt. Harvey Atkins
- The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) as Dr. Benedict Copeland
- Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972) as Bryce
- Rhinoceros (1974) as Mr. Nicholson
- Hugo the Hippo (1975) as voice of Jorma's father
- The Astral Factor (1976) as Captain Wells
- Galaxina (1980) as voice of Ordric
- Heavy Metal (1981) voice of the Loc-Nar (uncredited)
- Deadly Blessing (1981) as Narrator
- Captain EO (1987) as Narrator
- The Shark is Still Working (2006) (documentary)
- The Exorcist (1973)
- Jaws (1975)
- Shivers (a.k.a. They Came from Within, 1975)
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- Jaws 2 (1978)
- The Black Hole (1979)
- Alien (1979, early teaser only)
- 1941 (1979)
- Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)
- Videodrome (1983)
- Monty Python's the Meaning of Life (1983)
- Jaws 3-D (1983)
- Children of the Corn (1984)
- The Stuff (1985)
- Into the Night (1985)
- Night of the Creeps (1986)
- Chopping Mall (1986)
- House (1986)
- Creepshow 2 (1987)
- The Gate (1987)
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
- Coming to America (1988)
- She's Having A Baby (1988)
- The Great Outdoors (1988)
- Scrooged (1988)
- Look Who's Talking (1989)
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
- Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
- Look Who's Talking Too (1990)
- The Addams Family (1991)
- Curly Sue (1991)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
- Dead Alive (1992)
- Death Becomes Her (1992)
- Kuffs (1992)
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
- Greedy (1994)
- City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (1994)
- What Planet Are You From (2000)
- Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
- "Percy Rodrigues". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
- Glover, William: "'Blues for Mister Charlie' Premiered". The New London Day. April 25, 1964.
- Marsters, Jack: "Dial Turns". July 20, 1964
- 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. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- "A Doctor's Role for Negro Actor". Los Angeles Times. 1968-08-08.
- Nelson, Valerie J. (2007-09-14). "Percy Rodrigues, 89; black actor fought for authority figure roles". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-12-14.