Madge Sinclair

Active - 1974 - 1994  |   Born - Apr 28, 1940 in Kingston, Jamaica  |   Died - Dec 20, 1995   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Actress Madge Sinclair was born and raised in Jamaica. A bright and ambitious student, Sinclair excelled in speech and drama, winning several awards. She put her theatrical aspirations on hold when she married a Jamaican policeman, working for several years as a schoolteacher. In 1968, she moved to New York with her two sons in tow, hoping to launch an acting career. While opportunities were still rather limited for black performers in the late 1960s, she managed to find good, solid stage work with producer Joseph Papp, the Public Theatre and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She made her film debut as Mrs. Scott in Conrack (1974), then went on to earn an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Bell in the 1977 TV miniseries Roots. After a brief fling at series TV with the 1978 Jack Albertson sitcom Grandpa Goes to Washington, Sinclair enjoyed a six-season (1980-86) run as Nurse Ernestine Shoop on Trapper John MD. Her later weekly TV stints included Ohara (1987) and Me and the Boys (1994). Busy though she was on television, Sinclair always managed to find time for theatrical and film work (in the 1986 Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America, for example, she was seen as Eddie's royal mamma). Madge Sinclair died of leukemia at the age of 57, not long after completing work on the TV special A Century of Women.

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  • Was a school teacher in Jamaica until moving to New York at age 30.
  • Acted with the New York Shakespearean Festival and at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre in New York.
  • Made her film debut in 1974 in Conrack.
  • Received the Order of Distinction from the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
  • Received two Image Awards from the NAACP.
  • Played queen to James Earl Jones' king in both Coming to America (1988) and The Lion King (1994).