Freeman: An Actor Who Taught How to Act and to Be Real
Al Freeman, Jr., was one of those famous actors who you never heard about much as time went on.
Of course, you knew him if you studied drama at Howard University, where he taught for years ever since the mid-1980s.
You knew him too, if you saw the Spike Lee’s epic “Malcolm X,” a biographical movie with Denzel Washington in the title role of the legendary African-American leader.
Freeman, who had trained and performed for years on Broadway in cutting edge plays in the 1960s, had a significant role in “Malcolm X” as Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam's leader with whom Malcom X battled for political leadership.
Lee called Freeman one of the greatest actors of all time.
Freeman, a Texas native, made his mark on Broadway early in 1962 with “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright,” and later with the acclaimed African-American novelist and playwright James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie.” In addition, he starred in the electric LeRoi Jones’s controversial plays, “Dutchman” and “The Slave.” Later, he appeared as a tough cop in “The Detective,” which starred Frank Sinatra.
Washington audiences got a chance to see Freeman at work in 1993 in “A Community Carol,” an updating of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” in which he played the Scrooge as a contemporary, stingy, heartless money lender in contemporary Washington and Anacostia who, instead of “bah humbug” said—often—"horse puckey." Freeman shone in showing the warm core of a cold-hearted miser.
Freeman died August 9, of undisclosed causes, according to a Howard University spokesperson. He was 78.