Yaphet Frederick Kotto (born November 15, 1937) is an American actor, known for numerous film roles, and his starring role in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street.
Kotto was born in New York City, the son of Gladys Marie, a nurse and army officer, and Avraham Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), a businessman and a prince from Cameroon. Kotto's father, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, was an observant Jew who spoke Hebrew, and Kotto's mother converted to Judaism before marrying his father. Kotto's great-grandfather King Alexander Bell ruled the Douala region of Cameroon in the late 19th century and was also a practicing Jew. Kotto has said that his paternal family originated from Israel and migrated to Egypt and then Cameroon, and have been African Jews for many generations.
Being Black and Jewish gave other children even more reason, he has said, to pick on him growing up in New York City. "It was rough coming up," Kotto said. "And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights".