Clarence Williams III, the US actor who played Prince’s father in Purple Rain and also starred in 1960s show The Mod Squad, has died at the age of 81.
Williams died in Los Angeles on Friday (June 4) of colon cancer, his management confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Born in New York in 1939, Clarence Williams was named, like his father, after his musician grandfather, a celebrated jazz pianist.
After serving in the US Air Force Clarence Williams started out on stage, earning a Tony nomination in 1965 for Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.
Clarence Williams big break came in 1968 when he was cast in The Mod Squad as Lincoln “Linc” Hayes, one of three former juvenile delinquents recruited as an undercover cop.
He starred alongside Michael Cole and the late Peggy Lipton in the ABC detective show, appearing in more than 120 episodes over the next five years.
ABC wanted him to stay on the show longer, but by 1973 he had had enough. “I’d done all I could with the part,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1997.
“And so I said let me go back, refresh myself, learn some things, read, travel and just try to put some more arrows in my quiver.”
Yet he was persuaded to reprise his character – played by Omar Epps in the little-liked 1999 film reboot – in a 1979 TV movie that reunited the show’s original cast.
The actor went on to act in Twin Peaks, in which Lipton also appeared, as well as such films as The General’s Daughter, Reindeer Games and Johnny Depp’s The Brave.
Known for his signature gap-toothed smile and simmering intensity, he was nominated four times for the NAACP’s Image Awards.
“It’s not a 100-yard dash, it’s a long-distance run,” he said of his career in 1997. “You need patience, because you’re going for the distance.”
According to his representatives, the actor died of bowel cancer in Los Angeles on 4 June.
He was married once, to actress Gloria Foster, from 1967 to 1984. Foster went on to play The Oracle in the first two Matrix films before dying in 2001.