Nov. 15th, 1937
Yaphet Kotto's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Yaphet Frederick Kotto (born November 15, 1939) is an American actor, known for numerous film roles (including the science-fiction/horror film Alien, the science-fiction/action film The Running Man and as a James Bond villain in Live and Let Die), and his starring role in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-2000). He is also a music producer who is a part of Legendary Inc., founded by Young L of The Pack.
Early life Kotto was born in New York City, the son of Gladys Marie, a nurse and army officer, and Avraham Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), a businessman from Cameroon. In his autobiography titled Royalty, Kotto writes that his father was "the crown prince of Cameroon". Kotto stated that he found out that his family was royal in adult life while studying his family's lineage, and also stated that he is a descendant of Queen Victoria. Kotto's father, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, was, according to Kotto, an observant Jew who spoke Hebrew, and Kotto's mother reportedly converted to Judaism before marrying his father. Kotto also stated that his great-grandfather King Alexander Bell ruled the Douala region of Cameroon in the late 19th century and was also a practicing Jew. Kotto has said that his paternal family originated from Israel and migrated to Egypt and then Cameroon, and have been African Jews for many generations. His claim of being a descendent of Queen Victoria has been denied by the Buckingham Palace press office.
Being black and Jewish gave other children (both whites and blacks) even more reason, he has said, to pick on him growing up in New York City. "It was rough coming up," Kotto said. "And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights".
Career By the age of 16, he was studying acting at the Actor's Mobile Theater Studio, and at 19, he made his professional acting debut in Othello. He also was a member of the Actors Studio in New York. Kotto got his start in acting on Broadway, where he appeared in The Great White Hope, among other productions.
- Turned down the role of Lando Calrissian in 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' (1980). He feared that Lando would be killed in the movie, and that he would be forever typecast.
- He is the son of a Cameroonian crown prince.
- Moved from Littleton, Colorado to Canada, because he felt it would be safer to live there. Two years after moving, he saw the news coverage on Columbine, and recognized some of the kids fleeing the school.
- Has a Bay Area hardcore punk band named after him.
- Oldest son, Fred, is a very successful San JosÚ Police Dept. California (USA) officer.
- Campaigned for 'Steve Forbes (I)' (qv) during his bid for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in the 2000 primaries.
- Both parents are African Jews. In an interview he said being fully Black and Jewish gave other kids even more reason to pick on him growing up in New York City. However, to this day, he remains a devout, practicing Jew.
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