Tony nominee was known for Malcolm X portrayals

Actor Dick Anthony Williams, who drew Tony nominations for “Black Picture Show” and “What the Wine-Sellers Buy” in the 1970s and was noted for his portrayals of Malcolm X both onstage and on television, died Thursday, Feb. 16, in Van Nuys, Calif. He was 77.

Over the course of four years beginning in 1972, Williams starred on Broadway in five shows, including “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death,” “We Interrupt This Program” and “The Poison Tree.” He was a co-founder of the New Federal Theater in New York.

Later he played Malcolm X onstage in a number of productions of Jeff Stetson’s play “The Meeting” — after having played the African-American leader in the 1978 NBC miniseries “King,” about Martin Luther King Jr. (He also reprised the role when “The Meeting” was presented on PBS in 1989.)

His theater work also included directing and starring in “Big Time Buck White” in a production staged in Watts before the show’s move to New York.

In the 1970s Williams appeared in supporting roles in films such as “Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off” and “Five on the Black Hand Side”; film credits also included “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Jerk,” “The Star Chamber,” “Gardens of Stone,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Rapture,” and he continued to do bigscreen work into the 2000s.

On the smallscreen he was a steady presence from his 1968 debut on “Dragnet” until his 2002 appearance on two episodes of “The Shield” as the Rev. Neal Cook. In between he recurred on ABC’s “Our Family Honor” in 1985-86; was a regular on the network’s series “Heart of the City” in 1986 and “Homefront” in 1991; and guested on shows including “Nanny and the Professor,” “Ironside,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “The Rockford Files,” “The Jeffersons,” “Lou Grant,” “L.A. Law,” “Roc,” “The X-Files,” “Law and Order,” “Chicago Hope” and “NYPD Blue.”

He was among the stars of the made-for-PBS play “Freeman,” directed by Lloyd Richards and appeared in Harriet Tubman telepic “A Woman Called Moses.”

Born in Chicago, Williams took up acting in college.

His wife, actress Gloria Edwards, died in 1988. He is survived by two daughters and a son.

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