Born: April 11, 1947
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Died: June 28, 2014
Zodiac Sign: Aries
Meshach Taylor was an American actor. He was best known for his role as Anthony Bouvier on the CBS sitcom Designing Women (1986–93), for which he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He was also known for his portrayal of Hollywood Montrose, a flamboyant window dresser, in the film Mannequin. He played Sheldon Baylor on the CBS sitcom Dave’s World (1993–97), appeared as Tony on the NBC sitcom Buffalo Bill opposite Dabney Coleman, and appeared as the recurring character Alastair Wright, the social studies teacher (and later school principal) on the Nickelodeon sitcom Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide.
Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Hertha Mae (née Ward) and Joseph T. Taylor, former dean of students at Dillard University in New Orleans, who was also the first dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis.
After the family moved from New Orleans to Indianapolis, Taylor graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1964, where he took an interest in acting, and went on to study in the dramatic arts programs at Wilmington College (Ohio) and Florida A&M University. Leaving Florida A&M a few credits shy of graduation, he worked in Indianapolis as a State House reporter for AM radio station WIFE (now WTLC), where he used the on-air name Bruce Thomas, and as the host of a community-affairs program on television station WLWI (now WTHR), as Bruce Taylor. Many years later, in May 1993, he received his bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Florida A&M.
Taylor’s first professional acting gig was in a national tour of Hair. He honed his craft in repertory theater as a member of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, and the Organic Theater Company alongside Joe Mantegna, André DeShields, Dennis Franz, Keith Szarabajka, Jack Wallace, and director Stuart Gordon. While in Chicago, he appeared in David Rabe’s Streamers, Native Son (1979 Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play), The Island and Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, for which he garnered the 1977 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play. He received an Emmy Award for his role as Jim in the WTTW production of Huckleberry Finn and hosted the Chicago television show Black Life. In 1998, Taylor made his Broadway debut as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, where he starred alongside Toni Braxton. In September 2012, he appeared in Year of the Rabbit at Ensemble Studio Theater-LA as Vietnam veteran JC Bridges.
In 1977, Taylor moved to Los Angeles, where he crafted a gallery of memorable characters in film and on television, including his Emmy nominated turn in the CBS sitcom Designing Women. Taylor played Anthony Bouvier, the deliveryman at the fictitious Sugarbaker interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1989, he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In May 1981, the ninth season of M*A*S*H, he was seen as a corpsman in the final episode, “The Life You Save”.
From 1993–97, he was a series regular as plastic surgeon Sheldon Baylor on Dave’s World (CBS), and had a recurring role as Alastair Wright, the history teacher turned school principal, on Nickelodeon’s sitcom, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide (2004–07) and Buffalo Bill on NBC with Dabney Coleman.
Other appearances include: The Unit, Jessie, Hannah Montana as a fashion designer, All of Us as Neesee’s father, The Drew Carey Show, Static Shock, Caroline in the City, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Women of the House, In the Heat of the Night, Punky Brewster, What’s Happening Now!!, Hill Street Blues, ALF, Melba, The Golden Girls, Cagney & Lacey, Barney Miller, Lou Grant, The White Shadow, The Incredible Hulk, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, and Barnaby Jones.
In 1996, Taylor hosted his own series on HGTV, The Urban Gardener with Meshach Taylor, and in 1998, he hosted Meshach Taylor’s Hidden Caribbean on The Travel Channel. He was a regular panelist on the 2000 revival of the television game show To Tell the Truth. He co-hosted Living Live! with Florence Henderson on Retirement Living TV in 2008 until the program was revamped as The Florence Henderson Show.
Taylor had been friends with actor Joe Mantegna since they appeared together in 1969 in the musical Hair. Taylor guest-starred in 2012 on Criminal Minds’ eighth season in the episode “The Fallen”, opposite Mantegna as Harrison Scott, Rossi’s former Marine sergeant with whom he served in Vietnam. In January 2014, he reprised this role in “The Road Home” which aired January 22, 2014, just five months before his death. Mantegna led a Criminal Minds tenth season episode “Anonymous”, to honor Taylor on January 21, 2015.
Taylor appeared in such feature films as Mannequin, Mannequin Two: On the Move, and Damien: Omen II.
Suffering from colorectal cancer, Taylor died on June 28, 2014, at his home in Altadena, California. Taylor was survived by his wife, his four children, his mother Hertha Ward Taylor, two siblings, and four grandchildren. A memorial service to celebrate his life was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) on July 6, 2014.