Charles S. Dutton
(m. 1989; div. 1994)
Charles S. Dutton is a retired American actor and director. He is best known for his roles in the television series Roc (1991–1994) and the television film The Piano Lesson (1995), the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination. His other accolades include three Primetime Emmy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards.
Dutton has also appeared in many feature films such as Alien 3 (1992), Rudy (1993), Menace II Society (1993), A Time to Kill (1996), Cookie's Fortune (1999), and Gothika (2003).
Dutton was born on the east side of Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a truck driver and his parents divorced when he was four. He grew up in Baltimore's Latrobe Homes public housing project. In his youth, Dutton dropped out of school before finishing middle school. He had a short-lived stint as an amateur boxer with the nickname "Roc", a nickname derived from "Rockhead", due to rock throwing battles which took place during Dutton's childhood.
In 1967, when he was 16, Dutton got into a fight that resulted in the death of a man Dutton claimed had attacked him with a knife.
After the knife fight, Dutton pleaded guilty in 1967 to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison, which he began serving at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, Maryland. Out on parole after 18 or 20 months,[notes 1] he was arrested on robbery and handgun charges. He was sentenced on the handgun violation and sent to the Maryland Penitentiary, near his boyhood home, for three more years. A fight with a guard added on another eight years. In reference to this, Dutton later said, "I got three years for killing a black man and eight for punching a white man."
During his prison term, Dutton was stabbed by another prisoner and nearly died. He became interested in radical movements and the Black Panther Party.
Several months into his second prison term, Dutton was sentenced to six days of solitary confinement for refusing to clean toilets. Prisoners were allowed to take one book and, unintentionally, he grabbed an anthology of black playwrights. He enjoyed the book so much that upon release from solitary, he petitioned the warden to start a drama group for the winter talent show. The warden agreed on the condition that Dutton go back to school and get his GED. Dutton accomplished that and eventually completed a two-year college program at Hagerstown Junior College (now Hagerstown Community College) in Hagerstown, Maryland, graduating with an Associate of Arts degree in 1976.
Dutton was paroled on August 20, 1976. After his release from prison, he enrolled in a drama major at Towson State University (now Towson University) in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1978. After his time at Towson, Dutton earned a master's degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama in 1983.
In 1984, Dutton made his Broadway debut in August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, winning a Theatre World Award and a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1988, Dutton played Leroy Brown in Crocodile Dundee II and a killer in the television miniseries The Murder of Mary Phagan opposite Jack Lemmon and Kevin Spacey. In 1990, Dutton earned a second Best Actor Tony nomination for his role in another Wilson play, The Piano Lesson. Dutton co-starred in Alien 3, the debut film of director David Fincher, then co-starred in 1993's Rudy. Other films he has appeared in include Get on the Bus; A Time to Kill; Cookie's Fortune; Cry, the Beloved Country; Surviving the Game; Menace II Society; Secret Window; and A Low Down Dirty Shame.
Dutton won Outstanding Guest Actor Emmy Awards in 2002 and 2003 for his roles in The Practice and Without a Trace. He was previously nominated in 1999 for his guest-starring role as Alvah Case in the HBO prison drama Oz in its second-season premiere episode. For this role, he was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Also in 1999, he starred in an ensemble cast in Aftershock: Earthquake in New York in which he played the Mayor of New York City. Dutton gained acclaim for his comedy show Roc shown on FOX television (but produced by HBO) from 1991 to 1994. His work in this role won him an NAACP Image Award. He co-starred in the popular but short-lived 2005 CBS science fiction series, Threshold.
In 2000, Dutton directed the HBO miniseries The Corner. The miniseries was close to his heart, for Dutton grew up on the streets of East Baltimore. It was adapted from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood (Broadway Books, 1997) by David Simon (a reporter for the Baltimore Sun) and Ed Burns (a retired Baltimore homicide detective). The Corner won several Emmys in 2000, including Best Miniseries. Dutton won for his direction of the miniseries. He worked with Simon previously in a 1996 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.
He starred as Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief Charles Moose in the 2003 made-for-TV movie D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear, and appeared in Season 2 of The L Word. Dutton also appeared in "Another Toothpick," an episode of The Sopranos. He guest starred on House M.D. as the father of Dr Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), Also had a small role in First Time Felon alongside Omar Epps and on Sleeper Cell: American Terror as the father of undercover FBI agent Darwyn Al-Sayeed. He also directed two episodes of Sleeper Cell.
