Black Actor Spotlight – June

John Witherspoon

Born John Weatherspoon in Detroit in 1942, you likely recognize his face. If you grew up in the 1990s, he was a regular on The Wayans Brothers Show. Additionally, he was a familiar character actor making guest spots on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, and hosts of other shows. Within the Black community, he was a well-known comedian and experienced one of those explosions of success later in life. After making the television circuit with one-off appearances in the 1970s and 80s, Witherspoon was cast in Kid N’ Play’s House Party as an irate neighbor. He was so well-received in this performance that it became Witherspoon’s regular film persona, the cantankerous dad/uncle. After that breakout role, it was Friday as Craig’s dad that truly solidified him as a regular in Black comedy. When his regular role on The Wayans Brothers Show was over, he didn’t have to worry about work as younger Black comedians would get him hired on their programs. Witherspoon appeared in The Tracy Morgan Show and popped up in guest spots all over the place. His third act came in the form of collaborating with Aaron McGruder on The Boondocks. Witherspoon voiced Grandpa for 55 episodes of this brilliant Adult Swim series and went on to play a role in 31 episodes of McGruder’s live-action Black Jesus satire. Sadly, in October of 2019, John Witherspoon passed away at the age of 77. He was never a leading man, but his role as a solid and reliable comedic character actor solidified his place as a great talent.

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