Charles Stanley Dutton is an award-winning American actor and director. He is best known for his portrayals in the TV sitcom ‘Roc’ and the films ‘Rudy’ and ‘Alien 3.’ He is also known for directing the TV movie ‘The Corner’ that earned him a ‘Primetime Emmy’ award. Dutton fell on the wrong side of the law early in his career and got convicted thrice. He has been sentenced for manslaughter, possessing deadly weapons, and assaulting a corrections officer. He was inspired to start a drama group after reading a book in prison. He earned a 2-year college degree while in prison and then graduated in arts from ‘Towson State University,’ before obtaining a master's degree in acting from ‘Yale School of Drama.’ Thereafter, Dutton made his ‘Broadway’ debut with ‘Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.’ His rich career, spanning over 3 decades, includes TV series such as ‘Roc,’ TV movies such as ‘The Piano Lesson,’ and big-screen flicks such as ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Cookie's Fortune.’ He has guest-starred in the TV series ‘The Practice’ and ‘Without a Trace,’ both of which have won him ‘Primetime Emmy’ awards. His directorial ventures include the film ‘Against the Ropes’ and the TV miniseries ‘The Corner.’
Childhood & Early Life
Charles Stanley Dutton was born on January 30, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland, US, to a truck driver. He dropped out of school before completing middle school. In his early years, Dutton had a short spell in amateur boxing, when he used the nickname “Roc,” that was shortened from his original nickname, “Rockhead,” which came from his childhood association with rock-throwing fights.
Dutton was 17 when he got involved in a fight that ended in the death of a man, who according to Dutton, had attacked him. The incident made Dutton face a 7-year sentence, after being convicted of manslaughter. Following his release, Dutton had a brush with the law again and was convicted for possessing a deadly weapon, resulting in a 3-year sentence.
While serving his prison term, Dutton assaulted a corrections officer and ended up with another prison term of 7.5 years. During his prison term, Dutton faced a 6-day sentence of solitary confinement, which led him to lay his hands on an anthology of black playwrights.
The book inspired him so much that after being released, Dutton made a request to the warden to start a drama group. The warden, on the other hand, agreed to give the green signal if Dutton completed his school education and obtained his GED. Dutton did so and thus obtained an “Associate of Arts” degree in 1976, completing a 2-year college program at ‘Hagerstown Junior College’ (presently ‘Hagerstown Community College’).
After being released from prison, Dutton studied drama at ‘Towson State University’ (presently ‘Towson University’) and earned a BA degree from there in 1978. He then attended the ‘Yale School of Drama’ and obtained a master's degree in acting in 1983.
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Dutton was cast as ‘Levee,’ one of the four main members of the play ‘Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,’ which was one of the 10 plays of the ‘Pittsburgh Cycle’ by August Wilson. The play opened in April 1984 at the ‘Yale Repertory Theater’ and was later performed at ‘Broadway's ‘Cort Theatre’ on October 11, 1984, marking the ‘Broadway’ debut of the actor. It fetched Dutton a ‘Theatre World Award’ and a ‘Tony Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Actor.’ He later reprised the role in a ‘Broadway’ revival that opened at the ‘Royale Theatre’ on February 6, 2003.
Meanwhile, Dutton started appearing in both small-screen and big-screen productions, which included the 1988 two-part American TV miniseries ‘The Murder of Mary Phagan,’ starring Jack Lemmon, and the blockbuster hit 1988 Australian–American action–comedy ‘Crocodile Dundee II.’
His second ‘Tony’ nomination for the ‘Best Actor’ came in 1990, for his performance as ‘Boy Willie’ in the play ‘The Piano Lesson,’ the fourth play in Wilson's ‘Pittsburgh Cycle.’ Dutton later reprised the role in the 1995 American TV film ‘The Piano Lesson,’ based on the play. It earned him both ‘Golden Globe’ and ‘Emmy’ nominations.
He landed up with one of the most prominent roles of his career, garbage collector ‘Charles "Roc" Emerson,’ in the American comedy–drama TV series ‘Roc.’ The series aired on ‘Fox’ from August 25, 1991, to May 10, 1994, and earned him immense acclaim.
His role of ‘Leonard Dillon’ in the 1992 American science-fiction horror film ‘Alien 3’ earned Dutton a ‘Saturn Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Supporting Actor.’ He also earned an ‘Independent Spirit Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Supporting Male’ for his performance in the 1999 criminal comedy ‘Cookie's Fortune.’ Other notable films featuring Dutton include ‘Menace II Society’ (1993), ‘Rudy’ (1993), ‘A Time to Kill’ (1996), ‘Gothika’ (2003), ‘Secret Window’ (2004) and ‘Fame’ (2009).
His next ‘Primetime Emmy’ nomination came from his guest role of ‘Professor Alva Case’ in the American TV drama series ‘Oz’ (1998). He then won the ‘Primetime Emmy’ award for ‘Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series’ twice, once in 2002 and then in 2003, for his performances in ‘The Practice’ and ‘Without a Trace,’ respectively.
Some of his other notable TV roles were for the series ‘Threshold’ (2005–2006), ‘Longmire’ (2012–2014) and ‘Zero Hour’ (2013). He also starred in the miniseries ‘Aftershock: Earthquake in New York’ (1999) and in movies such as ‘Mayday’ (2005) and ‘Bessie’ (2015).
He directed the 2000 ‘HBO’ TV miniseries ‘The Corner,’ which later released on DVD on July 22, 2003. It earned three ‘Emmy’ awards in 2000, including a ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ for ‘Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special’ for Dutton. Dutton also directed the 2004 American sports drama ‘Against the Ropes,’ which featured him as ‘Felix Reynoldst.’
He wrote and featured in the one-man play ‘From Jail to Yale: Serving Time on Stage’ (2008) that recounted how he had made his way to stardom from a troubled early life.
He wrote the 2012 film ‘The Obama Effect.’
He also produced the movie ‘Peeples,’ a few episodes of the series ‘Roc,’ and the miniseries ‘Laurel Avenue.’
Family & Personal Life
He was married to American film and TV actor Debbi Morgan from December 31, 1989, to sometime in 1994.