Carl Gordon (actor)

Carl Gordon (January 20, 1932 July 20, 2010) was an American actor who entered the acting profession later in life and was best known for his role in the Fox TV series Roc, in addition to a wide range of roles in film, on stage and television as a character actor.

Carl Gordon
Rufus Carl Gordon Jr.

(1932-01-20)January 20, 1932
DiedJuly 20, 2010(2010-07-20) (aged 78)

Life and career

Gordon was born Rufus Carl Gordon Jr. in Goochland, Virginia, and was always known by his middle name. He moved with his family as a child and was raised in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant. He enlisted in the United States Air Force and served during the Korean War as an aircraft mechanic. After completing his military service, he attended Brooklyn College but dropped out to pursue employment.[1]

Around 1970, Gordon had been twice married and twice divorced, had been unable to complete college and had only been able to find work as a sheet-metal worker and as a stockroom clerk that didn't interest and challenge him. As recounted by The New York Times, he fell to his knees one night and cried out "Lord, tell me what I need to do" and received the answer "Try acting".[1] He enrolled at Gene Frankel's Theatre and Film Workshop, where he was the oldest student and the only African American. After many auditions, he started getting roles as a character actor on Broadway, in film and on television.[1] He appeared in 1967 in the national tour of Happy Ending / Day of Absence, a pair of one-act plays by Douglas Turner Ward, and performed on stage in 30 productions by Ward's Negro Ensemble Company.[2]

He appeared in films; in the 1973 movie "Gordon's War" and 1984 John Sayles movie The Brother from Another Planet.[1] In 1990, Gordon played the role of Doaker in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, the fourth of 10 plays in his Pittsburgh Cycle. He also appeared on Broadway in the 1971 production of Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, a musical by Melvin Van Peebles and a 2003 production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom with his Roc co-star Charles S. Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg.[1] He appeared on television in episodes of ER and Law & Order.[1]

His most notable role was on the 19911994 Fox series Roc, about an African American family in Baltimore. Starring Dutton as Roc Emerson, the show included Gordon in the role of the title character's father Andrew, an "irascible, sharp-tongued retired train porter".[2] Reviewer Marvin Kitman in Newsday described Gordon's character in Roc as a "black Archie Bunker". He gives portraits of Malcolm X as birthday presents. He is offended that his son watches The Simpsons because they're white and doesn't watch Cosby. Andrew also insists that Larry Bird can't possibly be white and play basketball as well as he does, that Bird was raised in Harlem and his real name is Abdul Mustafa.[2][3][4] Gordon based his character on a strong-willed uncle who owned a grocery store in Philadelphia.[3] Episodes in the second and third season of the show were broadcast live, which didn't faze Gordon, who described the experience as being "like going back to Broadway".[1] The decision to air live shows was made as a promotional stunt, but was enabled by the extensive stage experience of Gordon, Dutton and other cast members.[2]

Gordon died at age 78 on July 20, 2010, at his home in Jetersville, Virginia due to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was survived by his third wife, Jacqueline Alston-Gordon, as well as by five daughters, a son, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.[1]


Year Title Role Notes
1973Gordon's WarLuther the Pimp
1976The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor KingsMack, Potter's Goon
1984The Brother from Another PlanetMr. Price
1984ViolatedDistrict Attorney
1986No MercyLawrence
1997Better Than EverHume
2011Somebody's HeroRusty(final film role)


  1. Fox, Margalit. "Carl Gordon, a Late-Blooming Actor, Dies at 78", The New York Times, July 23, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2010.
  2. Weinraub, Bernard. "From Ashes, an Acting Career and a Role on 'Roc'", The New York Times, February 8, 1992. Accessed July 23, 2010.
  3. Goodman, Walter. "TV Weekend; All in the Family, Updated and Black", The New York Times, August 23, 1991. Accessed July 23, 2010.
  4. Kitman, Marvin. "THE MARVIN KITMAN SHOW Fox' Sparks Of Innovation", Newsday, September 5, 1991. Accessed July 23, 2010.
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