A frequent presence in both film and television from the 1970s onward, African-American character player Earl Billings moved from landing one- and two-shot bit roles in prime-time series programs and low-profile movies to signing for supporting roles in some of Hollywood's most acclaimed comedies and dramas. This stocky, heavyset player demonstrated a knack for playing black everymen -- often essaying the parts of police officers, detectives, and security guards. Billings first began receiving onscreen credit around 1976, with a single-episode contribution to Norman Lear's sitcom Good Times. Soon after that, the actor appeared in the recurring role of Rob on What's Happening!! Following a turn in the little-seen Sounder, Part Two (1976) and credit as a parole office worker in the gentle yet profane Richard Pryor comedy Bustin' Loose (1981), Billings acted in several telemovies.
After a cinematic lapse of several years, Billings rebounded with an appearance in the blockbuster 1987 John Badham crime comedy Stakeout. A consistent string of supporting turns in A-list productions followed, including (but not limited to) Jimmy Hollywood (1994), Crimson Tide (1995), American Splendor (2003), Thank You for Smoking (2005), and Something New (2006). Billings augmented this success with occasional work on such prime-time series as Ally McBeal and ER. In 2008, he took on his first regular TV role, playing Principal Huffy on the sitcom Miss Guided, starring Judy Greer as an earnest high-school guidance councilor, but the series was unfortunately very short-lived.