Lynne Thigpen

Cherlynne Theresa "Lynne" Thigpen (December 22, 1948 – March 12, 2003) was an American actress who voiced "Luna" (The Moon) in children's series Bear In The Big Blue House and portrayed "The Chief" of ACME in various Carmen Sandiego television series and computer games from 1991 to 1997. For her varied television work, Thigpen was nominated for six Daytime Emmy Awards; she won a Tony Award in 1997 for portraying Dr. Judith Kaufman in An American Daughter.

Lynne Thigpen
Thigpen as Miss Barrett in the 1989 dramatized biographical film Lean On Me
Cherlynne Theresa Thigpen

(1948-12-22)December 22, 1948
DiedMarch 12, 2003(2003-03-12) (aged 54)
Resting placeElmhurst Cemetery, Joliet, Illinois
Other namesLynne Richmond
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Years active1971–2003
TelevisionThe Chief in Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Awards1992 Obie Award – (Boesman and Lena)
1997 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – (An American Daughter)
1999 Obie Award – (Jar the Floor)

Early life and education

Born in Joliet, Illinois, Thigpen obtained a degree in teaching.[1][2] She taught high school English briefly while studying theatre at the University of Illinois on an acting fellowship.[3]



Thigpen moved to New York City in 1971 to begin her career as a stage actress. She had a long and prolific theater career and appeared in numerous musicals including Godspell, The Night That Made America Famous, The Magic Show, Working, Tintypes, and An American Daughter (for which she won her Tony Award for her portrayal of Dr. Judith Kaufman in 1997).[4]

In 1995, she served as associate artistic director of the acclaimed off-Broadway theater, Circle Repertory Company, while Austin Pendleton served as artistic director.


Her first feature film role was as Lynne in Godspell (1973), co-starring opposite Victor Garber and David Haskell. Thigpen also portrayed a radio DJ (shown only from the nose down) in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979), and Leonna Barrett, the mother of an expelled student, in Lean on Me (1989), the story of American high school principal Joe Louis Clark. She had a role in the remake of Shaft (2000) as the mother of a murder victim, and played the Second President of the World Congress in Bicentennial Man (1999). Her last film, Anger Management (2003), starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson, was released only a month after her death and paid tribute to her in the end credits.


Thigpen was perhaps best known to television audiences for playing "The Chief" in the award-winning PBS children's geography game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which involved education, humor, and an occasional musical performance. She reprised her role as The Chief in the successor show Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?. She also played Luna in the television show Bear in the Big Blue House and also appeared in many other television series during her career, most notably in a recurring role as Grace Keefer on the ABC daytime drama All My Children and a supporting role as Ella Mae Farmer, a crime analyst for the Washington, D.C., police department, on the CBS crime drama The District.[5] She guest-starred in episodes of Gimme A Break!, L.A. Law, Law & Order, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Thirtysomething, and was a regular cast member on the short-lived NBC sketch comedy series The News Is the News.

Audio productions

She appeared in radio skits of the Garrison Keillor program The American Radio Company of the Air.[6] Her voice was also heard on over 20 audio books, primarily works with socially relevant themes.[7]

Computer games

In her association with the Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? television show, Thigpen reprised her role as The Chief in three related computer games. Two were released in 1996: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (a reboot of the original 1985–1992 game) and Where in the U.S.A. Is Carmen Sandiego? The following year, a video game counterpart to the TV series' successor show, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego, was released, titled Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time. Thigpen recorded hundreds of QuickTime videos for cut-scenes in the games, and generally received praise for her performances in them; in reviewing the 1997 game, David Colker of the Los Angeles Times enjoyed the "on-screen presence of actress Lynne Thigpen", noting that she "brings a winning presence to her role,"[8] while Debbie Maria Leon of the New Straits Times wrote that "the urgency of the [confident Chief's] voice [gives] enough oomph to make [the player] go scurrying to restore history".[9]


Thigpen died of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2003,[10] in her Marina del Rey, California, home after complaining of headaches for several days. She was 54 years old. Drugs and foul play were ruled out by the coroner's autopsy which found "acute cardiac dysfunction, non-traumatic systemic and spontaneous intraventricular hemorrhage, and hemorrhage in the brain." She was entombed next to her parents at Elmhurst Cemetery in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois.

Response and legacy

After Thigpen died, the third-season finale of The District had a tribute to her character Ella Mae Farmer.

Thigpen's death also led to a three-year hiatus of Bear in the Big Blue House, and a planned film version of Bear was put on hold. Two years after Thigpen's death, Bear star Tara Mooney, who played the character Shadow, stated in an interview with Ray D'Arcy on Today FM: "The crew's hearts just weren't in it anymore".

Thigpen was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna the moon in Bear in the Big Blue House, but she lost to Jeff Corwin for his wildlife reality series The Jeff Corwin Experience.

Thigpen's friends and family established a non-profit foundation, The Lynne Thigpen - Bobo Lewis Foundation, to help young actors and actresses learn how to survive and succeed in New York theater and to mentor the next generation of Broadway stars.[11]

Her final film, Anger Management (2003), was dedicated to her memory. Lynne Thigpen Elementary School in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois, was named in her honor.[12]

The character of The Chief in the Carmen Sandiego reboot has been confirmed to have been based on Lynne, the definitive creator of the role.








Awards and honors

  • Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet, Illinois[12]


  1. Drum
  2. Collins, Scott (20 March 2003). "Lynne Thigpen (1948-2003). (News Wire ...)". Back Stage West. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  3. Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (July–August 2003). "A golden voice goes silent: Lynne Thigpen, the award-winning actress who died this past spring, was the hardest working narrator in audiobooks. (tribute)". Black Issues Book Review. p. 71. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  4. Kapos, Shia (14 March 2003). "LYNNE THIGPEN, 54". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  5. "Actress Lynne Thigpen, 54, Dies In Los Angeles", Jet, March 31, 2005, p. 53.
  6. "A Prairie Home Companion Timeline". July 6, 1974. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  7. "Muppet Central Articles - Tributes: Lynne Thigpen". March 13, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  8. Colker, David (7 December 1997). "A World Traveler Broadens Her Horizons: [Home Edition]". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  9. Leon, Debbie Maria (April 26, 1999). "In hot pursuit of Carmen through time". New Straits Times. p. 56. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  10. "Lynne Thigpen, Actress in CBS's 'District,' Dies at 54". New York Times. The Associated Press. March 14, 2003. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  11. "Lynne Thigpen/Bobo Lewis Foundation Created for Actors, Writers, and Directors". Broadway World. April 26, 2005. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  12. "Lynne Thigpen School". Retrieved January 29, 2013.
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