Madge Dorita Sinclair CD (née Walters; April 28, 1938 – December 20, 1995) was a Jamaican actress best known for her roles in Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975), Convoy (1978), Coming to America (1988), Trapper John, M.D. (1980–1986), and the ABC TV miniseries Roots (1977). Sinclair also voiced the character of Sarabi, Mufasa's mate and Simba's mother, in the Disney animated feature film The Lion King (1994). A five-time Emmy Award nominee, Sinclair won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Drama Series for her role as "Empress" Josephine in Gabriel's Fire in 1991.

Madge Sinclair
Sinclair on stage in 1986
Madge Dorita Walters

(1938-04-28)April 28, 1938
DiedDecember 20, 1995(1995-12-20) (aged 57)
Years active1972–1995
Known forLeona Hamilton – Cornbread, Earl and Me
Belle Reynolds – Roots
Queen Aoleon – Coming to America
Voice of Sarabi – The Lion King
Widow Woman – Convoy
Royston Sinclair
(m. 1956; div. 1969)
Dean Compton
(m. 1982)

Early life and education


Born Madge Dorita Walters in Kingston, Jamaica, to Jamaican parents Herbert and Jemima Walters,[1] Sinclair studied at Shortwood College for Women. After completing her studies, she worked as a teacher in Jamaica until 1966, when she left for New York to pursue her career in acting. Sinclair began acting with Joseph Papp's Public Theatre.[1][2] In 1971 she portrayed Clytemnestra in the New York Shakespearean Festival production of The Wedding of Iphigenia.[3]



Sinclair made her film debut as Mrs. Scott in Conrack (1974) opposite Jon Voight; a role which earned her a nomination for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.[3] Her next major critical success was as Bell Reynolds in the 1977 ABC mini-series Roots for which she received her first nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award.[3]

Following Roots, she starred in the 1978 film Convoy as the Widow Woman, and she played Leona Hamilton in Cornbread, Earl and Me. Also in 1978, she co-starred in the short-lived sitcom Grandpa Goes to Washington. Sinclair went on to a stint in the 1980s as nurse Ernestine Shoop on the series Trapper John, M.D. opposite Pernell Roberts. She received three Emmy nominations for her work on the show, and critic Donald Bogle praised her for "maintaining her composure and assurance no matter what the script imposed on her".[citation needed] In 1988, Sinclair played Queen Aoleon alongside James Earl Jones's King Jaffe Joffer in the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America, which reunited her on screen with her Roots husband and co-star John Amos. Later, both Sinclair and Jones would reunite as the queen and king for the roles of Sarabi and Mufasa, Simba’s parents, in the Disney animated film The Lion King (1994). The film became one of the best-selling titles ever on home video. It would also be her last film role. The two also collaborated on the series Gabriel's Fire, which earned Sinclair an Emmy in 1991 for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series, famously beating out the expected winner, L.A. Law's Diana Muldaur.

Sinclair played the role of Lally in the 1991 Channel 4 television miniseries The Orchid House (based on Phyllis Shand Allfrey's novel of the same name), directed by Horace Ové, and also received critical praise for her supporting role in the 1992 television movie Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted with JoBeth Williams. In 1993, Sinclair came to London to appear on stage at the Cochrane Theatre in The Lion, by Michael Abbensetts and directed by Horace Ové, for the Talawa Theatre Company.[2] In 1994, she played a supporting role in the short-lived ABC-TV sitcom Me and the Boys, which starred Steve Harvey. Sinclair, in her role as the captain of the USS Saratoga in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, is commonly cited as the first female Starfleet starship captain to appear in Star Trek. Years later, Sinclair played Geordi La Forge's mother, captain of the USS Hera, in Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Interface".[4] Her final acting role was in an episode of the sitcom Dream On, which first aired one month before her death.

