Albert Freeman Jr, best known for portraying the mentor to Denzel Washington’s Malcolm X in the Spike Lee biopic, has died at 78. Howard University, where Freeman served as chairman and artistic director of the theatre department, confirmed the news.
His lengthy career included movies, TV and Broadway as an actor and director.
Lee told the Washington Post Freeman’s preparation for the role made him the perfect choice. He studied radio interviews to get the Nation of Islam leader’s voice and delivery down perfectly. People who knew Muhammad initially thought Lee had digitally added footage of him to the movie. In addition to his role as Elijah Muhammad, Freeman himself portrayed Malcolm X in the miniseries Roots:The Next Generation.
On Broadway, he held starring roles in productions including “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright,” and”Blues for Mister Charlie.”
Freeman was also a pioneer in daytime television. He earned the 1979 Outstanding Lead Actor Daytime Emmy for his role at Capt. Ed Hall on One Life to Live. He was the first African-American actor to win the award, as well as the first member of the OLTL castmember to do so. He portrayed Hall starting in 1972, last appearing on the show in 2000. Freeman directed episodes of the soap as well.