Thomas Jefferson Byrd – Remembering a Great Actor!

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The movie industry has lost a great actor. An actor who could play any role and make you believe it was real. Thomas Jefferson Byrd has played in many movies, but most moviegoers will probably remember him as Luther in the powerful movie, “Set It Off,” with Queen Latifa, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kimberly Elise & Vivica A. Fox. He will truly be missed.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd (June 25, 1950 – October 3, 2020) was an American character actor who played in several of director Spike Lee‘s films. He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in the 2003 Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

 Career

Byrd earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Morris Brown College and later received a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from California Institute of the Arts.

Byrd starred in numerous regional stage productions including the San Diego Repertory Theatre‘s award-winning performance of Spunk. He also starred in Home by Samm-Art Evans, Two Trains RunningThe Piano Lesson and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Alliance Theater, Flyin’ West, Hamlet, and Miss Evers’ Boys at the Indiana Repertory, and in other productions of Flyin’ West at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at the Long Wharf Theatre.

For his Broadway debut, a performance in the 2003 revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Byrd received a Tony Award nomination for best-featured actor.

Byrd appeared in several films by Spike Lee, including ClockersGet on the BusBamboozledRed Hook Summer, and Chi-Raq. Byrd also appeared as Stokely Darling in Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.[2] His other films credits include Set It OffRay, and Brooklyn’s Finest.

Death

After an emergency call was made in Atlanta, Georgia, around 1:45 a.m. on October 3, 2020, Byrd was found unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds in his back and pronounced dead by local paramedics. A spokesperson for Atlanta police said that homicide detectives were “working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

Work – 

Film – 

Year

Title

Role

Notes

1995

Clockers

Errol Barnes

[5]

1996

Girl 6

Caller #18

 

1996

Get on the Bus

Evan Thomas Sr.

 

1996

Set It Off

Luther

 

1997

Touch Me

Country Doctor

 

1998

He Got Game

Sweetness

 

1998

Bulworth

Uncle Rafeeq

 

2000

Trois

Thomas

 

2000

Bamboozled

Honeycutt

 

2001

MacArthur Park

Cody

 

2002

Never Get Outta the Boat

William Ellis

 

2002

The Kudzu Christmas

Reverend Burton

 

2004

X, Y

Marcus

 

2004

Ray

Jimmy

 

2009

Brooklyn’s Finest

Uncle Jeb

 

2010

Bronx Paradise

Jimmy

 

2012

Red Hook Summer

Deacon Zee

[6]

2014

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

Bishop Zee

[7]

2015

Chi-Raq

Apollo

[8]

2020

Freedom’s Path

Abner

Posthumous release; Final film role

Television

Year

Title

Role

Notes

1992

In the Heat of the Night

Louis Arthur

Episode: “Random’s Child”

1993

I’ll Fly Away: Then and Now

Panhandler

TV movie

1997

Living Single

Mr. Leon

Episode: “Moonlight Savings Time”

1998

Mama Flora’s Family

Flora’s Pa

2 episodes

1999

Passing Glory

 

TV movie

2001

Boycott

Raymond Parks

TV movie

2004

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Curtis Romney

Episode: “Mad Hops”

2005

Lackawanna Blues

Numb Finger Pete

TV movie

2017–19

She’s Gotta Have It

Stokely Darling

10 episodes

2020

The Last O.G.

Jimmy

Episode: “Family Feud”

Theatre

Year

Title

Role

Notes

2003

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Toledo

Nominated — Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play[1]