Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd, the Tony-nominated actor known for his roles in several Spike Lee films, was killed in Atlanta on Saturday. He was 78. Lee has posted several remembrances of Byrd on Instagram. “May we all wish condolences and blessings to his family. Rest in peace brother Byrd,” the director wrote.
The Atlanta Police Department confirmed to IndieWire that Byrd was shot Saturday at a home in Atlanta. He was pronounced dead on the scene. The investigation is ongoing.
Collaboration between Lee and Byrd dates back to Lee’s 1995 crime drama “Clockers.” Lee shared on Instagram two clips from the film featuring Byrd, including one he said was one of his favorite scenes in the movie.
The actor most recently worked with Lee in the 2015 gun-violence musical satire “Chi-Raq.” His other notable credits include Lee’s “He Got Game,” in which he performed opposite Milla Jovovich and Denzel Washington and in Taylor Hackford’s Oscar-winning Ray Charles biopic “Ray.”
Byrd also had a fruitful stage career. He earned a 2003 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his work as Toledo in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at the Royale Theatre in New York. The play is based on the life of legendary blues musician “Ma” Rainey, played by Whoppi Goldberg. He also earned a Theatre World Award nomination for that role as Rainey’s piano player.
Byrd’s most recent project performing in Brett Smith’s Underground Railroad drama “Freedom’s Path.” The film, due out next year, tells the story of a friendship between a Union soldier and a man who had escaped from slavery. He also appeared in the 2020 episode “Family Feud” of Tracy Morgan’s TBS comedy “The Last O.G.”
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