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'Malcolm X' actor Al Freeman Jr. dead

Aug. 12, 2012 at 8:50 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Emmy Award-winning actor Al Freeman Jr., a Howard University professor known for his role in "Malcolm X," has died, a school spokeswoman said. He was 78.

The cause and location of the actor's death Aug. 9 was not reported and no surviving family members were named, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Freeman started his acting career on Broadway in the early 1960s in "Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright" and "Blues for Mister Charlie." He acted in more than a dozen films and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Elijah Muhammad in the 1992 Spike Lee film "Malcolm X."

Freeman told the Post in a 1992 interview he studied video footage of the Nation of Islam leader for his "Malcolm X" role to get the character's speech pattern just right.

"His voice was an octave higher than mine and he put sentences together in an odd way. The difficult part was not to imitate but to give an essence," he said.

"When we came to the set, he was great," Lee said Saturday in an interview. "What was I going to tell him? He's one of the great actors of all time."

A 15-year-long role as police captain Ed Hall on the ABC soap opera "One Life to Live" earned him a daytime Emmy Award in 1979, the Post reported. He made appearances in a variety of television series, including spots on "The Cosby Show" and "The Mod Squad."

Freeman retired from his position as chairman of the Howard University theater department in May, the Post reported.

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