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Clarence Gilyard
Born Clarence Darnell Gilyard, Jr.
December 24, 1955 (1955-12-24) (age 54)
Moses Lake, Washington, U.S.
Spouse(s) Kathy (divorced)

Clarence Darnell Gilyard, Jr. (born December 24, 1955) is a former American actor and current college professor who has featured in movies and television since 1980. He is sometimes credited as Clarence A. Gilyard. Gilyard is best-known for his roles as Andy Griffith's second private investigator and right-hand man, Conrad McMasters, on the 1980s legal drama series, Matlock (a role he played from 1989 to 1993), and as Chuck Norris's partner and best friend, Texas Ranger James "Jimmy" Trivette, on the 1990s crime drama, Walker, Texas Ranger.

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Biography

In 1980, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He became the first black actor to undertake the role of the cheerleader in the play Bleacher Bums[1] [2] before he segued into TV roles. Gilyard has made guest appearances (as a character actor) on TV shows such as Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, 227, Simon & Simon and Riptide. Gilyard was on the final season of the NBC TV series CHiPs as Officer Benjamin Webster from 1982-1983. He co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 1984 NBC sitcom The Duck Factory.

Gilyard's movie debut was in 1986 as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Sundown in Top Gun. He was also a military man in the 1986 film The Karate Kid, Part II. His most famous movie role is in the 1988 action film Die Hard as Theo, a computer expert and one of the terrorists. He also played in Left Behind: The Movie, and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force as Reverend Bruce Barnes.

Gilyard returned to series television as a young private investigator, Conrad McMasters, for his first co-starring role on the drama series, Matlock, from 1989 to 1993, after Kene Holliday was fired from the hit series, shortly after he had been three months sober, from his drugs/alcohol abuse, along with developmental problems, Gilyard was one of the 3 candidates to audition and accept the role. His first role proved to be a successful move, as well. Gilyard, who had been a fan of Griffith's, having been a four-year-old boy at the time, had beaten out three other actors for the role, when a screen test came. Unlike many actors, he was the only star ever to be close with his series' lead, Andy Griffith, for four years, both on-screen and off, when Griffith was very difficult to work with himself. Like Griffith's character, his character also proved to gain popularity all across America. On the show, Gilyard even performed some of the show's stunts. Unlike many actors, with the exception of both Holliday and Daniel Roebuck (who replaced Gilyard in 1993), Gilyard appeared in almost every Matlock episode for his three seasons he was on the show. After the show had moved from NBC to ABC for the series' seventh season, Gilyard was about to work on a pilot for another series on CBS.

In 1993, he began another co-starring longtime role, opposite Chuck Norris on Walker, Texas Ranger, Gilyard portrayed fellow Texas Ranger and best friend of the law, James "Jimmy" Trivette. The show proved to be a bigger hit. Gilyard again enjoyed performing stunts and dangerous work on- and off- the set. He and Norris would be best pals, mirroring their on- and off-screen relationships. In a 2005 interview with A&E Biography, he said that Norris' Walker character was a cult-classic Western hero. Gilyard recalled when he and Norris were growing up, other Westerns that they watched were often led by characters that served as surrogate father figures. He also noted that both Norris & Gilyard had served in the Air Force, though not during the same time period. Near the end of the series, Norris' character married a lawyer, while Gilyard's character got a girlfriend. Gilyard remained in the Trivette role until 2001. In his television career, he had been fortunate enough to co-star with two legends on two successful series, over the course of 12 total seasons in two separate roles.

Gilyard briefly appeared in the 2005 television movie, Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire. Gilyard had only a cameo appearance due to the filming's conflict with a long-planned family vacation.

Personal life

Gilyard was born to a poor family in Moses Lake, Washington, the son of Clarence Gilyard, Sr., a U.S. Air Force officer.[3] His family was originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. Gilyard grew up on military bases in Hawaii, Texas, and Florida. Raised primarily as a Lutheran, he became Catholic in the 1990s.[2] [4]

Later, he was raised in San Bernardino's suburb of Rialto, California, where he attended Eisenhower High School and was an excellent student, before he graduated in 1974. He spent one year as an Air Force Academy cadet before leaving to attend Sterling College.[5] He played football in college and is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He also got a tennis scholarship, but dropped out of school before finishing.

Clarence Jr. is the second of six children.[2] He has a younger brother who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1985. Another brother, Milton, suffers from a moderate developmental disability and resides in an assisted-living house.

While living with his parents in their new home during his high school years, he was preoccupied with women and alcohol, and occasionally drugs.[2] For this reason, his parents urged him to move out, and he relocated to Long Beach, California with a friend. He also attended California State University, Long Beach, majoring in acting. While attending school, he worked as a waiter at restaurants where actors worked, constantly seeking out acting opportunities. Eventually he earned his bachelors degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills.[6]

His first job was working with a housemate at a clothing store, where he was soon promoted to manager. While successful, he quit and worked at another job selling industrial chemicals; he has admitted that he did not perform well in that job.[2]

In 2003, Gilyard returned to school, receiving a masters degree in teaching theater at Southern Methodist University. He is currently an Associate Professor in the College of Fine Arts - Department of Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.[6]

Currently, Gilyard serves as the consultant of the Communications Committee of the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

He has been married twice and has four children, with the more recent wife, Elena, since 2001.[2]

References

  1. ^ Profile at Hollywood.com
  2. ^ a b c d e f Feister, John. "The Eucharistic Faith of Actor Clarence Gilyard", St. Anthony Messenger, April 2009.
  3. ^ Clarence Gilyard, Jr. Biography (1955-)
  4. ^ Profile at TV.com
  5. ^ Clarence Gilyard Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  6. ^ a b "Faculty/Staff Bios". University of Nevada, Las Vegas. http://theatre.unlv.edu/bios.html. Retrieved 2009-03-12.  

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