Paul Winfield

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Paul Winfield : biography

May 22, 1939 – March 7, 2004

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Film or series
1973 Academy Award Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role Sounder
2004 Black Reel Awards Nominated Television: Best Supporting Actor Sounder
1997 Daytime Emmy Award Nominated Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Special The Legend of Gator Face
1982 NAACP Image Awards Won Best Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic Series or Miniseries or Television Movie The Sophisticated Gents
1978 Primetime Emmy Award Nominated Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special King
1979 Roots: The Next Generations(For episode V)
1995 Won Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Picket Fences(For episode "Enemy Lines")
1999 St. Louis International Film Festival Won Lifetime Achievement Award –

Career

A life member of The Actors Studio, Winfield carved out a diverse career in film, television, theater and voiceovers by taking ground breaking roles at a time when African-American actors were rarely cast. His first major feature film role was in the 1969 film, The Lost Man starring Sidney Poitier. Winfield first became well-known to television audiences when he appeared for several years opposite Diahann Carroll on the groundbreaking television series Julia. Filmed during a high point of racial tensions in the United States, the show was unique in featuring an African-American female as the central character. He also starred as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1978 miniseries King.

In 1973, Winfield was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1972 film Sounder, and his co-star in that film, Cicely Tyson, was nominated for Best Actress. Prior to their nominations, and Diana Ross for Lady Sings the Blues the same year with Winfield and Tyson, only three other African Americans – Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier and James Earl Jones – had ever been nominated for a leading role. He also appeared, in a different role, in the 2003 Disney-produced television remake of Sounder, which was directed by Kevin Hooks, his co-star from the original. Winfield played the part of “Jim the Slave” in Huckleberry Finn (1974) which was a musical based on the novel by Mark Twain. Winfield would recall late in his career that as a young actor he had played one of the two leads in Of Mice and Men in local repertory, made up in whiteface, since a black actor playing it would have been unthinkable. Winfield also starred in the miniseries, including Scarlett, and two based on the works of novelist Alex Haley: Roots: The Next Generations and Queen: The Story of an American Family.

Winfield gained a new segment of fans for his brief but memorable roles in several science fiction television series and movies. He portrayed Starfleet Captain Clark Terrell of the USS Reliant, an unwilling minion of Khan Noonien Singh, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Lieutenant Traxler, a friendly but crusty cop partnered with Lance Henriksen in The Terminator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1996, he was part of the ‘name’ ensemble cast in Tim Burton’s comic homage to 1950s science fiction Mars Attacks!, playing the complacently self-satisfied Lt. General Casey. On the small screen Star Trek franchise, he appeared as an alien captain who communicates in metaphor in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok". He also appeared in the second season Babylon 5 episode "Gropos" as General Richard Franklin, the father of regular character Dr. Stephen Franklin, and on the fairy tale sitcom The Charmings as The Evil Queen’s wise-cracking Magic Mirror. He also portrayed the character of Julian Barlow in the television series 227 during its last two seasons.

Winfield also took on roles as gay characters in the films Mike’s Murder in 1984 and again in 1998 in the film Relax…It’s Just Sex. He found success off-camera due to his unique voice. He provided voices on the cartoons Spider-Man, The Magic School Bus, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Batman Beyond, Gargoyles, K10C and The Simpsons, on the latter voicing the Don King parody Lucius Sweet. In his voiceover career, he is perhaps best known as the narrator for the A&E true crime series City Confidential, a role he began in 1998 and continued with until his death in 2004.

Throughout his career, Winfield frequently managed to perform in the theater. His only Broadway production, Checkmates, in 1988, co-starring Ruby Dee, was also the Broadway debut of Denzel Washington. He also appeared in productions at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Winfield was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in the King and Roots: The Next Generations. He won an Emmy Award, in 1995, for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for his appearance as Judge Harold Nance in an episode of the CBS drama Picket Fences.