Johnna's Articles

A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff

Thursday, February 4th, 2021




Robert Townsend was born on February 6, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois to Shirley and Ed Townsend but his mother would raise her four children as a single mother on the city’s west side. In high school, Robert would become interested in acting and later audition for Chicago’s Experimental Black Actor’s Guild, and would perform in local plays. He had an uncredited role in the 1975 movie, Cooley High that was filmed in Chicago. Mr. Townsend would enroll at Illinois State University but only stayed for a year before he moved to New York to study at the Negro Ensemble Company. Robert’s mother wanted him to finish his college education but he felt college took him away from his passion for acting; he would drop out to pursue his acting career full time. Mr. Townsend auditioned for Saturday Night Live but was rejected in favor of Eddie Murphy unfortunately. He would write, direct, produce and star in the film, Hollywood Shuffle in 1987 that highlighted the hardships black actors went through in the film industry. The success of this project would establish himself in the industry and this was only the first of several films that Robert would write, direct, produce and star in. His second project would be the classic movie about a 1960’s R&B male group, The Five Heartbeats, one of my favorites. In 1995, he would create and star in the WB network sitcom, the Parent ‘Hood which was one of my favorites growing up and it ran for 5 seasons. Robert Townsend has directed more black films than I ever realized; Eddie Murphy Raw, B.A.P.S, Little Richard, Holiday Heart, Carmen: A Hip Hopera, Living for Love: The Natalie Cole Story, Black Lightning (some episodes) and American Soul (some episodes). Robert Townsend continues to pay it forward, he created the Robert Townsend Foundation, a nonprofit organization that introduces and helps new unsigned filmmakers. Today we honor the man who holds the title of actor, director, comedian, writer and producer. Robert Townsend has proved that you don’t need to stay in one lane, tackle them all. Live life on your terms. Thank you. Happy History Month. 


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