Emmy-winning actor, director and screenwriter Al Freeman, Jr., who played Capt. Ed Hall on “One Life to Live” for more than a decade, and Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s 1992 film “Malcolm X,” has died.
Freeman, 78, lived on a boat outside of Washington, D.C. and taught at Howard University.
“It is with tremendous sadness that the passing of our beloved Professor Al Freeman, Jr. is confirmed,” Kim James Bey, chair of Howard University’s theater department, told the Star Tribune Friday afternoon.
Freeman was best known for his screen roles. He appeared on such programs as "Roots," “The Cosby Show,” “Law and Order” and “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” He won Emmys for “One Life to Live” and “Malcolm X." He also won an NAACP Image Award for his Elijah Muhammad.
Freeman first gained acclaim for his stage work in Amiri Baraka’s “Dutchman,” in a 1967 off-Broadway production. He played a black subway rider who is tormented by a white woman. He reprised his performance on screen in a movie adaptation.
On Broadway, he acted alongside legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey and acting icon Cicely Tyson in Peter S. Feibleman’s “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” in 1962. Two years later, he starred in James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie,” under the direction of Burgess Meredith.
Born in San Antonio, Tex., Freeman served in the Air Force during the Korean War. Afterwards, he embarked on an acting career that was inspiring to many in the field.
"At a time when we rarely saw black actors on TV, he was on a soap," said Ralph Remington, director of theater and musical theater at the National Endowment for the Arts and founder of Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis. "He was well-known and all over the TV. "He was legendary for his contributions."