Yaphet Kotto Dies: ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ Actor Was 81

Yaphet Kotto (Credit: NBC)

Yaphet Kotto, a New York native who commanded attention on stage and on screen as James Bond villain “Mr. Big,” has died. He was 81.

Kotto passed away Sunday night in the Philippines, his wife Thessa Sinahon shared Monday in a heartfelt Facebook post.

“You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also. A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find,” she wrote. “Rest in peace honey, I’m gonna miss you everyday, my bestfriend, my rock .I love you and you will always be in my heart. Till we meet again!”

Sinahon added that she was saddened and still in shock over the passing of her husband of 24 years. She said Kotto remained busy up until his death, and had scheduled several interviews, he continued to land movie roles, and had plans to release a book.

She did not disclose his cause of death.

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Yaphet Kotto co-starred on 'Homicide: Life on the Street' from 1993 to 1999. (Credit: NBC)
Yaphet Kotto co-starred on ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ from 1993 to 1999. (Credit: NBC)

The son of an immigrant businessman from Cameroon, Kotto was born in Harlem in 1939.

The performer, whose birth name was Fredrick S. Kotto, began studying acting as a teenager. He was a member of the Actors Studio in New York and appeared in “The Great White Hope” on Broadway, along with other productions.

In 1973 he landed the role of James Bond villain “Mr. Big” in the film Live and Let Die. Among his other notable credits, Kotto portrayed brutal Ugandan President Idi Amin in the 1977 TV movie Raid on Entebbe. The role earned him an Emmy nomination. He also played an auto worker in the 1978 film Blue Collar and had a role as Parker in the 1979 sci-fi film Alien.

Kotto had a commanding presence and was perhaps best-known for his role as no-nonsense Lieutenant Al Giardello on NBC’s long-running police procedural Homicide: Life on the Street.

He also served as a writer on the series about a fictional version of the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit.