Yaphet Frederick Kotto (born November 15, 1939note ) is a prolific film, TV and theater actor who is well known for having broken down a number of Hollywood stereotypes about black characters. He is recognized by most audiences as a character actor who regularly commands the scenes he's in for his powerful performances.
He is known to regularly turn down roles which are badly written stereotypically "black" parts, although he would on occasion have to do a film just to put food on the table. His breakout film was Nothing But a Man, which is now regarded as a classic.
He is known for having played the Big Bad in the James Bond film Live and Let Die,note Parker in Alien and Lieutenant Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street.note He also turned down the role of Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Lando in Star Wars,note which he now regards as a mistake.
He arguably kickstarted Blaxploitation cinema with his role as a killer in The Liberation of L. B. Jones, where he is shown onscreen killing a white character (which had not been seen previously in American cinema). Other blaxploitation films he appeared in are The Limit (1972)note and Truck Turner (1974).note
Kotto's family is of Cameroon descent, and in fact he comes from a direct male-lineage of the Cameroon royalty (as described in his autobiography Royalty). Further, he claims in his book that he is also of direct descent of Queen Victoria. He is a practicing Jew, and has spoken about experiencing both racism and anti-Semitism while growing up in The Bronx.
Works he appeared in with pages on TV Tropes:
- Nothing But a Man (1964) as Jocko
- The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) as Carl
- Live and Let Die (1973) as Kananga/Mr. Big
- Alien (1979) as Parker note
- The Running Man (1987) as William Laughlin
- Midnight Run (1988) as Alonzo Mosely note
- Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
- Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999) as Lieutenant Al Giardello note
- Homicide: The Movie (2000) as Lieutenant Al Giardello