Clarence Williams III: Purple Rain and The Mod Squad star dies aged 81

·1-min read
<p>Williams in 2005</p> (London Entertainment/Shutterstock)

Williams in 2005

(London Entertainment/Shutterstock)

Purple Rain star Clarence Williams III has died aged 81.

The actor, who was best known for playing Prince’s father in the 1984 film, died on Friday (4 June) after being diagnosed with colon cancer, his manager confirmed on Sunday (6 June).

Born in New York in 1939, Williams had a lengthy career throughout the worlds of theatre, television and film. His grandfather was a jazz composer and pianist, his father a musician and his mother, Eva Taylor, a singer and actress.

After a stint as a paratrooper, the actor began his career on Broadway, receiving a Tony nomination in 1964 or his role in William Hanley’s Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.

Williams’ breakout role was in police television series The Mod Squad, in which he starred as undercover cop Linc Hayes from 1968 to 1973.

He also appeared on Broadway opposite Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day in 1979 before getting cast as the troubled father in rock musical Purple Rain.

Starring in Orson Welles Great Mysteries - The Furnished Room in 1973 (ITV/Shutterstock)
Starring in Orson Welles Great Mysteries - The Furnished Room in 1973 (ITV/Shutterstock)

He went on to have roles in TV shows such as Twin Peaks, Miami Vice, Everybody Hates Chris and Law and Order. His most recent TV work was from 2005 to 2007 as a voice actor on the Disney animated series American Dragon Jake Long.

The Prince estate paid tribute to Williams, tweeting: “Rest in honor, Clarence Williams III. In addition to iconic roles in The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks, Clarence will forever be remembered for his gripping performance as The Kid’s father, Francis L, in Prince’s breakthrough film Purple Rain.”

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