Williams, who died Friday of colon cancer, became one of the first Black actors to have a lead role on a TV series, starring on the 1968-1973 ABC drama about young, hip undercover police officers with Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton, who died in 2019. The Mod Squad, says Anita Gates, "was one of the first of its kind — a prime-time network series that focused on members of the hippie generation at the same time that it exploited them. The show had two ad taglines. 'First they got busted; then they got badges' summarized the show’s back story: three hippies in trouble with the law who then joined the police force as plainclothes cops with built-in disguises — their youth and their counterculture personas. The second — 'One Black, one white, one blonde' — referred to the cast: Mr. Williams, Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton." Williams owes his career to Bill Cosby, who saw him on stage and recommended him to producer Aaron Spelling. In 1999, Williams recalled that Spelling didn't like Linc's afro. So his hairstyle was tone down a bit. But each week, "we’d tease it out a little bit more.” Williams is also known for his nearly 40 TV guest appearances, from Hill Street Blues to Burn Notice, Justified and Empire. "When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me," tweeted Lenny Kravitz. "From the Mod Squad, to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill, he always performed with dynamic energy. Rest in power, king."
TOPICS: The Mod Squad, Clarence Williams III, Obits, Retro TV