Mostly Credited As: Percy Rodriguez
Sometimes Credited As: Percy Rodrigues
Date Of Birth: June 13, 1918 (Age 89)
Country Of Birth: Canada
Birth Place: Montreal, Quebec
Date Of Death: September 06, 2007
Cause Of Death: Kidney failure
By playing commodore Stone in the original Star Trek, one might say that Canadian actor Percy Rodrigues moved something of this Utopian spirit of the space conquest into daily life. Percy Rodriguez died recently of a renal insufficiency, etching a whole milestone as to what the African American acting refers. Just like onboard the interstellar spaceship Enterprise he was cast as a high rank officer, and not as the secondary one of the bridge, the kind of role usually entrusted to any other African American actor. Rodrigues was one of the first black thespians who personified characters of intellectual stature and not the servants, outlaws, singers or buffoons that the American TV and cinema used to reserve by then for the black actors. Hence his big pride was to have given life to the doctor Harry Miles, the neurosurgeon, a leading character in the series Peyton Place, one of the big successes of the American tube in the 60s, and not to the average good police officer who often was supposed to be the summit of acting for an African American actor. Of Portuguese and African origins, Rodrigues, still a teenager, found himself forced to find a job in his native Montreal when his father left the family. Although he was acting every now and then while studying at high school, when he was 18 years he became a prizefighter. Afterwards, the collection of funds for a church led him to join the Black Theater Guild, a troupe along with which he was awarded in the Festival of Theater of Canada by 1939. It was still decades away - decades that he spent as an employee in a hardware factory -, the moment when Rodrigues was to hear the first applauses in Broadway. They were given to him for his creation of Henry Simpson in "Toys in the Attic", a play by Arthur Penn, a filmmaker as well, based on a text by Lillian Hellman. In 1964, Rodrigues returned to Broadway to play Meridian Henry in "Blues for Trainer Charlie". Although the latter play, directed by actor Burgess Meredith, was based on a piece of James Baldwin - one of the best African American authors of all the times-, he embodied Meridian Henry, the preacher. He was entering this way straight into other of the stereotypes that the American show biz was putting apart for black performers. Although it is true that in cinema he gave life to doctor Copeland in a version of the novel "The heart is a lonely hunter", by the great Carson McCullers, and directed by Robert Ellis Miller in 1968, it was in the small screen where Rodrigues fulfilled his aspirations. So much so that in 1968 the New York Times recognized him for being the first black thespian who was personifying a doctor in prime time shows. Following Star Trek, American audiences could appreciate his work in episodes of The Virginian, The Man From UNCLE, Medical Center, Mannix or Roots, among the myriad of popular series he was a guest in. The depth of his voice led him to be the narrator of the original versions of Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) and Deadly Blessing (Wes Craven, 1981), among many other films. Withdrawn from the sets since 1987, Rodrigues kept on working as a dubbing actor.