On October 9, 2007, HBO announced that it had arranged a deal with Dutton where he would develop, direct, and star in series and movies for the network. He also appeared in the 2007 film Honeydripper. On February 14, 2013, Dutton returned to TV in Zero Hour, playing the role of a priest. In 2013, Dutton played Detective Margolis in the horror film The Monkey's Paw.
|1986||The Best of Times||Doctor Death||Uncredited|
|1988||No Mercy||Sergeant Sandy|
|Crocodile Dundee II||Leroy Brown|
|1990||Q&A||Detective Sam Chapman|
|1991||Mississippi Masala||Tyrone Williams|
|1992||Jack Reed: One of Our Own||Lt. Charles Silvera|
|1992||Alien 3||Dillon||Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|The Distinguished Gentleman||Elijah Hawkins|
|1993||Menace II Society||Mr. Butler|
|1994||Surviving the Game||Walter Cole|
|Foreign Student||Howlin' Wolf|
|A Low Down Dirty Shame||Sonny Rothmiller|
|1995||Cry, the Beloved Country||John Kumalo|
|Nick of Time||Huey|
|1996||A Time to Kill||Sheriff Ozzie Walls|
|Get on the Bus||George|
|1997||Mimic||Officer Leonard Norton|
|1998||Black Dog||Agent Allen Ford|
|1999||Cookie's Fortune||Willis Richland||Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male|
|2002||D-Tox||FBI Agent Chuck Hendricks|
|2003||Gothika||Dr. Douglas Grey|
|2004||Against the Ropes||Felix Reynolds||Also director|
|Secret Window||Ken Karsch|
|2005||The L.A. Riot Spectacular||The Mayor|
|2008||The Third Nail||Sydney Washington|
|American Violet||Reverend Sanders|
|The Express: The Ernie Davis Story||Willie Davis|
|2009||Fame||Mr. James Dowd|
|Least Among Saints||George|
|The Obama Effect||John Thomas|
|2013||The Monkey's Paw||Detective Margolis|
|2014||Android Cop||Mayor Jacobs|
|Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery||Cookie|
|2015||The Perfect Guy||Roger Vaughn|
|Carter High||Freddie James|
|1985||Miami Vice||Lieutenant Pearson||Episode: "The Prodigal Son"|
|1985||The Equalizer||Abmennet||Episode: "Bump and Run"|
|1986||Miami Vice||Ed McCain||Episode: "The Good Collar"|
|1986||Cagney & Lacey||Mr. Johnson||Episode: "The Marathon"|
|1986||Apology||Asst. District Attorney||Television movie|
|1988||The Murder of Mary Phagan||Jim Conley||Television movie|
|1991–1994||Roc||Roc Emerson||72 episodes|
|1993||Are You Afraid of the Dark?||Captain Jonas Cutter||2 episodes|
|1995||The Piano Lesson||Boy Willie||Television movie|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1996||Homicide: Life on the Street||Elijah Sanborn||Episode: "Prison Riot"|
|1998||Oz||Professor Alva Case||Episode: "The Tip"|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
|1998||Blind Faith||Charles Williams||Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male|
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
|1999||Aftershock: Earthquake in New York||Mayor Bruce Lincoln||Television movie|
|1999||The 60's||Reverend Willie Taylor||Television movie|
|2000||Deadlocked||Jacob Doyle||Television movie|
|2000||For Love or Country||Dizzy Gillespie||Television movie|
|2000||The Corner||N/A||Television movie|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Director for a Movie
|2001||Ed||Reverend Carver||Episode: "Valentine's Day"|
|2001||The Sopranos||Officer Wilmore||Episode: "Another Toothpick"|
|2001||The Practice||Leonard Marshall||Episode: "Killing Time"|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
|2002||10,000 Black Men Named George||Milton Webster||Television movie|
|2002–2003||Without a Trace||Chet Collins||2 episodes|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
|2003||D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear||Chief Charles Moose||Television movie|
|2004||Something the Lord Made||William Thomas||Television movie|
|2005||Mayday||Admiral Randolf Hennings||Television movie|
|2005||The L Word||Dr. Benjamin Bradshaw||4 episodes|
|2005–2006||Threshold||J.T. Baylock||13 episodes|
|2006–2007||House||Rodney Foreman||2 episodes|
|2007||My Name Is Earl||Reggie||Episode: "Get a Real Job"|
|2008||Racing for Time||Lt. Stack||Television movie|
|2009||CSI: NY||Talmadge Neville||Episode: "Greater Good"|
|2010||Dark Blue||Walter Shell||Episode: "Shell Game"|
|2011||Law & Order: LA||Reverend Davidson||Episode: "Carthay Circle"|
|2011||Criminal Minds||Tony Cole||Episode: "The Bittersweet Science"|
|2011||American Horror Story: Murder House||Detective Granger||2 episodes|
|2012||The Good Wife||Pastor Damon||Episode: "Blue Ribbon Panel"|
|2012–2014||Longmire||Detective Fales||6 episodes|
|2013||Zero Hour||Father Mickle||6 episodes|
|2014||The Following||FBI Director Tom Franklin||Episode: "The Messenger"|
|2015||Bessie||William 'Pa' Rainey||Television movie|
Dutton's parents divorced when he was 4. He was raised by his mother, who cleaned houses and proudly refused to accept welfare to feed her three children.
