|Other names||Clark "Slappy" Jackson, Clarque Johnson, J. Clark Johnson|
Clark Johnson (born September 10, 1954), is an American-Canadian actor and director who has worked in both television and film. He is best known for his roles as David Jefferson in Night Heat (1985–1988), Clark Roberts in E.N.G. (1989–1994), Meldrick Lewis in Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999) and Augustus Haynes in The Wire (2008).
Johnson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The family eventually moved to Canada. He has three siblings including jazz singer Molly Johnson and actress and singer Taborah Johnson.
Johnson attended Eastern Michigan University on a partial athletic scholarship for American football, but he was expelled after he was caught stealing food from the school cafeteria. He attended several other universities including the University of Ottawa and Loyola College/Concordia University, where he played Canadian football, before ending up at the Ontario College of Art as a film major. He was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in the seventh round of the 1978 CFL Draft but ultimately did not play professionally.
Johnson started in film doing special effects, including David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone. This behind-the-scenes work often served as a "backup" for him during the early stages of his acting career.
He began performing in feature films in 1981, landing roles in the films Killing 'em Softly, Colors, Wild Thing, Adventures in Babysitting, and Nowhere to Hide. He also acted in a number of television shows early in his career, including The Littlest Hobo, Night Heat, Hot Shots and E.N.G. He starred in the first episode of The Women of Brewster Place in 1989 as Butch Fuller.
In 1993, Johnson became part of the original cast of the television series Homicide: Life on the Street playing Detective Meldrick Lewis for all seven seasons and the reunion movie, as well as directing several episodes. Johnson regularly improvised during filming and made up his own jokes and dialogue; writer and producer James Yoshimura called Clark the "king of the ad lib". Although the ensemble nature of the show meant that Johnson never played a minor role, he became an even larger presence after his character was paired with a new partner, Mike Kellerman (played by Reed Diamond). The two detectives became the central figures in a plot line surrounding a Baltimore drug lord whose financial resources and front as a devoted community servant make it nearly impossible for the police department to charge him. Johnson made the transition to director with the season four episode "Map of the Heart". He also directed "Betrayal", "Valentine's Day", "Full Court Press" and "The Twenty Percent Solution". David Simon, the author of the non-fiction book Homicide was based upon, as well as a writer and producer for the series, commented that the transition from actor to director was made easy by Johnson's familiarity with the show and that he was one of the better directors in terms of keeping the tone of the show consistent. In 2013, Johnson made a brief cameo as Lewis in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Wonderland Story" when the squad are at a retirement party for John Munch (Richard Belzer).
Johnson worked on The Wire, reuniting with writer David Simon. Johnson directed the pilot episode "The Target", second episode, fifth episode and the series finale. He plays Augustus Haynes, the dedicated and principled editor for The Baltimore Sun city desk.
In 2013, Johnson starred as Sen. Robert Bettencourt (R-PA) in Amazon's Alpha House, a political comedy written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau. Along with John Goodman, Johnson plays one of four Republican senators living together in a house on Capitol Hill. Johnson also directed the season finale for the show's first season. Johnson spent the summer of 2014 filming season two.
Johnson's other directing credits include the big-screen releases The Sentinel (2006) and S.W.A.T. (2003), and episodes of Third Watch as well as the HBO original production Boycott (2001), a project which he helmed and in which he also acted. He also directed the first episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 of the 2005 mini-series Sleeper Cell. He also directed the first and last episodes of The Shield, along with other episodes of that series.
Johnson directed the pilot episode of the FX drama Lights Out. The series stars fellow The Wire cast members Pablo Schreiber and Reg E. Cathey and focuses on a retired heavyweight boxing champion.
Johnson is a guest instructor at HB Studio.