Olivia Cole

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Olivia Cole
Olivia Cole (cropped).JPG
Cole in 1977.
Olivia Carlena Cole

(1942-11-26)November 26, 1942
DiedJanuary 19, 2018(2018-01-19) (aged 75)
Years active1969–2011
m. 1969; div. 1984)

Olivia Carlena Cole (November 26, 1942 – January 19, 2018) was an American actress.

Life and career

Cole was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Arvelia Cole (née Cage), a tennis player, instructor, entrepreneur and William Calvin Cole, a worker for Grumman.[1][2] After graduating from Manhattan's Hunter College High School in 1960, she studied drama at Bard College in New York and earned a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where she graduated with honors in 1964.[1][3] After returning to the United States, she earned a master's degree in theater arts with minor in Scandinavian studies in 1967 from the University of Minnesota.[1] She made her screen debut in the daytime soap opera Guiding Light in 1969 and later appeared in over 30 shows and films.[3]

Cole won an Emmy Award for her performance as Matilda, Chicken George's wife, in the 1977 miniseries Roots.[3][4] Cole became the first African American actress to win an Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Movie for her performance in Roots.

She also was known for her role as Maggie Rogers in the 1979 miniseries Backstairs at the White House, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.[4]

Cole starred in the CBS sitcoms Szysznyk from 1977 to 1978 and Report to Murphy in 1982. She also was cast in the short-lived ABC drama series Brewster Place with Oprah Winfrey in 1990 and previously appeared in another miniseries North and South, Book I (1985). She also guest-starred on Police Woman, Family, L.A. Law, "Christy" and Murder, She Wrote.[5]

Cole's Broadway credits include The School for Scandal, You Can't Take It with You, The Merchant of Venice, and The National Health.[6]

She was an honorary member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. In film, she appeared in Heroes (1977), Coming Home (1978), Some Kind of Hero (1982), Go Tell It on the Mountain (1984), Big Shots (1987), First Sunday (2008) as well as in the television movies Something About Amelia (1984) and The Women of Brewster Place (1989).[5]

Personal life and death

In June 1971, she married actor Richard Venture, one of the few to enter an interracial marriage in Hollywood at that time. They later divorced in 1984. She retired in 1995, but later returned to acting.[5]

Cole died 31 days after ex-husband, actor Richard Venture; at her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on January 19, 2018, age 75 following a heart attack.[5]


Film & Television Credits
Year Title Role Notes
1969-1971 Guiding Light Deborah Mehraen television debut

series regular; unknown episodes

1975-1976 Police Woman Head Nurse/Dr. Dorothy Bailey/Dr. Georgia Kimberly 3 episodes
1977 Roots Matilda Moore TV Miniseries

3 episodes

1977 Rafferty Sara Ridley Episode: "Brothers & Sons"
1977 Heroes Jane Adcox film debut
1977-1978 Szysznyk Ms. Harrison series regular; 15 episodes
1978 Coming Home Corrine
1978 Family Frances Rossmore Episode: "Fear of Shadows"
1979 Insight Karen Clay Episode: "When, Jenny? When?"
1979 Backstairs at the White House Maggie Rogers TV Miniseries

4 episodes

1979 The Lazarus Syndrome Pamela Quinn Episode: "A Brutal Assault"
1980 Children of Divorce Betty Williams Television Movie
1980 The Sky Is Gray Olivia Television Movie
1981 Fly Home Sarah Brookford Television Movie
1981 Mistress of Paradise Victorine Television Movie
1982 Some Kind of Hero Jesse
1982 Report to Murphy Blanche 6 episodes
1984 Go Tell It on the Mountain Elizabeth
1984 Something About Amelia Ruth Walters
1985 American Playhouse Elizabeth Episode: "Go Tell It on the Mountain"
1985 North and South, Book I Maum Sally TV Miniseries

6 episodes

1985-1995 Murder, She Wrote Yvette Dauphin/Melinda Coop/Callie Coleman 3 episodes
1987 Big Shots Mrs. Newton
1987 The Fig Tree Television Movie
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Miss Sophie 2 episodes
1989-1993 L.A. Law Judge Julie McFarlane 3 episodes
1990 Brewster Place Miss Sophie series regular; 11 episodes
1993 Arly Hanks Estelle Television Movie
1995 Christy Esther Scott Episode: "Echoes"
2008 First Sunday Momma T
2011 Be Good, Be Nice Young Girl Short Film

Awards and nominations


  1. ^ a b c Caron, Christina (24 January 2018). "Olivia Cole, Award-Winning 'Roots' Actress, Is Dead at 75". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Olivia Cole profile, filmreference.com; accessed January 24, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Wright, Tolly (24 January 2018). "Olivia Cole, Emmy Award-Winning Roots Actress, Dead at 75". New York.
  4. ^ a b "Olivia Cole". Emmys.com. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Barnes, Mike (January 24, 2018). "Olivia Cole, Actress in 'Roots' and 'Backstairs at the White House,' Dies at 75". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  6. ^ "Olivia Cole". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved March 28, 2013.

External links

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