We first met actor Yaphet Kotto, in 1998 while he led the cast of Homicide: Life on the Street. Larger than life, Kotto had the most infectious laugh and went out of his way to make sure we were comfortable on the set of the acclaimed series. He was, in a phrase, simply lovely.
Upon learning of his passing today, many of our crew were taken aback and lamented the many missed opportunities to reconnect with Kotto. They talked in low murmurs about neglecting to learn more about his steadfast determination in an industry that never knew exactly how to cast him.
“Yaphet Kotto was another Sidney Poitier – regal in his deportment, oozing of raw talent, and exacting in his delivery of most any role before him,” University College of London graduate student, Izola Hinton told Acumen. “Studying his films, I saw the control Kotto had over movements and emotions. He was calculating and precise, which made almost everything he did, believable.”
Kotto sought a career in acting after watching Marlon Brando in The Waterfront and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones.
“Standing right there on the screen was this tall Black man and I said to myself, ‘I could be like him,” Kotto once remarked.
Best known for memorable roles in Alien and the 007 film Live and Let Die, Kottto was a regular subject of Acumen’s Popular Eugenics in Television and Film course – which examined several of his roles under the “Tropes of Black Masculinity” sessions. These included: Sonny Boy Mosby, in the 1970 film drama, The Liberation of L.B. Jones, Jocko in Nothing, but a Man, Lieutenant Pope in Across 110th Street, Kanango / Mr. Big in 007 Live and Let Die, Alonzo Mosely in Midnight Run, and Lieutenant. Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street.