Suzzanne Douglas, who played matriarch and law student Jerri Peterson on the sitcom “The Parent ‘Hood” and appeared in several Broadway productions, died Tuesday at her home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She was 64 years old.
Ms Douglas’s death was confirmed by her husband, Jonathan Cobb, who said she died of complications from cancer. He declined to say what type of cancer Ms Douglas had, but said she had been ill for more than two years.
From the early days of her career, Ms. Douglas revolved around a range of roles. Eight years after her first onscreen role, in the 1981 TV movie “Purlie”, she starred in “Tap” alongside Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr. and Savion Glover, winning a NAACP Image Award. His career continued to climb throughout the 1990s with roles in “The Inkwell” and “Jason’s Lyric”.
She became a household name in the mid-1990s after playing the character of Jerri Peterson alongside Robert Townsend on the WB sitcom “The Parent ‘Hood,” which explored the challenges of raising a family in New York City. The show ran for five seasons before ending in 1999.
Some of his other acting credits include “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “The Parkers,” “School of Rock,” Angela Bassett’s Whitney Houston biopic “Whitney” and “When They See Us,” the mini – award-winning series directed by Ava DuVernay about teens known as the Central Park Five. Mrs DuVernay remembered Mrs Douglas Wednesday as “a confident and caring actor who breathed life into words and made them sparkle”.
On Broadway, Ms. Douglas performed alongside Sting in “Threepenny Opera” and appeared in “The Tap Dance Kid”. In 2000, Ms. Douglas became the first black woman to play Vivian Bearing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit,” about a poetry professor battling ovarian cancer. A New York Times review of the production at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, called Ms. Douglas’ portrayal “vibrant” and “provocative.”
“I believe artists are and can be the conscience of the nation,” Ms. Douglas said in an interview in 2015. “We have a social obligation to tell a story that creates a dialogue that allows us to grow and change . Ms Douglas said she chooses roles with a social conscience, adding: “They really have to speak to my heart and raise awareness.”
Mrs. Douglas was born on April 12, 1957 in Chicago. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, according to her website.
Ms Douglas was also an established songwriter and singer, having performed with musicians including drummer and conductor Thelonious Monk Jr., trumpeter Jon Faddis and saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, according to an arts agency representing Ms Douglas.
At the time of her death, Ms Douglas was working on a jazz album, Mr Cobb said.
In addition to Mr Cobb, Mrs Douglas’ husband of 32 years, she is survived by her daughter, Jordan Victoria Cobb.
Ms Douglas said in an interview in 2014 while pursuing her masters degree that she was a ‘life learner’. Having done so much in her career, Ms Douglas reflected that it was much more intimidating to perform as a singer than as an actress.
“You are more vulnerable,” she said. “It’s just you. There is no character to hide behind. There are no costumes, no lights. It’s just that you share the songs and tell the stories in the songs so that they have universal appeal and reach people where they need to be reached.