Samm-Artwork Williams, who made his mark in a number of fields — as an government producer of the sitcom “The Recent Prince of Bel-Air,” as an actor on each stage and display and as a Tony-nominated playwright for “Dwelling,” died on Monday in Burgaw, N.C. He was 78.

His demise was confirmed by his cousin Carol Brown. She didn’t cite a trigger.

An imposing 6-foot-8 (a lefty, he as soon as served as a sparring associate to Muhammad Ali), Mr. Williams appeared in movies together with Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock homage, “Dressed to Kill” (1980), and the Coen brothers’ neo-noir, “Blood Simple” (1984). He had a memorable flip as Jim within the 1986 adaptation of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a part of PBS’s “American Playhouse” collection.

Dedicated to increasing the Black presence in Hollywood, he was each a author and an government producer on “Recent Prince,” the hit Nineties NBC comedy starring Will Smith as a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who strikes in along with his aunt and uncle within the moneyed hills of Los Angeles.

He additionally served as a author and a producer on the tv exhibits “Martin” and “Frank’s Place.” He was nominated for 2 Emmy Awards — for his work as a author on “Motown Returns to the Apollo” in 1985 and a producer of “Frank’s Place” in 1988.

Raised in Burgaw, a former railroad city north of Wilmington, N.C., he moved to New York in 1973 to pursue a profession in appearing. It was his wistfulness for his small Southern hometown that impressed “Dwelling,” a manufacturing of the celebrated Negro Ensemble Firm that opened on the St. Marks Playhouse in Manhattan six years later earlier than shifting to Broadway.

The play, which is being revived on Broadway by the Roundabout Theater Company, tells the story of a younger Black farmer and grasp raconteur, Cephus Miles, within the fictional small city of Cross Roads, N.C.

Jailed for refusing to serve within the Vietnam Conflict, Cephus strikes to an unnamed Northern metropolis, the place his life spirals downward earlier than he returns dwelling to search out redemption.

The play developed from a poem Mr. Williams wrote, as a tribute to his mom, on a Greyhound bus when he was on the way in which dwelling for Christmas.

“In New York, I used to be lonely and lacking the South,” he recalled in a 2010 interview with The Chicago Solar-Occasions. “However I knew I couldn’t go dwelling, as a result of I hadn’t achieved something but. The concept for the play got here out of that longing.”

“Dwelling” got here to be thought to be a basic of Black theater.

Mel Gussow praised the play in a overview of the unique manufacturing in The New York Occasions, writing, “In all respects — writing, route and efficiency — this is among the happiest theatrical occasions of the season.”

Mr. Gussow admired Mr. Williams’s lyricism, noting that he was “clearly in love with phrases, which in his fingers change into a rolling caravan of pictures.” He additionally in contrast his use of dialect to that of Mark Twain.

Mr. Williams later mentioned that his poetic strategy to language was a part of his mission to vary racial perceptions within the eyes of the leisure business, in addition to audiences.

“If it’s within the English language, it’s for everyone,” he mentioned in a 1985 interview with The Los Angeles Occasions. “This might not be everyone’s fact — producers, administrators, audiences — however it’s Samm-Artwork Williams’s fact.”

Samuel Arthur Williams was born on Jan. 20, 1946, in Philadelphia and raised in Burgaw by his mom, Valdosia Williams, a highschool English and drama trainer, after her dad and mom separated when he was a younger boy.

“Speak was every part there, good speak,” he mentioned of his small city in a 1982 interview with The Baltimore Solar. “If you happen to didn’t communicate, they thought you had been loopy.”

The straightforward banter he heard rising up knowledgeable his later work. “I’m very serious about folks story as an artwork kind,” he added. “It’s quite simple. Whether or not you’re Black, white or inexperienced,” a folks story “has no colour.”

Influenced by his mom, he confirmed an early curiosity in writing and appearing and skim “every part from Langston Hughes to Edgar Allan Poe,” he instructed The Los Angeles Occasions. “‘The Raven’ was my best affect — in seeing this chook, I noticed what a terrific factor it was to have the ability to work on an individual’s thoughts with phrases.”

After graduating from Morgan State College in Baltimore with a bachelor’s diploma in political science in 1968, he labored as a salesman in Philadelphia whereas learning with the New Freedom Theater, an influential Black firm there.

After shifting to New York, he started to carve out a profession as a stage actor, showing in a number of productions by the Negro Ensemble Firm. By the late Seventies he was making inroads into Hollywood and appeared in “The Wanderers” (1979), based mostly on the Richard Worth novel about youth gangs within the Bronx within the early Sixties.

Within the mid-Eighties, Mr. Williams secured a task on an episode of the detective collection “The New Mike Hammer,” starring Stacy Keach. When he discovered from a producer that the episode wanted a rewrite, he supplied to deal with it himself, kicking off his profession as a tv author and, ultimately, producer.

No instant relations survive.

All through his profession, Mr. Williams acknowledged the colour limitations he confronted in Hollywood. However he additionally acknowledged the alternatives.

“Whether or not I’ll succeed or whether or not I’ll hit a brick wall stays to be seen,” he instructed The Los Angeles Occasions, “however nothing will change if we don’t attempt to make it change.”



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