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Obba Babatundé (born Donald Cohen, December 1, 1951) is an American stage and movie actor, voice actor, producer, director and singer.
A native of Queens, New York, Babatundé has appeared in more than seventeen stage productions, thirty theatrical films, sixty made-for-television movies, and two prime-time series. He starred as Zodzetrick in the Houston Grand Opera's 1982 revival of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha.
Early life and educationEdit
He was born in 1951 as Donald Cohen to an African-American family in Jamaica, Queens, New York. As a child, he attended public schools, as did his brother Akin. He was attracted early to theater and from a young age would sing, dance and act for his family. After graduating from Jamaica High School, he started teaching at a private school for students of color. He also pursued acting jobs in New York, gaining some roles Off-Off-Broadway.
Learning that his ancestry included people from Nigeria, he adopted a name made of Yoruba words: Obba, for "king", and Babatunde, meaning "father has returned again."
Babatundé has said a breakthrough role was gaining a part in a 1976 touring company of Guys and Dolls, starring Leslie Uggams and Richard Rountree. Since then he has performed in many other stage productions.
His first Broadway performance was in TImbuktu! in 1978. He is known for starring as C.C. White in Dreamgirls, for which he was nominated for a 1982 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Musical. After performing on Broadway in this role, he also toured for two years with the company. He gradually moved into film and television work, and has had numerous roles in both genres.
His feature film appearances include The Celestine Prophecy, Material Girls, After the Sunset, The Manchurian Candidate, The Notebook, a SWAT captain in John Q, an attorney in Philadelphia (1993), The Last Fall, If I Tell You I Have To Kill You, The Fallen Faithful, Trapped, Tension, and Kinky.
He also played Harvard College Dean Cain in the movie How High, as well as the role of Willie Long in the movie Life, the role of Lamar, the hotel concierge in the film That Thing You Do!, as a senator in the 2004 reprise of The Manchurian Candidate, and in Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups, he played Mayor Denny.
Babatundé has appeared recently in three prime-time series: CBS’ Madam Secretary, as Barton Royce in the Showtime's I’m Dying Up Here (2017) , and as Dean Fairbanks in Netflix's Dear White People (2017-2018).
Babatundé appeared in a recurring role on Kingdom and Amazon's Hand of God, as Bishop Bruce Congdon. He also appeared in Half & Half, as well as appearances on The Bold and the Beautiful, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, NCIS, Cold Case, Strong Medicine, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Touched by an Angel, Chicago Hope, Any Day Now, Karen Sisco, Dawson's Creek, and Friends. In the 1998 miniseries, The Temptations, he played Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records.
Babatundé's voice acting roles in animated movies and games include Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, and Disney Infinity 3.0 as well as Conroy in Rocket Power. In the animated feature The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Babatundé voiced the character of Boko, and in the 2016 Air Bud Entertainment movie Pup Star, he played the soul-singing Basset Hound, Big Ears.
Producer and directorEdit
Babatundé was co-producer and director of Oscar's Black Odyssey, co-producer of Dorothy Dandridge: An American Beauty, and co-producer of TV in Black: The First 50 Years. He is associate producer of the horror film Voodoo Dolls and executive producer of Journey. Most recently, Babatundé directed and co-stars with Katt Williams in the Lionsgate Home Entertainment feature film American Bad Boy, and he produced and directed the short film Clarissa's Gift.
Babatundé also directed a version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. He co-authored, directed, and produced In the Blink of an Eye.
In 1982 Babatunde starred as Zodzetrick in the Houston Grand Opera's second production of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha. They had produced it first in 1976. After the opera was rediscovered, the world premiere was produced in 1972 by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Morehouse College chorus.
Awards and nominationsEdit
In 2016, Babatundé received the Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series", as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Peachtree Village International Film Festival.
Babatundé was nominated for an Emmy in the HBO movie Miss Evers' Boys, an NAACP Image Award in the HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, and an Ovation Award and a Tony Award for his role as C.C. White in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls. He won an NAACP Image Award as “Best Actor” for his role as Sarge in A Soldiers Play.
- S. Torriano Berry; Venise T. Berry. "The A to Z of African American Cinema". Scarecrow Press. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
- Chika Udeh, "Everything You Must Know about Hollywood Icon Obba Babatunde", Buzz Nigeria, 2018
- "Obba Babatunde", Broadway Productions, Internet Broadway Database, 2001-2019
- Avalanche Software. Disney Infinity 3.0. Scene: Closing credits, 5:39 in, Featuring the Voice Talents of.
- "Babatunde, Gurira and Zambello Win NAACP Theatre Awards | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Kiss Me Kate Tops 2011 Ovation Award Nominations". 19 September 2011.