Actor/director Joe Mantegna will pay tribute to the late Meshach Taylor in an upcoming season 10 episode of “Criminal Minds,” that he will helm, according to a report in EW.
Taylor, whose career spanned over four decades on television, in films and on the Broadway and regional stage, became a household name with his Emmy-nominated turn as lovable ex-con turned law student Anthony Bouvier during seven seasons from 1986 – 1993, on the CBS sitcom “Designing Women,” and for his portrayal of Hollywood Montrose, a flamboyant window dresser in the 1987 box office hit and cult classic romantic comedy film Mannequin and the 1991 sequel Mannequin 2: On the Move.
The beloved actor, devoted husband and father, was surrounded by his wife Bianca Ferguson Taylor, his 100-year-old mother Hertha Ward Taylor, his daughters, Tamar Lashae Taylor, Yasmine Taylor, Esme Taylor, and his son Tariq Taylor, when he passed away peacefully in hospice care at home in Altadena, CA. on June 28, 2014. He was 67.
During Taylor’s homegoing memorial service on July 6, 2014, in the Old North Church at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna recounted their first encounter, their professional beginnings in a touring company of Hair, and working together as members of the Organic Theatre Company in Chicago.
“44 years. That’s how long Meshach Taylor was a part of the lives of both my wife Arlene and myself. The year was 1970. Arlene and I had just gotten together as a couple a few months earlier after being cast in our first professional acting job in the play Hair in Chicago, IL. During that year in 1970, a production of Hair was due to open in Indianapolis, IN, and since their opening occurred on our show’s day off, they bussed our entire cast to Indianapolis for their opening. Playing the role of Hud in that production was the man we would go on to spend a lifetime with as Meshach Taylor. Of everyone in the cast, it was he that we gravitated to after the performance, and I remembered him introducing us to his new baby girl Tam.
We said our goodbyes and hoped to meet again. As fate would have it, within a year, both of our productions closed. The national tour was started with a variety of performers from various Hair companies. Arlene and I joined that company and to our delight, Meshach was a member of it. We toured the country for a while. My father died early in 1971 and Arlene and I decided it was time to move on, so we left the show and moved back to Chicago.
That next year of 1972, the Hair tour ended and I finished a production of Godspell and a musical I’d written was about to be produced in Chicago. In that musical, was a part for Meshach to play. We contacted him. He agreed to come to Chicago for the play, and he wound up staying for the next five years. During that time, both he and I and Arlene became members of the Organic Theatre Company and spent the remaining years during a myriad of new and exciting productions, some of which we were able to perform in some of the major capitals of Europe, including Meshach’s award winning performance of Jim in Huckleberry Finn.
In 1977, Meshach headed west to California in a production of Sizwe Banzi is Dead along with his friend Lionel Smith. And now Los Angeles got of taste of the incredible acting talent that Meshach possessed.And now Los Angeles got of taste of the incredible acting talent that Meshach possessed. Arlene and I move to Los Angeles that following year and from then until now, along with many of you people who are here today, collectively created the tapestry of our life here in California. Those years, as well as the years prior, were filled with a multitude of memories. Meshach found success on film and in television. He met Bianca, which begat Yamine, Tariq, Esme, granddaughter Zahra and papa’s boy Dylon. Shach became the godfather to my children; I to his.”
Mantegna also told the story behind the late “Designing Women” star’s first appearance on the CBS drama in season 8 as Harrison Scott, Rossi’s former Marine sergeant who fell on hard times and ended up a homeless vet after Vietnam on the episode, “The Fallen,” which aired in November, 2012.
“Two years ago, I presented the producers of my series ‘Criminal Minds’ with an idea for an episode where I would discover that my commanding sergeant from Vietnam (a man who saved my life), I would discover was now homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. My assistant Dan wrote a rough draft of the script, and the producers agreed to film the episode. My only requirement was that the only actor to be considered for the role of my sergeant had to be Meshach Taylor or no one. They agreed and Meshach turned in a performance of a lifetime. It was only weeks after shooting that episode that he was diagnosed with his disease,” shared Mantegna.
“For the next year he fought that disease with a vigor and strength that was remarkable, so much so that when my series then asked me to direct an episode that following season, I again hit them with the idea that I would do it if they agreed to let me bring back Meshach’s character, as we all knew that the chance to work again would be the best medicine anyone could offer him,” said Mantegna.
