Bill Cobbs Dies: ‘The Bodyguard’, ‘Night At The Museum’ Actor Was 90

Bill Cobbs, a prolific film and TV actor with memorable performances in Night At The Museum, Brother From Another Planet, Oz The Great And Powerful, The Sopranos and dozens of others, died surrounded by family Tuesday, June 25, of natural causes at his home in Inland Empire, California. He was 90.

His death was announced by family members on Facebook, and confirmed to Deadline by his publicist Chuck I. Jones.

“We are saddened to share the passing of Bill Cobbs,” wrote brother Thomas G. Cobbs. “On Tuesday, June 25, Bill passed away peacefully at his home in California. A beloved partner, big brother, uncle, surrogate parent, godfather and friend, Bill recently and happily celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by cherished loved ones. As a family we are comforted knowing Bill has found peace and eternal rest with his Heavenly Father. We ask for your prayers and encouragement during this time.”

Said Jones, “Bill was a phenomenal human being in addition to being a spectacular actor. He was very kind, giving and attentive to others.”

Born Wilbert Francisco Cobbs on June 16, 1934, in Cleveland, Ohio, Cobbs began his acting career with such stage companies as Cleveland’s African American Performing Arts Center and Karamu House Theatre and, in New York City, the Negro Ensemble Company.

His feature film debut came in 1974 with a small part in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Subsequent roles came in quick succession, with mid-to-late 1970s appearances on TV’s Good Times and in such films as Greased Lightning and The Hitter. In the early 1980s he had small roles in Trading Places and Silkwood, with a more prominent performance as the character Walter in John Sayles’ groundbreaking indie hit Brother From Another Planet.

Well on his way to becoming an instantly recognizable character actor, Cobbs had roles throughout the 1980s in films (The Cotton Club, The Color Of Money) and TV series (The Equalizer, Sesame Street, Kate & Allie, Spencer For Hire, L.A. Law). In 1987, he became a series regular on The Slap Maxwell Story, a short-lived (one season) but well-regarded sitcom starring Dabney Coleman. (Coleman died last month.)

The 1990s saw Cobbs maintain a busy schedule, with one-off TV appearances (Designing Women, The Trials of Rosie O’Neil, Coach, Empty Nest, Northern Exposure, Ed and ER) and film roles (The Hudsucker Proxy, That Thing You Do! and Air Bud). In 1992 he was featured in the hit Whitney Houston-Kevin Costner film The Bodyguard, and in 1996, he played Medgar Evers’ older brother Charles Evers in Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi.

Cobbs was a recurring character throughout both seasons of the acclaimed 1991-93 TV series I’ll Fly Away, and returned for the 1993 TV reunion movie. He was a main cast member on the 1997-99 series The Gregory Hines Show, and in 2000 was a regular on the supernatural series The Others as well as the eight-episode The Michael Richards Show sitcom.

Other TV credits include The Sopranos, JAG, The Drew Carey Show, One Tree Hill, Star Trek: Enterprise, Yes, Dear, Go On (recurring), The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Lost, Army Wives, The Glades, The Bay, and many others.

In 2020, he guest starred in the two-part series finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That same year, he won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Performance in a Daytime Program for his role on kids show Dino Dana.

One of Cobbs’ most memorable performances came in the 2006 hit Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum, in which he played security guard Reginald. He reprised the role in 2014’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

“He was especially very proud of receiving a Daytime Emmy Award,” said publicist Jones, “and his work with the cast & crew on such films as Demolition Man, The Bodyguard and Oz, The Great and Powerful.”

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

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