Yaphet Kotto

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Yaphet Kotto
Leif Erickson Yaphet Kotto The High Chaparral 1968.JPG
Leif Erickson (left) and Yaphet Kotto (right) in The High Chaparral (1968)
BornYaphet Frederick Kotto
(1939-11-15) November 15, 1939 (age 74)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Years active1963–2008
Spouse(s)Tessie Sinahon (m. 1998)
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Yaphet Kotto
Leif Erickson Yaphet Kotto The High Chaparral 1968.JPG
Leif Erickson (left) and Yaphet Kotto (right) in The High Chaparral (1968)
BornYaphet Frederick Kotto
(1939-11-15) November 15, 1939 (age 74)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Years active1963–2008
Spouse(s)Tessie Sinahon (m. 1998)

Yaphet Frederick Kotto (born November 15, 1939) is an American actor, known for numerous film roles, as well as starring in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–99) as Lieutenant Al Giardello. His films include the science-fiction/horror film Alien (1979), and the science-fiction/action film The Running Man. He portrayed the main villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973). He appeared opposite Robert De Niro in the comedy thriller Midnight Run (1988) as FBI agent Alonzo Moseley.

Early life[edit]

Kotto was born in New York City. His mother was Gladys Marie, a local nurse and U.S. Army officer. His father is Avraham Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), a businessman from Cameroon who immigrated to the United States in the 1920s. In his autobiography titled Royalty, Kotto writes that his father was "the crown prince of Cameroon;" however, Cameroon is a republic and has never had a crown prince.[1] Kotto said he learned that his father's family was royal in adult life while studying his family's lineage, and said he is a descendant of Queen Victoria.[2] According to Kotto, his father was an observant Jew who spoke Hebrew, and Kotto's mother converted to Judaism before marrying his father.[3] Kotto claims that his great-grandfather, whom he names "King Alexander Bell," ruled the Douala region of Cameroon in the late-19th century and was also a practicing Jew.[3] Kotto has said that his paternal family originated from Israel many centuries ago, migrating to Egypt and then Cameroon, and have been African Jews for many generations.[3][4][5] Apart from Kotto's own claims, these claims remain unsupported by other sources. His claim of being a descendant of Queen Victoria has been denied by the Buckingham Palace press office.[6]

He has said that being a black Jew made it more difficult for him as a child. "It was rough coming up," Kotto said. "And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights."[7][8]


By the age of 16, Kotto was studying acting at the Actor's Mobile Theater Studio, and at 19, he made his professional acting debut in Othello. He was a member of the Actors Studio in New York. Kotto got his start in acting on Broadway, where he appeared in The Great White Hope, among other productions.

His film debut was in 1963 in an uncredited role in 4 For Texas.[citation needed] He performed in Michael Roemer's Nothing But a Man (1964) and played a supporting role in the caper film, The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) . He played John Auston, a confused Marine Lance Corporal, in the 1968 episode, "King Of The Hill," on the first season of Hawaii Five-O. In 1973 he landed the role of the James Bond villain Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, as well as roles in Across 110th Street and Truck Turner. Kotto portrayed Idi Amin in the 1977 television film Raid on Entebbe. He also starred as an auto worker in the 1978 film Blue Collar.

The following year he played Parker in the sci-fihorror film Alien. He followed with a supporting role in the 1980 prison drama Brubaker. In 1983, he guest-starred as mobster "Charlie" in the The A-Team episode "The Out-of-Towners". In 1987, he appeared in the futuristic sci-fi movie The Running Man and in the 1988 action-comedy Midnight Run, in which he portrayed Alonzo Moseley, an FBI agent.

A memo from Paramount indicates that Kotto was among those being considered for Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which eventually went to Patrick Stewart.[9]

He played Lieutenant Al Giardello in the long-running television series Homicide: Life on the Street.

He has written two books: Royalty, and The Second Coming of Christ, and also wrote scripts for Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999).

Personal life[edit]

Kotto married Tessie Sinahon in July 1998. They currently live in Baltimore, Maryland.



19634 for Texas(uncredited)
1964Nothing But a ManJocko
19685 Card StudLittle George (Mama's bartender)
1968Thomas Crown Affair, TheThe Thomas Crown AffairCarl
1970Liberation of L.B. Jones, TheThe Liberation of L.B. JonesSonny Boy Mosby
1972Across 110th StreetLt. Pope
1973Live and Let DieDr. Kananga / Mr. Big
1974Truck TurnerHarvard Blue
1975Report to the CommissionerRichard 'Crunch' Blackstone
1975Sharks' TreasureBen Flynn
1975Friday FosterColt Hawkins
1976Monkey Hustle, TheThe Monkey HustleBig Daddy Foxx
1977Raid on EntebbePresident Idi Amin Dada
1978Blue CollarSmokey James
1980BrubakerRichard 'Dickie' Coombes
1983Star Chamber, TheThe Star ChamberDet. Harry Lowes
1984Terror in the AislesHimself
1985Warning SignMajor Connolly [10]
1985Badge of the AssassinDet. Cliff Fenton NYPD
1986Eye of the TigerJ. B. Deveraux
1986Park is Mine, TheThe Park is MineEubanks
1987Running Man, TheThe Running ManWilliam Laughlin
1988Midnight RunFBI Agent Alonzo Mosely
1990TripwireLee Pitt
1991Freddy's Dead: The Final NightmareDoc
1993Extreme JusticeLarson
1994Puppet Masters, TheThe Puppet MastersRessler
1996Two If by SeaFBI Agent O'Malley
2008Witless ProtectionRicardo Bodi (alias Alonzo Mosley)


1967The Big ValleyDamienEpisode 15 Season 3: "The Buffalo Man"
1968BonanzaChild BarnettSeason 10 Episode 2: "Child"
1968High Chaparral, TheThe High ChaparralSergeant MajorEpisode 38: "The Buffalo Soldiers"
1968Daniel BooneLukeSeason 5 Episode 11: Big, Black and out There
1969Mannixblack jazz musician Gabe JohnsonSeason 2 Episode 18: "Death in a Minor Key"
1969Hawaii Five-OMarine Lance Corporal John T. AustonSeason 1 Episode 14: "King of the Hill"
1969Daniel BooneJonahSeason 5 Episode 18: "Jonah"
1970GunsmokePiney BiggsEpisode 294: "The Scavengers"
1971Night GalleryBucknerSeason 2 Episode 13: "The Messiah on Mott Street"
1983For Love and HonorPlatoon Sgt. James "China" Bell
1993–2000Homicide: Life on the StreetLieutenant Al Giardello


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