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Virginia Capers

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Virginia Capers
Eliza Capers

(1925-09-22)September 22, 1925
DiedMay 6, 2004(2004-05-06) (aged 78)
Years active1957–2003

Eliza "Virginia" Capers (September 22, 1925 – May 6, 2004) was an American actress.[1] She won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical in 1974 for her performance as Lena Younger in Raisin, a musical version of Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun.


She made her Broadway debut in the musical Jamaica in 1957 as a replacement for Adelaide Hall in the role of Grandma Obeah, taking over the role when Hall left the musical.[2][3][4][5][6] Capers went on to appear in Saratoga[7] and Raisin.[8]

Capers was a familiar face to television audiences. In addition to a recurring role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Hattie Banks, she appeared in many television shows, including Have Gun Will Travel, Dragnet, Marcus Welby, M.D., My Three Sons, Mannix, The Waltons, Mork & Mindy, Highway to Heaven, St. Elsewhere, Murder, She Wrote, Evening Shade, The Golden Girls, Unsub, Booker, Married... with Children, The Practice and ER.

Capers appeared in such films as Norwood (1970), The Great White Hope (1970), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), The Toy (1982), Teachers (1984), Howard the Duck (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Beethoven's 2nd (1993) and What's Love Got to Do with It (1993).

Capers founded the Lafayette Players, a Los Angeles repertory theatre company for African-American performers. She was the recipient of the National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Award, the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award, and the NAACP Image Award for theatre excellence.

Capers provided the narration for the 1993 adventure game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.[9] For her performance, she won Computer Gaming World's award for Best Female Voice-Over Acting; the editors had expected to give the award to someone portraying a specific character but were "totally overwhelmed" by Capers as the narrator, stating that "Her performance alone makes it worthwhile to purchase the CD version" (as voice acting is absent from some versions of the game).[10]


Capers died on May 6, 2004, of complications from pneumonia in Los Angeles, California, aged 78.[11]


Film and television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1962 House of Women Sarah
1967 The Ride to Hangman's Tree Teresa Moreno Uncredited
1969 The Lost Man Theresa
1970 There Was a Crooked Man... Cook Uncredited
1970 Norwood Ernestine
1970 The Great White Hope Sister Pearl
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter Effie
1971 Big Jake Delilah
1971 The Late Liz Martha
1972 Lady Sings the Blues Mama Holiday
1972 Trouble Man Macy
1973 The World's Greatest Athlete Native Woman
1973 Five on the Black Hand Side Ruby
1979 The North Avenue Irregulars Cleo
1982 The Toy Ruby Simpson
1984 Teachers Landlady
1984 Highway To Heaven Miss Hendrickson
1985 Da Capo Da Capo
1986 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling Emma Ray
1986 Ferris Bueller's Day Off Florence Sparrow
1986 Howard the Duck Cora Mae, Secretary
1987 Off the Mark Velma
1988 Backfire Maxine
1988 The Golden Girls Greta Wagner
1990 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Hattie "Grandma" Banks 6 episodes
1990 Pacific Palisades Shirley
1993 What's Love Got to Do with It Choir Mistress
1993 Knots Landing Adele Carter 3 episodes
1993 Beethoven's 2nd Miss Linda Anderson
1995 A Last Goodbye The Principal
1995 Truman Elizabeth Moore
1997 The Practice
1999 Bad City Blues Mrs. Green

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role
1993 Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Narrator


  1. ^ "Virginia Capers, an actress with a musical touch | African American Registry". Aaregistry.org. 1925-09-22. Archived from the original on 2013-02-06. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  2. ^ McCann, Bob (2009). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television – Bob McCann. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-5804-2. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  3. ^ "Virginia Capers, 78, Actress Who Won a Tony for 'Raisin'". The New York Times. 2004-05-12. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  4. ^ "Tony Winner Virginia Capers is Dead at 78 – Theater News". Theatermania.com. 2004-05-15. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  5. ^ Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 1959-04-16. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  6. ^ "Other works for Nat Horne". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  7. ^ Ken Mandelbaum, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops, St. Martin's Press (1991), pp. 230–233 (ISBN 0312064284).
  8. ^ "Raisin | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  9. ^ "Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (1993 Video Game); IMDb". IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  10. ^ "The 15 Best Ways To Die In Computer Gaming". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. p. 107. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  11. ^ Sisario, Ben (2004-05-12). "Virginia Capers, 78, Actress Who Won a Tony for 'Raisin'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-25.

External links[edit]