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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Live and Let Die Actor Yaphet Kotto Dead at 81

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Screenshot: YouTube/MoochTV

Yaphet Kotto, the actor known for movies such as Alien and The Running Man has died, The Root has learned.

His wife Tessie Sinahon shared the heartbreaking news in a post to social media on Monday, with the news later being confirmed to The New York Times by Kotto’s agent. The actor was 81 years old.

“I’m saddened and still in [shock] of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years. He died last night around 10:30pm Philippine time,” Sinahon wrote, adding:

This is a very [painful] moment for me to inform you all fans, friends and family of my husband.

We still have a lot of plans honey that we discussed you have a lot of interviews waiting and you have movie offers like G.I. Joe and the movie of Tom Cruise and others. You still have plan to release your book and build a religious organization based on Yogananda’s Teachings.

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!


The son of Cameroonian royalty, Kotto was born in New York City on November 15, 1939. He started studying acting at age 16, later making his professional theater debut at age 19 with the legendary Shakespearean play Othello. Kotto would then set his sights on acting for film, securing roles in features such as Across 110th Street, The Thomas Crown Affair, Nothing But a Man, and most notably, Live and Let Die. In the 1973 James Bond film, Kotto portrayed the quietly maniacal Mr. Big, making history as the first Black villain of the Bond franchise. Three years later, he received his first and only Primetime Emmy nomination for his role as President Idi Amin in the made-for-tv movie, Raid on Entebbe. On the TV side, Kotto was best known for his role as Lieutenant Giardello in the NBC crime series Homicide: Life on the Street. 

Though convincing in his portrayals, Kotto spoke to the Baltimore Sun in 1993 about his fatigue with playing characters who were seen as hard and evil:

“There’s a distorted image of me. I’m always called powerful, bulky or imposing. Or they say I fill up a room. I’m a 200-pound, 6-foot, 3-inch Black guy. And I think I have this image of a monster. It’s very difficult. I want to try to play a much more sensitive man. A family man. There is an aspect of Black people’s lives that is not running or jumping.”

In 1990, he released his autobiography The Royalty, which took a look at Kotto’s upbringing and familial history, including his father’s regal lineage in Cameroon and their ties to a member of the British royal family. Since news of his death started circulating, some of Hollywood’s most talented and influential figures including Ava DuVernay, Orlando Jones and Viola Davis have taken to Twitter to pay homage to Kotto’s life and legacy.


“You were so memorable in every role you did,” Davis wrote. “Your presence and talent were undeniable and magnetic...whether you were the villain or the hero. Rest well #YaphetKotto. God bless your wife and family. You will be missed.”

Kotto is survived by his wife and six children. May he rest in power.