Glynn Turman is an American actor, best known for playing pivotal roles in series such as ‘The Wire’ and ‘A Different World’ Apart from acting, he has also served as a director in many stage productions throughout his career. Born and raised in New York City, he is of Nigerian descent. He was interested in the prospect of becoming an actor ever since he was a kid. He began acting at the age of 12. His first appearance as an actor was in a ‘Broadway’ production in 1959. He made his on-screen debut at the age of 21, appearing in a small role in the soap opera titled ‘Peyton Place.’ After beginning his film career in the early 1970s, he appeared in some notable films such as ‘Together Brothers’ and ‘Cooley High.’ In the 1980s, he appeared playing key roles in films such as ‘Gremlins,’ ‘Penitentiary II,’ and ‘Out of Bounds.’ He was almost cast as the legendary character ‘Han Solo’ in the popular ‘Star Wars’ film franchise, but him being black came in the way of that happening. More recently, he was known for starring in key roles in series such as ‘The Wire’ and ‘House of Lies.’
His most recent appearances were in the series ‘Claws’ and the film ‘Windows on the World.’
Childhood & Early Life
Glynn Russell Turman was born on January 31, 1947, in New York City, US, to parents of Nigerian descent. A DNA analysis traced Glynn’s roots back to the Edo community from Nigeria. Ever since he was a kid, he wanted to become an actor.
He began training in acting at an early age. He started doing stage productions and managed his academics simultaneously.
He finished his education from the ‘High School of Performing Arts’ in New York. Following his high-school graduation, he opted out of joining college. Instead, he focused on his stage-acting career, which was already moving at a fast pace.
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One of Glynn’s first hits was the play titled ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ (1959). Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark play was a nationwide success and featured Glynn alongside esteemed actors such as Ruby Dee and Diana Sands. He was also offered the same role in the movie of the same name, but he refused it.
Following his high-school graduation, he worked with many regional and repertory theater companies. He was most successful with Tyrone Guthrie’s ‘Repertory Theatre’ in the late 1960s, appearing in plays such as ‘Good Boys,’ ‘The Visit,’ and ‘The House of Atreus.’
He moved to Los Angeles around the same time, with the play titled ‘Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.’ His work in the play titled ‘Eyes of the American’ earned him his career’s first ‘NAACP Image Award.’
He received a second ‘NAACP Image Award’ for directing the play titled ‘Deadwood Dick,’ which was performed at the ‘Inner City Cultural Center’ in Los Angeles.
Film & Television Career
He made his screen-acting debut with a big project in 1968. He was signed to portray the supporting role of ‘Lew Miles’ in the soap opera titled ‘Peyton Place.’ He appeared in 37 episodes of the soap opera. It was a huge critical and commercial hit. However, prior to this, he had appeared in an episode of the series ‘Play of the Week’ (1961).
He appeared in guest roles in TV series such as ‘CBS Playhouse,’ ‘Men at Law,’ ‘Insight,’ and ‘Mod Squad.’
He also began his film career in 1971, when he appeared in a small role of a sailor in the romance–drama film ‘Honky.’ The film was a moderate critical and commercial success. The film fell under the category of “blaxploitation,” a sub-genre in which the lead characters were all black.
During the 1970s, black actors were usually cast as sidekicks or main villains. With more black talent emerging, the situation changed. Glynn was a key part of this movement, as he appeared in more such films in the early 1970s, such as ‘Five on the Black Hand Side’ and ‘Together Brothers.’
In 1975, Glynn appeared in the lead role in the comedy–drama film titled ‘Cooley High.’ The film was a huge critical and commercial success and turned out to be the most rewarding acting project of his career to date.
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He was then seen in one of the key roles in the film titled ‘The River Niger.’ The film was hailed both critically and commercially.
He mostly appeared in single-episode guest roles in series such as ‘The Blue Knight’ and ‘The Tony Randall Show,’ in the 1970s.
In the 1980s, too, he continued to appear in series, only playing guest roles while focusing more on his film career. He appeared in films such as ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Out of Bounds.’
In 1988, however, he received a huge TV break when he was cast as ‘Colonel Bradford Taylor,’ a main role in the sitcom titled ‘A Different World.’ The hugely successful series ran for six seasons, covering 144 episodes.
In the 1990s, he was seen playing key roles in films such as ‘Deep Cover’ and ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back.’ He was part of many feature films throughout the 1990s. Some of them were critically and commercially successful.
The year 2004 saw him appearing in the role of ‘Mayor Clarence Royce,’ a recurring character, in the crime–drama series titled ‘The Wire.’ The series became one of the most successful American series of the decade and brought several honors to Glynn, such as an ‘NAACP Image Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role.’
In the more recent years, he has appeared in films such as ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘Race.’ He was also seen playing a supporting role in the series titled ‘House of Lies.’
Glynn has also donned the director’s hat more than a few times in his career. He has directed a few episodes of the series ‘The Wayans Bros’ and ‘A Different World.’
He has served as an executive producer for documentaries such as ‘The Robeson Effect’ and ‘King of Stage: The Woodie King Jr. Story.’
He wrote an episode of ‘Peyton Place.’
Family & Personal Life
Glynn Turman married Ula M. Walker in 1965. They divorced in 1971. They have three children.
He then married Aretha Franklin, a singer, in 1978. They divorced a few years later, in 1984.
He has been married to Jo Ann Allen since 1992.
Glynn’s oldest son, Glynn Turman Jr., was stabbed by Henry Eugene Montgomery in November 1986. Glynn Jr. died on the spot, and Henry was slightly wounded. Henry was later arrested and tried in court.