Five months before Taylor died, Scott and Rossi crossed paths again during the season 9 episode, “The Road Home,” which aired in January, 2014, in which Rossi helped Scott reunite with his long-lost son.
“In the throes of his chemotherapy, he once again turned in a performance of a lifetime. How blessed am I that I was able to watch his first performance as a professional actor in 1970, and then be able to direct and act beside him in his last. I loved him like a brother in every sense of the word, because one should love their brother unconditionally and completely,” said Mantegna.
“Criminal Minds” is currently streaming on Netflix, where I was able to watch the episodes, “The Fallen” and ” The Road Home”.
The episode that Mantegna will direct for season 10 will bring a sense of closure to Scott’s storyline.
“Criminal Minds” returns Oct. 1 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.
Click here to read the complete article in EW.
Others to honor Taylor included US President Bill Clinton; his “Designing Women” co-star Delta Burke and her husband Gerald McRaney; Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, executive producers of “Designing Women”.
Delta Burke said, “I had the honor of working with Meshach Taylor on “Designing Women”. He came on for just one guest episode and he was so brilliant, he stayed for seven years. He was there longer than I was. I want to say that I never had such a great acting partner. We were sorta like cops, you know, we had each other’s back. Meshach always had my back, onstage and off stage.
Meshach was there for me in a way no one has ever been there for me, aside from my husband. He was my best friend. Meshach was everyone’s best friend. He was more than that, he was a brother to me. And I just want to tell Meshach that I love him, and he was the finest man who ever lived on this earth. Now that he’s passed from this world, I miss that I will never hear his voice again or see his face. But I know that he is up there, he will always be with all of us.”
Burke’s husband, Gerald McRaney said, “To me, Meshach was and is the definition of a man. He was and is gentle, kind, loving and strong, and only when need be, tough as nails. I am reminded of a line in Hamlet, “Take him for all and all, he was a man. I shall not look upon his like again.”
McRaney then shared this letter from Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, executive producers of “Designing Women”.
We are thinking of you and wishing you so much peace and strength right now. Thank you for sharing your many gifts. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for being so damned talented. You are and were a whirling dervish of a comedian and actor…always making every painstakingly right choice.
And like Lucy and all the greats, making the audience afraid to breathe because they might miss the next genius thing you do. And yes, you gave four of the greatest actresses to ever grace a television screen, a colossal run for their money. And thank you for breaking the mold for African American men on television, especially Southern African American men. Thank you for bringing what was originally a lightly sketched character to full and blazing glory. Thank you for sharing your humanity, your irrepressible spirit and blazing talent with all of us. You not only won our respect and admiration, but you have forever enriched the landscape of American comedy.
With love and gratitude,
Linda and Harry
Taylor’s son Tariq praised his father, and read the letter below from President Clinton, sharing that his father was a huge part of the campaigning force for Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 elections, and even hosted the 1996 Inaugural Ball in President Clinton’s home state of Arkansas.
Dear Bianca, Tamar, Yasmine, Esme-Alana and Tariq,
I was saddened to hear that Meshach passed away, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to you and your loved ones. Meshach will long be remembered for his big talent-and even bigger heart-both onscreen and off. I will always be grateful for the kindness and support he showed Hilary and me, and how much fun we had on our campaigns. I’ll never forget Meshach and Hilary dancing at the Arkansas inaugural ball. He excelled on the stage, in movies, and television.
For me, of course, he’ll always be “the man” in “Designing Women”. Hilary and I join all of you in celebrating his wonderful life and homegoing. Our prayers are with you.
President Bill Clinton
Meshach Taylor was born in Boston, MA on April 11, 1947, to Joseph Thomas Taylor and Hertha Ward Taylor. He was raised in New Orleans, LA and Indianapolis, IN. His parents Hertha Ward Taylor and Joseph T. Taylor were educators. Meshach was raised on Historical Black college campuses which included Dillard, Fisk and Florida A&M. The flickering images that entranced Meshach himself into an acting career came from the movie screens on the college campuses where his father was an administrator at Indiana University, Florida A&M, Auburn State, and Dillard University in New Orleans, LA. In 1967, Meshach’s father became the first black dean of Indiana University’s downtown campus, and after the merger that created University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 1969, he became the dean of the new institution’s school of liberal arts. His childhood was spent in New Orleans, LA., which imprinted on him a life time love of Cajun and Zydeco Music, and the International culture of New Orleans.