Personal life


Sinclair was married to Royston Sinclair, a Jamaican police officer, from 1956 until 1969 and had two sons with him.[1][5] In 1982, Sinclair married actor Dean Compton, to whom she was still married at the time of her death.[5]



Sinclair died on December 20, 1995, after a 13-year battle with leukemia.[6] Her remains were cremated[5] and her ashes were scattered in her hometown in Jamaica.[7] She was posthumously awarded the Order of Distinction, rank of Commander, for service in the performing arts by prime minister of Jamaica, P. J. Patterson in October 2000.[citation needed]




Year Title Role Notes
1972 The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope Tituba Short
1974 I Love You... Good-bye Salesgirl
1974 Conrack Mrs. Scott Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
1975 Cornbread, Earl and Me Leona Hamilton
1976 I Will, I Will... for Now Dr. Williams
1976 Leadbelly Miss Eula
1978 Convoy Widow Woman
1978 Uncle Joe Shannon Margaret
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Saratoga Captain Uncredited
1988 Coming to America Queen Aoleon
1990 The End of Innocence Nurse Bowlin
1994 The Lion King Sarabi Voice; final film role

Television films

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Sarah Prentiss
1978 One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story Georgia LeFlore
1980 Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones Mrs. Jefferson
1980 High Ice Dr. Pittman
1987 Look Away Elizabeth Keckley
1992 Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted Faye Lincoln

Television series

Year Title Role Notes
1972 Sesame Street Dr. Marzullo Episode 0343: Measles vaccination
1972 Madigan Boots Episode: "The Midtown Beat"
1974 Medical Center Arbiter Episode: "Tainted Lady"
1974 The Waltons Minnie Doze Episode: "The Visitor"
1975 Joe Forrester Sheila Gates Episode: "Stake Out"
1975 Doctors' Hospital n/a Episode: "Come at Last to Love"
1976 Executive Suite Judge Gillespie Episode: "Who Shall Hall Bring Mercy"
1977 Roots Bell Reynolds 3 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
1977 Serpico Michelle Episode: "One Long Tomorrow"
1978 ABC Afterschool Specials Mrs. Bradsbury Episode: "The Rag Tag Champs"
1979 The White Shadow Louelia Judd Episode: "Sudden Death"
1980–1986 Trapper John, M.D. Ernestine Shoop 129 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1983–85)
1984 ABC Afterschool Specials Miss Thomas Episode: "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia"
1987 Mathnet Amelia Airliver Episode: "Problem of the Trojan Hamburger"
1987 Ohara Gussie Lemmons 11 episodes
1987 Starman Lorraine Michaels Episode: "The Test"
1989 Gideon Oliver Angela Holmes Episode: "By the Waters of Babylon"
1989 Roseanne Muriel Johnston Episode: "Guilt by Disassociation"
1989 Midnight Caller Ida May Episode: "Take Back the Streets"
1990–1991 Gabriel's Fire Empress Josephine 22 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Drama Series
1991–1992 Pros and Cons Josephine Austin 12 episodes
1991 The Orchid House Lally 4 episodes
1992 L.A. Law Jessica Rollins Episode: "Diet, Diet My Darling"
1992 Tales from the Crypt Lucille Episode: "Curiosity Killed"
1993 Alex Haley's Queen Dora Episode 3
1993 Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Silva La Forge Episode: "Interface"
1994–1995 Me and the Boys Mary Tower 19 episodes
1995 Dream On Mrs. Charles Episode: "Little Orphan Eddie"


  1. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television – Madge Sinclair -Bob McCann
  2. ^ a b Bourne, Stephen (January 3, 1996). "Obituary: Madge Sinclair". The Independent. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Associated Press (December 23, 1995). "Madge Sinclair, 57, TV and Film Actress". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Chang, Tom (April 29, 2024). "Star Trek: Remembering Madge Sinclair & Her Impact on The Franchise". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved April 30, 2024.
  5. ^ a b c NNDB- Madge Sinclair
  6. ^ "Madge Sinclair, Emmy-Award Winning Actress Succumbs at 57". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. January 15, 1996.
  7. ^ Oliver, Myrna (December 23, 1995). "Madge Sinclair; Stage and Screen Actress Won Emmy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2020.

Further reading