Yaphet Kotto, an actor best known to us as both Bond villain and the Nostromo’s engineer, has passed away of natural causes. He died near the city of Manila in the Philippines on March 15, 2021.
Born November 15, 1939 in New York City, Kotto’s career ranged from Shakespeare to westerns to cops-and-robbers to science fiction. He starred in the first Roger Moore James Bond movie, Live and Let Die, as Dr. Kananga, alias Mr. Big. He appeared in the science fiction/horror classic Alien as Parker.
Kotto is as remembered for the roles he didn’t take as the ones he did. He was on the short list of actors seriously considered to play Jean-Luc Picard, a role which eventually went to Sir Patrick Stewart. He was offered a part in Glory, which he refused because the movie focused more on the white lieutenant played by Ladyhawke‘s Matthew Broderick than it did the heroic Black troops of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He also turned down the role of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, fearing he would be typecast.
Kotto guest starred on one episode of seaQuest DSV, playing a tough as nails captain from the Inspector General’s office. He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man. He played Ressler in The Puppet Masters, loosely based on Heinlein’s novel of the same name. He was Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Although he guest starred in many shows, from Tarzan to Murder, She Wrote, Kotto was only a series regular in two TV shows, Sgt, Bell in For Love and Honor and Det. Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Streets. He also wrote three episodes of Homicide: Life on the Streets. He did more movie work than TV work and returned periodically to the stage.
He was married three times and had six children. His first wife was Rita Dittman; they were married from 1959 to 1976 and had three children together. His second wife was Antoinette Pettyjohn; they were married from 1976 to 1989 and also had three children together. His third wife was Tessie Sinahon; they were married from 1998 to 2021.
Kotto’s body of work was substantial, and his passion for the theatrical arts carried him through an entire lifetime of work, doing what he loved best, and it showed in everything he did. Thanks, Mr. Kotto. For everything.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.