Dutton grew up in the Latrobe Homes housing projects in Baltimore. His childhood bedroom overlooked the Maryland Penitentiary, an imposing and dark gothic structure built in the early 1800s.
Instead of snowball battles in my neighborhood, we used to have rock fights. We'd make little forts out of cardboard and trash cans, and throw rocks at each other on the other side of the street. Once your fort was knocked down, you had to go out and charge the other guys with a handful of rocks. I used to lead the charge, and I'd get hit badly. At least twice a month I'd get my head busted and they started calling me 'Rockhead.' Then I used to box for a while, and they took the 'head' off, and just called me 'Roc.' People still call me 'Roc.'
In 1967, at age 16, he got into a street fight with a man in his twenties. He stabbed the man repeatedly. The man bled to death, and Dutton was sentenced to five years at the state prison in Jessup for manslaughter.
What had saved Charles Dutton was prison. He dropped out of school at 12 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter at 17, after stabbing a black man who had pulled a knife on him in a fight. He served two years. Then he was sent back for weapons possession, fought with a white guard, and ended up serving another seven and a half.
Not long after being released, he was arrested again, on robbery and weapons charges. A conviction on the latter count earned him a three-year sentence in the Maryland State Pen, the institution that stood outside his old bedroom window.
When he was seventeen, Dutton was involved in a street fight that escalated into a knife fight. He and his assailant stabbed each other. Only Dutton survived. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years of imprisonment. Dutton was out on parole for only a few months when he returned to prison for possession of a deadly weapon (a handgun). When a prison riot broke out, Dutton participated and punched a guard. He was sentenced to an additional eight years of imprisonment. "I knew what I was doing," he says. "For a long time I didn't want to hear anything positive. I just wanted to know when we were going to burn down the prison."
My manslaughter conviction came from a fight with a guy who stabbed me seven times. I wrestled the knife from him and killed him. Got 18 months (in 1967). Then got three years for possession of a weapon and another eight years tacked on for a fight with a guard.
One day a guard kept him from seeing a visitor. Enraged, Dutton challenged him to a fistfight. As Dutton describes it, they had 'a wonderful, nice 10 minutes busting each other up' in a locked room. Dutton figured it was a fair fight. But the guard eventually pressed charges ('he was pressured to do so,' Dutton claims). The conviction earned Dutton eight more years in prison. He is bitterly amused by this: 'I got three years for killing a black man and eight for punching a white man.'
...a fellow con stabbed Dutton in the neck with an ice pick. The blade plunged into his lungs, collapsing one of them, but missing his arteries. Still, he nearly bled to death. The injury only stoked his rage. He had become a fire-breathing radical, a Black Panther who read Mao, Marx and Malcolm X and 'believed wholeheartedly in the armed overthrow of the U.S. government. I was prepared to die for it.'
'I was in the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, raised hell in the streets and spent 12 years in and out the penal institution, seven and a half the last time.'
Not long afterward, he refused to accept an assignment cleaning toilets, and was banished to isolation for three days. There, in a dim 5-by-7-foot cell, Dutton read a book of plays he'd found in the prison library. He was transfixed, transported and ultimately transformed.
This August will mark the 20th anniversary of actor Charles Dutton's release from the Maryland State Penitentiary, where he spent seven-and-a-half years for manslaughter and other charges.
In and out of reform school and prison since he was 12, Dutton received his parole on Aug. 20, 1976, and closed the door on his old life.
Dutton's jail-to-Yale biography is a compelling one. After getting out of prison in 1976, he spent two years studying theater at Towson State University and then went on to earn a drama degree from Yale before going to Broadway.
Dutton got his GED and completed a couple of college acting programs before finally earning his master's from Yale. And he hit the ground running. 'When I graduated out of Yale School of Drama in 1983, I didn't really have a long struggling actor career...