Dec. 24th, 1955
Moses Lake, Washington, USA
Clarence Gilyard Jr.'s Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Clarence Darnell Gilyard, Jr. (born December 24, 1955) is a former American actor and current college professor who has featured in movies and television since 1980. He is sometimes credited as Clarence A. Gilyard. Gilyard is best-known for his roles as Andy Griffith's second private investigator and right-hand man, Conrad McMasters, on the 1980s legal drama series, Matlock (a role he played from 1989 to 1993), and as Chuck Norris's partner and best friend, Texas Ranger James "Jimmy" Trivette, on the 1990s crime drama, Walker, Texas Ranger.
In 1980, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He became the first black actor to undertake the role of the cheerleader in the play Bleacher Bums before he segued into TV roles. Gilyard has made guest appearances (as a character actor) on TV shows such as Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, 227, Simon & Simon and Riptide. Gilyard was on the final season of the NBC TV series CHiPs as Officer Benjamin Webster from 1982-1983. He co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 1984 NBC sitcom The Duck Factory.
Gilyard's movie debut was in 1986 as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Sundown in Top Gun. He was also a military man in the 1986 film The Karate Kid, Part II. His most famous movie role is in the 1988 action film Die Hard as Theo, a computer expert and one of the terrorists. He also played in Left Behind: The Movie, and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force as Reverend Bruce Barnes.
Gilyard returned to series television as a young private investigator, Conrad McMasters, for his first co-starring role on the drama series, Matlock, from 1989 to 1993, when he replaced Kene Holliday that same season, due to his long battle with drug/alcohol abuse. His first role proved to be a successful move, as well. Gilyard, who had been a fan of Andy Griffith's, having been a four-year-old boy at the time, had beaten out three other actors for the role, when a screen test came. He was close with his series lead, Andy Griffith, for four years, both on-screen and off, when Griffith was very difficult to work with himself. Like Griffith's character, his character also proved to gain popularity all across America. On the show, Gilyard even performed some of the show's stunts. Unlike many actors, with the exception of both Holliday and Daniel Roebuck (who replaced Gilyard in 1993), Gilyard appeared in almost every Matlock episode for his three seasons he was on the show. After the show had moved from NBC to ABC for the series' seventh season, Gilyard was about to work on a pilot for another series on CBS.
In 1993, he began another co-starring longtime role, opposite Chuck Norris on Walker, Texas Ranger, Gilyard portrayed fellow Texas Ranger and best friend of the law, James "Jimmy" Trivette. The show proved to be a bigger hit. Gilyard again enjoyed performing stunts and dangerous work on- and off- the set. He and Norris would be best pals, mirroring their on- and off-screen relationship. In a 2005 interview with A&E Biography, he said that Norris' Walker character was a cult-classic Western hero. Gilyard recalled when he and Norris were growing up, other Westerns that they watched were often led by characters that served as surrogate father figures. It was also noted that both Norris & Gilyard had actually spent their time in the Air Force as well, in different years of each other. Near the end of the series, Norris' character married a lawyer, while his own character got a girlfriend. Gilyard remained in the Trivette role until 2001. He was a co-star with two legends, 12 seasons altogether in two separate roles.
Gilyard briefly appeared in the 2005 television movie, Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire. Gilyard had only a cameo appearance due to the filming's conflict with a long-planned family vacation.
- Gilyard was born in Moses Lakes, Washington, but was raised in the military bases of Hawaii, Texas and Florida.
- Originally a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
- Like his father, he also went to the Air Force Academy.
- The second of six children.
- Attended Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas for some time. After his success as an actor, Clarence has given back to the college in many ways, one of which is he paid for new tennis courts for the college.
- Graduated from Eisenhower High School in Rialto, California, in 1974.
- Three of the movies he has starred in have gone on to gross well over $150 million each in world wide box office and DVD sales.
- Attended California State - Long Beach, with a major in theater.
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