Clarice Taylor, the actress memorably known as Anna Huxtable on the “The Cosby Show,” died of heart failure on May 30, in Englewood, N.J. She was 93.
The actress’s representative confirmed her death to PEOPLE magazine, and said she was surrounded by family at the time of her passing.
Born Sept. 20, 1917 in Buckingham County, Va., Taylor’s family later relocated to Harlem, where she skipped school to take trips at the Apollo Theater, according to the Associated Press. After being fascinated by comedian Moms Mabley, her interest in acting was born.
She began her career in Harlem’s American Negro Theatre in the 1960s and was one of the first members of the revered Black theatrical company, the Negro Ensemble (NEC). Prior to the establishment of the organization, there were practically no outlets for Black theatrical actors in the U.S.
“She was a classic actress and a dear, dear woman,” Robert Hooks, one of the founders of NEC told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “Clarice was one of those stellar actresses from our company. She brought to the NEC a joy. She was one of the actresses of that day who had great depth and talent. She never played on the surface. She always went deeper into her characters.”
Taylor later appeared in the 1975 theatrical production of The Wiz, and secured a recurring TV role on “Sesame Street,” among a list of other acting credits.
After rooming with Phylicia Rashad while touring with The Wiz, she got the opportunity to audition for the role of the Rashad’s character’s mother in the TV comedy “The Cosby Show.” After tremendous preparation for the role, she ultimately didn’t get the part.
But shortly thereafter, she was called in to audition for the role of Bill Cosby’s mother.
“I put on a gray wig, a bandana over that, flat-heeled shoes and a long dress with no shape to it,” She told the Associated Press in a 1987 interview. “Bill saw through my act. I read five lines and he said, ‘if you’re going to go through all of this-you’ve got the part.'”
Taylor and actor Earle Hyman both received Emmy nominations in 1986 for their roles as Anna and Russell Huxtable, the parents of Bill Cosby and the grandparents of the Huxtable children.
“She was an inspiration to me. I always admired her,” actress Ruby Dee, friend and colleague told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “I came to look upon her as a big sister. She had a job when no one else did….I feel a deep loss.”
Taylor is survived by two sons and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.