A few credits short of completing his studies, Meshach returned to Indianapolis to take care of his family, and found work at a local radio station as a State House political correspondent. It was during this time that Meshach read about an audition for the musical Hair. He auditioned with the song “Aquarius” and was the only voice chosen that day. Taylor’s first professional job was touring for two years in the musical Hair. It was with the touring company Hair that he first met his friends, Joe Mantegna, and Arlene. They performed in national theaters in Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, England and Hawaii to name a few.
The final stop for Hair was Chicago. When the run concluded, Meshach stayed and honed his craft in Repertory Theater for eight years. His buddy, Joe Mantegna, persuaded Meshach to stay in Chicago to do Ely. After that, he never stopped working on stage. As a member of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, he appeared in Streamers, Native Son (1979 Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play), The Island, and Sizwe Banzi is Dead, for which he garnered the 1977 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play. He also performed as Jim in the production Huckleberry Finn, and was interviewed on opening night by Ted Koppel critiquing Mark Twain. He received a Chicago Emmy Award for his role as Jim in the WTTV production of Huckleberry Finn. He created and starred in many productions of the Organic Theatre with his friends Joe Mantegna, Tommy Toles, Dennis Franz, John Heard, Keith Szarabajka, Jack Wallace, Ian Patrick Williams, and director Stuart and Carolyn Gordon, before traveling to California in the production of Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi is Dead, directed by Greg Mosher.
Meshach crafted a gallery of memorable characters in film and on television, including his Emmy nominated turn as Anthony Bouvier in the CBS sitcom “Designing Women” for seven seasons from 1986 – 1993. In 1989, he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. From 1993 – 1997, he portrayed plastic surgeon Sheldon Baylor on the CBS sitcom “Dave’s World” with Harry Anderson and Shadoe Stevens. From 2004-2007, Taylor played Alastair Wright, the history teacher turned school principal, and appeared on Nickelodeon’s “Ned’s Declassified School Guide”.
Taylor also appeared in the feature films Damien: Omen II, The Howling, Jacks or Better, Kid ‘N Play’s Class Act, How to Murder a Millionaire, David Mamet’s House of Games, Stoney Island, The Allnighter, The Last Innocent Man with Ed Harris, Explorers, Friends and Family, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, One More Saturday Night, Warning Sign,Wigger, and Inside Out with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. Taylor had the opportunity to indulge two of his passions – gardening and travel – hosting his own series on HGTV, “The Urban Gardener with Meshach Taylor” in 1996, and on the Travel Channel, “Meshach Taylor’s Hidden Caribbean” in 1998. He was a regular panelist on the 2000 revival of the television game show ”To Tell the Truth”. He co-hosted “Living Live! with Florence Henderson” on Retirement Living TV; in 2008, the program was revamped as “The Florence Henderson Show”.
In 1998, he made his Broadway debut as the first and only African American “Lumiere” in Beauty and the Beast, where he starred alongside James Barbour as the “Beast” and Toni Braxton as “Belle”. He gave a luminous performance. He finished his theatrical career with Flight by Charlayne Woodard at the Kirk Douglas Theatre at CTG in 2010 and The Year of the Rabbit, 2012, at ESTLA.
The Meshach Taylor Family Fund has been established to help defray ongoing medical and personal expenses the family has incurred during Meshach’s prolonged illness and passing. Checks can be made to
Meshach Taylor Family Fund/In care of J.M. Keen
and sent to Jackie Keehn
J.M. Keehn Accountancy Corp.
15300 Ventura Bl. #315
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
2014 Emmys In Memoriam and Tribute to Robin Williams
Other Articles about Meshach Taylor:
Q & A with Danny Ramm, Co-writer of Joe Mantegna Helmed ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode to Honor the late Meshach Taylor; Airs January 21, 2015
Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, President Bill Clinton and More Remember Meshach Taylor
July 6: Memorial Service for ‘Designing Women’ Star Meshach Taylor at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills ‘Designing Women’ Star Meshach Taylor, Veteran of Stage, Screen and TV, Dies at 67
Reports of Designing Women star Meshach Taylor’s Death are Premature
Photos: Meshach Taylor Celebrates 67th Birthday with Arlene and Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, Jean Smart, Dennis Franz, Ernie Hudson, John Heard, Keith Szarabajka, Stuart Gordon, Shadoe Stevens and More
goodmantheatre.com: Goodman Theatre Remembers Meshach Taylor (July 1, 2014)
Click here for more articles on Meshach.
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