Roscoe Lee Browne

Active - 1962 - 2007  |   Born - May 2, 1925 in Woodbury, New Jersey, United States  |   Died - Apr 11, 2007   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Children's/Family, History, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Roscoe Lee Browne was already an internationally famous track star when he attended Vermont's Middlebury College and Columbia University. Browne taught comparative literature and French at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University before turning to acting in 1956. Refusing to limit himself to the subservient roles generally assigned to black actors in the 1950s, Browne established himself in the classics, beginning with his inaugural stage appearance in a New York Shakespeare Festival staging of Julius Caesar. He later appeared in such highly regarded New York theatrical productions as The Blacks and Brecht on Brecht. From his first film appearance in Shirley Clarke's The Connection (1962) onward, Browne projected a commanding, authoritative presence, even when playing "hired help" characters like camp cook Jedediah Nightlinger in The Cowboys (1972). His series-TV credits include the roles of Saunders on Soap (1980-1981 season) and Rosemont on Falcon Crest (1988-1989 season). Having never let a year go by without at least one theatrical engagement, Browne won a Tony award for his work in the 1992 production 2 Trains Running. Outside of his performing activities, Roscoe Lee Browne is an accomplished poet, short-story author, playwright, director, and musical arranger.

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  • Was an award-winning track-and-field athlete, taking two American indoor championships and winning the world championship in the 800-yard dash in 1951.
  • Worked as a sales representative for wine and liquor importer Schenley Import Corporation from 1951 to 1956; the day after quitting to pursue acting, he won a role in a New York Shakespeare Festival production.
  • Taught French and comparative literature at his alma mater, Lincoln University.
  • Made his feature-film debut in the drug-fueled 1962 drama The Connection.
  • Became a series regular on ABC sitcom Soap during its final season (1980-81), replacing Robert Guillaume as the Tate family butler.
  • Wrote poetry and frequently performed classic poems and works of literature for audio books, as well as in live productions such as Behind the Broken Words.