Clarence Williams III
, who played cool undercover cop Linc Hayes on the counterculture show "The Mod Squad
" and Prince
's father in "Purple Rain
," has died at the age of 81.
Williams died Friday at his home in Los Angeles
after a battle with colon cancer
, his manager Allan Mindel announced on Sunday. Tributes poured in from those who worked with Williams as well as those who admired him for his trailblazing roles and impactful performances.
Rusty Cundieff, director of “Tales from the Hood,” tweeted that his grief
over Williams’ death
“cannot be overstated. His artistry and sheer coolness was extraordinary. I will forever be in his debt for his brilliant performance in Tales From the Hood. Loved working with him! Blessed travels good sir!”
, singer Lenny Kravitz said:
Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and who inspired me when I was a kid growing up in NYC, from the Mod Squad to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill. Rest in power, king pic.twitter.com/GIZLSjp4uV — Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) June 6, 2021
Peyton Reed, a director, tweeted that he collaborated with Williams on the 1995 television
film "The Love Bug":
I got to work with Clarence Williams III on my second TV movie, THE LOVE BUG, back in 1995. I grew up watching him as Linc in THE MOD SQUAD and thought he was the epitome of cool, which he was. Rest in peace, Clarence. pic.twitter.com/PadZZlTzKJ — Peyton Reed (@MrPeytonReed) June 6, 2021
Director Lee Daniels, who worked with Williams on the film "The Butler
," called him "extraordinary."
What an honor to work with this man on THE BUTLER. #ClarenceWilliamsIII pic.twitter.com/EqsunpqrRl — Lee Daniels (@leedanielsent) June 7, 2021
Williams, a native of New York
, had a five-decade career in theater
, television, and film. He was born in 1939 into a creative family, his grandfather a jazz composer and pianist, his father a musician
, and his mother, Eva Taylor, a singer and actress.
had seen Williams perform and told Aaron Spelling he should consider him for the role of Linc in “The Mod Squad,” which ran from 1968 to 1973. The show was a trailblazer for attempting to portray the hippie generation of the time, and it was a star-maker for all three.
In 1979, he appeared on Broadway
opposite Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard's "Night and Day" before landing the role of the troubled father in 1984's "Purple Rain."
They first worked together on his adaptation of Elmore Leonard's "52 Pick-Up" at a time when Williams was struggling in Hollywood
and sleeping on Cosby's couch to keep a roof over his head.
“He asked me to read for the part of one of the blackmailers, but after only four lines, he told me to stop,” Williams explained in a 1999 interview
. “I thought it was all over, but he said, ‘Have your agent call me. It will be a 10-week shoot. Thank you for coming in.’
Williams also appeared in Frankenheimer's films "Against the Wall," "Reindeer Games," and "Tales from the Crypt."
Williams excelled in a variety of genres, including comedy
, in which he played a drug lord opposite Dave Chappelle
in "Half Baked" and stole scenes in Keenen Ivory Wayans' blaxploitation parody
film "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." He also appeared in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" as the FBI
agent who informs Agent Cooper that he has been suspended.
Other film credits include "Tales from the Hood," "Deep Cover," "Sugar Hill," "The General's Daughter," and an uncredited role in "American Gangster." He also appeared on numerous television shows, including "Miami
Vice" and "Hill Street Blues," as well as "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Justified."
From 1967 to 1984, he was married to Gloria Foster.
Williams, on the other hand, was unconcerned about his long history with "The Mod Squad."
“All most people
know about me is the two hours they spent in a movie theater or in front of their television,” he said in a 1999 interview. “There’s so much entertainment
out there right now, it’s difficult to break through and become part of the national consciousness; it’s nice to be recognized, and I have no problem with it at all.”