The Root is sad to report that award-winning actress, dancer, singer and composer Suzzanne Douglas has died. The news of her passing was made public and confirmed by a handful of Douglas’ close friends and family.
One of Douglas’ cousins, Angie Tee, took to Facebook to share the heartbreaking news, writing:
Suzzanne Douglas, a beautiful and talented actress, made her transition today. She warmed our hearts on movie screens and television sets all over the world. This beautiful soul was my cousin.
I can remember growing up, there weren’t very many black actresses who had starring roles but there was my cousin with the lead role in “Tap” starring alongside great dancers such as Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. She also performed with Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” The Inkwell, Jason’s Lyric and so much more the list goes on. The world will miss your talent but your soul will live on forever Rest in Paradise my beautiful cousin Suzzane you will be missed RIP
Tee concluded with two Bible scriptures: Psalm 34:18, which reads: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit;” and Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
One of four children, Douglas was born on April 12, 1957 in Chicago, Ill., and raised by her mother. After graduating high school, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree at Illinois State University and a Master in Music degree at Manhattan School of Music.
During her decades-long professional acting career, Douglas appeared in various film projects such as Whitney, How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Black Oscar, NAACP Image Award Nominee), School of Rock, The Inkwell, Jason’s Lyric, the ABC remake of Sounder and Changing the Game. In 1989, she starred alongside Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. in the dance drama Tap, earning an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her performance.
On the television front, Douglas appeared in several highly acclaimed shows such as Bones, The Good Wife, Law and Order: SVU, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NYPD Blue, Touched by an Angel, I’ll Fly Away and The Parkers. But she is best known for her role as Geraldine “Jerri” Peterson in the Robert Townsend-led ‘90s sitcom The Parent ‘Hood.
Recently, Douglas appeared as Grace Cuffee, mother of Exonerated Five member Kevin Richardson (portrayed by Asante Blackk) in the 2019 Ava DuVernay-directed miniseries, When They See Us.
Taking to social media, DuVernay reflected on Douglas’ talent, saying: “Suzzanne Douglas was a quiet, elegant force as we made WHEN THEY SEE US. A gentlewoman. A gem of a lady. A confident, caring actor who breathed life into the words and made them shimmer. I’m grateful that our paths in this life crossed. May she journey on in peace and love.”
In addition to TV and film, Douglas also enjoyed an extensive career onstage, appearing in numerous Broadway productions such as The Threepenny Opera, The Tap Dance Kid, It’s a Grand Night for Singing, Hallelujah, Baby!, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Julius by Design and The Drowning Crow.
Jada Pinkett-Smith, who starred in The Inkwell with Douglas, also reflected on the actress’ “gentle, warm spirit,” writing on social media:
“I woke up this morning to the news that Suzzanne Douglas has passed away. I worked with Suzzanne in the film Inkwell. She was an elegant, gentle warm spirit. My deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. May she rest in love.”
Sending our thoughts and prayers to Douglas’ family and friends.