R.I.P. Yaphet Kotto, 1939-2021, of "Alien," "Homicide: Life on the Street"

End of watch for Lt. Giardello.

From The Hollywood Reporter"Yaphet Kotto, Actor in 'Homicide: Life on the Street,' 'Live and Let Die,' and 'Alien,' Dies at 81"

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Filmmaker Michael Moore posted this on Facebook:

Michael Moore wrote:

When I first moved to NYC in 1990, I was trying to hail a taxi on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. There was a Black man already standing there a hundred feet in front. As a taxi approached, it flew right by him in order to pick me up. I opened the door to the cab and asked [the] driver, “Hey - why didn’t you pick up that Black guy!”

“Just get in the car,” he yelled at me. I held the door open and shouted out to the man who was there ahead of me, “This cab is yours! I’ll hold the door!” He ran up the street toward me. The taxi driver, furious, hit the gas - with the door still open! In that moment I was reminded that racism is everywhere, even in one of the most liberal cities in the country.

A few years later, in 1993, NBC gave me my own prime time show, “TV Nation”. I knew the first thing I wanted to film for my very first episode. I asked beloved Emmy-nominated actor Yaphet Kotto, if he would re-enact with me that first NYC experience of mine — but instead I replaced me with an actual convicted white felon and paroled murderer, Louis Bruno, to see who the cabs would pick up first.

Featuring TV Nation correspondent Rusty Cundieff plus a special guest appearance by RUN DMC.

Yaphet Kotto passed away today. Thank you my brother for being with me on that very first night. Rest In Peace.

Here's the clip:

I remember that segment. Thanks for finding it!

The interviewer giving the cab driver the Wanted poster of the guy he picked up was a nice touch.

I'm going to date myself here.  The first thing I remember seeing Yaphet Kotto in was a movie-of-the-week (or MOW; remember those?) titled Night Chase, airing on 20 November 1970.  Mr. Kotto was the second lead.  The lead was David Janssen.  That's why I watched it.  I was a huge David Janssen fan after seeing him run from the law for four years on The Fugitive.

The plot is one of those high-concept films that can be described in one sentence:  after shooting the man who was having an affair with his wife, a businessman (Janssen) hires a taxi to take him from Los Angeles to Mexico after his flight there is unexpectedly cancelled.

As I said, I sat down to this MOW for Janssen---but I stayed for Yaphet Kotto.  Janssen did his usual minimalist acting (which is not a criticism; Janssen could convey more with a twitch or a faint smile than most actors could with every muscle in their faces and bodies).  But Kotto, as the cab driver who slowly tumbles to what Janssen has done, makes the greater impact.  Kotto had a different acting style than Janssen, but matched him scene for scene.

I'm a credit-watcher.  I'm the fellow who doesn't let you change the channel until I've seen all the credits roll.  (Well, I was then.  Now, I pretty much don't care because I don't really watch any modern television shows.)  So I would have noted Yaphet Kotto's name, anyway.  But his performance was so striking that I made it a point to remember it.

While I never really sought out anything in which he appeared, if I saw his name on the credits, I stayed for the television show or movie because I know he was going to deliver an outstanding performance.

The list of performers in Hollywood whom I would like/would have liked to meet is small and you won't find any big names on it.  They're mostly folks like Joseph Campanella and William Schallert and Candice Azzara, people who consistently delivered solid performances.  Yaphet Kotto was high on that list.  I don't know if our ideologies would have clashed, or if we'd have liked each other or not.  But none of that would matter; I  just would have liked to have shaken his hand and thanked him for decades of top-drawer entertainment.

The Messiah of Mott Street was part of Night Gallery Season 2 episode 13 (15DEC71). It's available On Demand from NBC. I just rewatched it after 49 years. Every scene came back to me as I watched. Mr Kotto was truly wonderful in it and everything else I've seen.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

I remember that segment. Thanks for finding it!

I just caught Yaphet Kotto in "Child," episode two of season ten of Bonanza. He played a complicated character. It's worth watching if you get the chance. 

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