Olivia Cole, actress in ‘Roots’ dies at 75
By Cherie Saunders Eurweb
Veteran actress and Emmy winner Olivia Cole, best known for her performance in the 1970s miniseries “Roots,” has died. She died Friday at her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, her agent, Susie Schwarz told The Hollywood Reporter. She was 75.
The New York Times reported that Cole had suffered a heart attack.
Her other notable roles include Maggie Rogers, the mot-her of Leslie Uggams’ Lillian Rogers Parks in the nine hour 1979 NBC miniseries “Back-stairs at the White House.” Both real-life women spent years working as maids for U.S. presidents over several decades.
Cole also starred as the gossipy Miss Sophie alongside Oprah Winfrey in the 1989 ABC miniseries “The Women of Brewster Place.”
She received her supporting actress Emmy for playing Matilda — the wife of Ben Vereen’s Chicken George and mother of Georg Stanford Brown’s Tom — on Alex Haley’s “Roots,” which was broadcast on ABC in January 1977 on eight consecutive nights and watched by an estimated 140 million people.
Cole also appeared as Corrine in the best picture Oscar nominee “Coming Home” (1978); in “Some Kind of Hero” (1982), with Richard Pryor; opposite Paul Winfield in James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1984); and with Ice Cube in “First Sunday” (2008).
Cole was born on Nov. 26, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, the only daughter of parents who moved with her to Harlem. She attended Hunter College High School, Bard College in New York and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
She returned to the U.S. in 1964 and appeared in Romeo and Juliet at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut.
In 1966, Cole made her Broadway debut in a revival of The School for Scandal — just one of the many stage appearances during her career — and then landed a gig as Deborah Mehren on the CBS soap opera “Guiding Light.”
Cole bossed around Ned Beatty on the CBS series “Szysznyk” in 1977-78 and also appeared on television on “Police Woman,” “North and South,” “Family,” “L.A. Law” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
Cole was married to actor Richard Venture, who died just last month; they met when starring in a play at the Arena Stage in Washington, and he discovered the town of San Miguel de Allende while filming the Costa-Gavras drama “Missing” (1982) there. The couple divorced a couple of years later, and she lived in Mexico for some 30 years, Schwarz said.
She did not have any known survivors.