Lynne Thigpen was an American actress, who garnered widespread fame for portraying "The Chief" of ACME in the various Carmen Sandiego television series and computer games between 1991 and 1997. A native of Illinois, Thigpen had earned a teaching degree and taught English at a high school while attending the University of Illinois on an acting fellowship. She started her career on stage in New York City in 1971 and continued to act and perform until her death in 2003. Over the course of those 32 years, she worked in films, TV shows, plays, and audio productions, as well as computer games. For her outing as "The Chief" of ACME in PBS’ ‘Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?’ and ‘Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?’, she was nominated for five Daytime Emmy Awards. In 1997, Thigpen won the Tony Award for the Best Featured Actress in a Play for ‘An American Daughter’. Following her death, she posthumously received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for lending her voice to Luna the moon in ‘Bear in the Big Blue House’, but the award ultimately went to Jeff Corwin for his wildlife reality series ‘The Jeff Corwin Experience’.
Lynne Thigpen relocated to the New York City in 1971 and started her professional acting career on the stage. In the ensuing years, she maintained a prolific presence on Broadway, appearing in plays like ‘Godspell’ (1973), ‘The Night That Made America Famous’ (1975), ‘The Magic Show’ (1976), ‘Tintypes’ (1980-81), ‘Fences’ (1988) and ‘An American Daughter’ (1996-97). Besides winning the Tony Award for her portrayal of Dr Judith B. Kaufman in ‘An American Daughter’ in 1997, she received two Obie Awards: the first one for ‘Boesman and Lena’ in 1992 and the second one for ‘Jar the Floor’ in 2000.
Lynne Thigpen made her big screen debut in the cinematic adaptation of ‘Godspell’ in 1973. She was cast as a radio DJ (filmed from the nose down) in the action thriller ‘The Warriors’ (1979) and a production aide named Jo in comedy drama ‘Tootsie’ (1982). She also appeared in 'Lean on Me' (1989), 'Article 99' (1992), 'Bob Roberts' (1992), 'The Paper' (1994), ‘Blankman’ (1994), ‘Just Cause’ (1995), ‘Random Hearts’ (1999), ‘The Insider’ (1999), ‘Bicentennial Man’ (1999), ‘Shaft’ (2000), and ‘Novocaine’ (2001). Her final film was ‘Anger Management’ (2003) starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson). It was released a month after her death, in April 2003.
Lynne Thigpen’s first television appearance was in the telefilm ‘Fol-de-Rol’ in 1972. She is arguably most known for portraying “The Chief” of ACME in the acclaimed PBS children's geography game show ‘Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?’ (1991-95). She then reprised her role in the spinoff series, ‘Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?’ (1996-97) and in three computer games, ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’ (1996), ‘Where in the U.S.A. is Carmen Sandiego?’ (1996), and ‘Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?’ (1997).
In 1989, Thigpen portrayed the recurring character, Rosie, in the ABC drama series ‘Thirtysomething’. Between 1989 and 1990, she appeared in 13 episodes of the short-lived NBC sitcom ‘FM’. She was cast as District Attorney Ruby Thomas in the NBC legal drama ‘L.A. Law’ (1991-92). Thigpen also played recurring character Grace Keefer in the ABC daytime drama ‘All My Children’ (1983-2000) and supporting character Ella Farmer in the CBS crime drama 'The District' (2000-03). (From) 1997 to 2003, she provided the voice to the character of Luna the moon in ‘Bear in the Big Blue House’.
Thigpen also recorded for over 20 audiobooks and made appearances in radio skits of the Garrison Keillor program ‘The American Radio Company of the Air’.
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Family & Personal Life
Lynne Thigpen was born on December 22, 1948, in Joliet, Illinois, USA, to George W Thigpen and Celia G Martin Thigpen. She attended Joliet Central High School, where her passion for performing began to take root. She was involved in her high school’s theatre, debate, and a cappella club and discovered a natural instinct for accepting a variety of roles that would distinguish her professional career. After graduating from high school in 1966, she enrolled at the University of Illinois to study English and speech. She later taught English at a high school while simultaneously pursuing a degree in theatre from the University of Illinois on an acting fellowship. Thigpen quit graduate school after she was cast in ‘Godspell’.
Death & Legacy
Lynne Thigpen passed away from a cerebral haemorrhage on March 12, 2003, in her Marina del Rey, California, home. She was only 54 years old at the time. She is interred beside her parents at Elmhurst Cemetery in Joliet, Illinois.
Her relatives and friends founded a non-profit foundation, The Lynne Thigpen - Bobo Lewis Foundation, to teach young actors and actresses how to survive and succeed in the New York theatre scene and to counsel and guide the next generation of Broadway stars. An elementary school named Lynne Thigpen Elementary School has been set up in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois, to honour her. The producers of her last film, ‘Anger Management’, dedicated the film to her. In the Netflix reboot ‘Carmen Sandiego’ (2019-present), the character of The Chief has been inspired by Thigpen’s portrayal of the character in the PBS game shows.