Ernest Lee Thomas : biography
Ernest Lee Thomas (born March 26, 1949) is an American actor. He was born in Gary, Indiana. He is most famous for his role as aspiring writer Roger "Raj" Thomas on the 1970s ABC sitcom What’s Happening!!, and its 1980s syndicated sequel, What’s Happening Now!!
What’s Happening Now!! and later career
After a six year hiatus from TV and film acting, Ernest resumed his role as Roger Thomas in the sequel to What’s Happening!!, titled What’s Happening Now!!. The revived show aired from 1985 to 1988.
Ernest Thomas is also one of the stars of rocker/horror movie director Rob Zombie’s upcoming 2012 film The Lords of Salem in which he plays a local town’s radio DJ.
Since the show’s cancellation Thomas has guest starred on a number of popular TV dramas and sitcoms including In the Heat of the Night, (which co-starred his TV wife Anne-Marie Johnson, from What’s Happening Now!!), The Parent ‘Hood, Martin, Soul Food, The Steve Harvey Show, All About the Andersons and more recently Just Jordan. He has also appeared in a number of films including his most prominent film appearances in a supporting role in Malcolm X and a cameo in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. He later had a recurring role as funeral director, Mr. Omar, on the TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. He has an eye condition called amblyopia.
Early career and What’s Happening!!
Thomas began his professional acting career as a Broadway actor, appearing in the 1974 revival production of Love for Love and in the 1975 revival of The Member of the Wedding. Both shows starred actress Glenn Close. Shortly after he moved to LA to pursue a career as a TV/film actor. In the fall of 1975 he received a role on an episode of The Jeffersons. It was during the taping of the show that he learned of an audition for the upcoming comedy sitcom What’s Happening!!, loosely based on the 1975 film Cooley High. He eventually went on to win the role of Raj Thomas on the show, which aired from 1976 to 1979.
During the shows run, Thomas was involved in other acting film and TV projects including Baretta, Roots, The Brady Bunch Hour and the film A Piece of the Action starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Though the series rated well, What’s Happening!! was cancelled after its third season in the early spring of 1979.