Best known for his role as James Bond villain Mr. Big, as well as Lieutenant Al Giardello across seven seasons and a movie on Homicide: Life On The Street, Yaphet Kotto appeared in nearly one hundred projects during a career that spanned more than four decades in Hollywood. Sadly, he passed away yesterday at the age of 81, leaving behind a family and millions who appreciated his work in such classics as Alien and The Running Man.
The tragic news was first announced by his wife Tessie Sinahon on Monday evening in a social media post. She touched on his passing but also on their relationship, his acting career and more. You can read a portion of her words below…
You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you're a real hero and to a lot of people also. A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find.
One of the best actor in Hollywood a Legend. Rest in Peace Honey, I'm gonna miss you everyday, my best friend,my rock.I love you and you will always be in my heart.Till we meet again!
What fans will remember Yaphet Kotto for no doubt depends on their own taste and what movies or TV shows they were into, but it was likely his performance in the James Bond film Live And Let Die that attracted the most conversation. In the 007 movie, he plays Dr. Kananga, the leader of a Caribbean Island nation who doubles as a drug smuggler. It was the first Bond film with Roger Moore in the lead role, and it made some key changes from the book, specifically with Kotto's Kananga. Rather than a large and creepy looking man, Kotto's movie version is dashing and well-dressed, which allows him to be more of a direct foil for Bond, at least until he meets his demise in a particularly horrible and memorable way.
Live and Let Die, despite some issues, is positively-regarded by many James Bond fans, and he's a key part of why the film works . It's definitely one of the better remembered entries and still comes up frequently in pop culture and not just because of the Paul McCartney title song that still gets extensive radio play. In fact, Yaphet Kotto himself was still interviewed about it and often asked his opinion and the larger franchise and how much it should stay the same or evolve.
In addition to Live And Let Die, Yaphet Kotto appeared in nearly a hundred other projects. He appeared in one off episodes as major characters in a slew of classic television shows including Murder, She Wrote, Fantasy Island, The A-Team, Hill Street Blues, Perry Mason and more. He eventually settled into a regular key role on Homicide: Life On The Street throughout the mid to late 90s. Between 1993 and 2000, he appeared in 122 episodes not including the movie and a crossover episode where he appeared as Al Giardello on Law & Order.
Our thoughts go out to Kotto's wife, as well as his six children during this difficult time. His work will be fondly remembered and enjoyed for a very long time.