The son of an erstwhile jazz musician, African-American actor Ron O'Neal was born in Utica and raised in Cleveland. At 18, O'Neal joined the latter city's Karamu House, an experimental interracial theatrical troupe. After nine years with Karamu House, O'Neal headed to New York, where in 1970 he won the Obie award for his performance in No Place to Be Somebody. Despite nominal stage stardom, O'Neal was an unknown quantity in films until exploding on the blaxploitation scene as the drug-dealing priest in the stylish action flick Superfly (1972). He both directed and starred in the sequel Superfly TNT (1973), and later directed 1991's Up Against the Wall. Ron O'Neal's series-TV credits include 1983's Bring 'Em Back Alive as the imperious Sultan of Jahoor, The Equalizer (1985-89) as Lt. Isadore Smalls, and the 1985 miniseries North and South.