Samm-Art Williams dead at 78: Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air executive producer, actor, and Tony-nominated playwright  passes away in North Carolina

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 Samm-Art Williams – who was a Tony-nominated playwright and executive producer of Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air – has passed away aged 78.

The Hollywood veteran passed away on Monday in Burgaw, North Carolina his cousin Carol Brown confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

She said in a statement: ‘Mr. Williams’ contributions to American theater and television will live on, but he will be greatly missed.’

No official cause of death has been revealed. 

Samm-Art Williams – who was a Tony-nominated playwright and executive producer of Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air – has passed away aged 78; he is pictured in Cook & Peary: The Race to the Pole back in 1983

Williams’ career highlight came in 1980 when he was nominated for both the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for his comedy Home.

The play was  mounted by the Negro Ensemble Company at St. Mark’s Playhouse in Manhattan from 1979 to 1980 before transferring to Broadway.

The production was a coming of age tale of a young Black man from rural North Carolina whose life spins out of control when his childhood sweetheart reject him before he moves to the big city, is arrested for draft dodging, and builds a new life just to lose it all again and end back home.

There were obviously parallels to his actual life as he was born January 20, 1946 in Burgaw, North Carolina, as the son of Samuel and school teacher Valdosia Williams.

After going to college at Morgan State University in Baltimore, he moved to Philadelphia where he collaborated with the New Freedom Theatre as an actor and worked as a salesman to pay the bills before making the eventual move to New York City.

He began acting  As Samm Williams in the Big Apple in 1973 where he performed in the play Black Jesus with New York’s Negro Ensemble Company (NEC).

Williams also appeared in such plays as Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide (St. Mark’s Playhouse, 1974) and Liberty Calland (St. Mark’s Playhouse, 1975), before taking on the name Samm-Art Williams for Argus and Klansman and Waiting for Mongo (St. Mark’s Playhouse, 1975).

He worked in theaters throughout the 1970s before making his screen debut as Roger in the Richard Price novel adaptation of The Wanderers in 1979 before playing a subway police officer in Dressed to Kill (1980).

 Williams also wrote the play Welcome to Black River, produced by the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) at St. Mark’s Playhouse in 1975.

He also had starred in PBS American Playhouse dramas including Denmark Vesey (1985; title role) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (as Jim; 1986, pictured)

He also had starred in PBS American Playhouse dramas including Denmark Vesey (1985; title role) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (as Jim; 1986, pictured)

He followed that up with The Coming and Do Unto Others, both at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn in 1976; A Love Play produced by the NEC that same year; The Last Caravan (1977); and Brass Birds Don’t Sing, at New York City’s Stage 73 in 1978.

After the success of his play Home, he went on to play Matthew Henson in the historical drama TV movie Cook and Peary: The Race to the Pole which aired on CBS in 1983.

He also had starred in PBS American Playhouse dramas including  Denmark Vesey (1985; title role) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (as Jim; 1986).

Williams also wrote episodes of  Cagney & Lacey, The New Mike Hammer, Miami Vice and The Debbie Allen Special.

Williams is seen pictured right as Jim in 1986's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Williams is seen pictured right as Jim in 1986’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

He was  even nominated for two Emmys; as a producer on Frank’s Place in 1988 and Motown Returns To The Apollo in 1985.

One of his most notable gigs was as an executive producer on NBC primetime sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air starring Will Smith from 1990-93.

He also had stints on other sitcoms including Hangin’ With Mr Cooper, Good News, and Martin.  

Williams had no spouse or children. 

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