The son of a musician, African American actor Clarence Williams III was raised by his grandmother. While attending his local YMCA branch as a teenager, Williams became interested in dramatics. After a two-year hitch with the Air Force, he began his acting career, making his New York debut in 1960's The Long Dream. Williams amassed an impressive list of Broadway credits, and in 1966 was artist in residence at Brandeis University. Still, he remained an unknown commodity in Hollywood until 1968, when he was cast as "hip" undercover cop Linc Hayes on the popular TV weekly The Mod Squad. After the series' cancellation in 1973, Williams divided his time between stage and film work, occasionally functioning as a director. Among his better-known assignments of recent years was the role of Prince's father in Purple Rain (1984) and the recurring part of Roger Hardy in the cult TV series Twin Peaks (1990). Clarence Williams III is married to actress Gloria Foster.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Discovered drama after accidentally walking onto a stage at a theater below a Harlem YMCA.
- Began his stage career on Broadway in The Long Dream (1960).
- Served as artist-in-residence at Brandeis University in 1966.
- Best known for his role as the hip undercover cop Linc Hayes on the TV series The Mod Squad (1968-73).
- Worked in a variety of genres, from comedy (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka; Half-Baked) to sci-fi (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and drama (Purple Rain, as Prince's father).
- Looking back at his Purple Rain performance, he recalled with relish a moment between scenes, in which Prince "picked up the guitar and started doodling...I had my eyes closed...and I thought about Jimi Hendrix."
- Uncredited film roles include Pork Chop Hill (1959) and American Gangster (2007).