This June, as we celebrate Caribbean Heritage Month, Caribbean Lingo remembers Mr. Sullivan H. Walker, the distinguished Trinidadian-American actor, director, educator and visionary who died of a massive heart attack on Feb. 20 in his home in Los Angeles. He was 65 years old.
Walker was born Nov. 20, 1946, in Success Village, Laventille, and raised in Broadway, San Fernando, in the sister island republic of Trinidad & Tobago. He first got a taste of America when he won a trip to New York City after placing third in Trinidad’s “Scouting for Talent” show.
Walker, who was a teacher at St. Paul’s Anglican School in San Fernando, subsequently immigrated to New York in 1969, settling in Brooklyn. He worked as an actor, writer, director and teacher. His career as an actor spanned some 32 years, covering the period from 1980 to 2012.
Well known for his work on “The Cosby Show” from 1988-1992, playing the role of Dr. James Harmon, Bill Cosby’s character’s Caribbean physician friend, Walker was also popular for his portrayal of Yale, a cybernetic advisor to Devon Adair (Debrah Faerentino) on the series “Earth 2,” where he was a regular on almost every episode from 1994-1995.
He also guest-starred on the TV dramas “The Pretender “(1999), “The Sentinel” (1997) and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (2004); the sitcoms “The Jamie Foxx Show” (2000), “Living Single” (1996) and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1993); and in the TV movies “On the Edge of Innocence” (1997) and “Lush Life” (1996).
Walker’s film credits include “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” (2005), “The Firm” (1993), “Misplaced” (1989), “Runaway” (1989), Crocodile Dundee” (1986) and “The Exterminator” (1980).
On the stage, Walker appeared on Broadway in August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” and off Broadway in the 1985 Negro Ensemble Company’s production of “Two Can Play,” by the renowned Jamaican playwright Trevor Rhone. The popular play, which was set in Jamaica, co-starred the brilliant Panamanian-American actress Hazel J. Medina, who transitioned six days before Walker, on Feb. 14.
Walker started his acting career as a member of the San Fernando Drama Guild under the direction of James Lee Wah. There he was cast in such plays as Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story.”
While reaching his goal as an actor in America, Walker also supported the arts in Trinidad, especially its local theater.
As recently as June 2011, Walker spent time in Trinidad directing his new play, “Caribbean Woman,” based on a book of his poems, which was produced at the Hilton Trinidad St. Ann’s.
Walker struggled with securing financing to get the piece mounted and produced. In his initial attempt to get the production up and running, he appealed to the Ministry of Education, to no avail. But although he received no government support, Walker, a talented, determined optimist, single-handedly staged and produced “Caribbean Woman,” which garnered raves from its substantial audience.
Walker, who returned to Trinidad annually for Carnival, had a dream. Knowing there were no professional acting academies on the island, he wanted to establish a school there for Caribbean actors to be trained and prepared for being on top of their craft in their homeland, as well as to be able to successfully break into film and television industries abroad. Sadly, Walker’s dream was not realized. He transitioned on Carnival Monday.
Retracing his journey from Trinidad, Walker’s body was first flown to Brooklyn, where he was loved and well-respected, then on to Trinidad for cremation.
Walker is survived by his wife, Carol Mark-Walker, and his daughter, Keela Walker. Upon delivering his eulogy on March 2, she recalled the words of her father: “I want to take Caribbean culture mainstream. We have to take the responsibility of educating America and the world on who we are.”
Caribbean Lingo pays tribute to the brilliant Caribbean professional talents of stage and screen and art forms of the highest caliber.