Glynn Turman: A Class Act For Over 50 Years

You may not be too familiar with how he spells his name, but when you see Glynn Turman, you’ll immediately recognize his great smile, great speaking voice and his impeccable talent as an actor. Best known for his roles as high school student Leroy “Preach” Jackson in the 1975 coming-of-age classic film Cooley High and retired Army colonel-turned math professor, Bradford Taylor, on the hit NBC sitcom A Different World, Thurman has been acting, and doing it well, for over four decades.

Turman had his first prominent acting role at the age of 13 as Travis Younger in the Broadway play of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, opposite Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett, Jr., and others. While he did not play the role when it transferred to film in 1961, he intensified his studies at Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts. Upon graduation he apprenticed in regional and repertory companies throughout the country including Tyrone Guthrie’s Repertory Theatre in which he performed in late ’60s productions of Good Boys, Harper’s Ferry, The Visit and The House of Atreus. He made his Los Angeles stage debut in Vinnette Carroll’s Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. An impressive 1974 performance in “The Wine Sellers” earned him a Los Angeles Critics Award nomination and a Dramalogue Award. The play was also produced on Broadway as What The Wine Sellers Buy. He won his first NAACP Image Award for his work in the play Eyes of the American.

A stage director as well, he received his second NAACP Image award for his directing of Deadwood Dick at the Inner City Cultural Center. He segued these directing talents to TV where he directed several episodes of memorable sitcoms like The Parent ‘Hood, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, The Wayans Bros, among others. He also directed during his five seasons of steady employment on A Different World. The show’s theme song was sung by his ex-wife, legendary “Queen of Soul” artist Aretha Franklin (yes, that Aretha Franklin), to whom he was married from 1978 to 1984.

“Acting was a seed that was planted in me by my mother,” explains Turman. “As a youngster that’s how I became aware of it. But I was not interested in it as a career or a pursuit until a teach of mine, a Black teacher by the name of Mr. Wilson, told me to try out for the High School of Performing Arts. The reason why he did that was because I was constantly truant. Not bad, just mischievous. This acting class was the first time…

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