It’s been 20 years since child actor/rapper/film star Merlin Santana was shot and killed in the Crenshaw district of California by two random gun men. He was just 26 years old.
Merlin was a young, handsome heartthrob who often played a bad boy — but his talent and charm is what really won audiences over.
In 1991, Santana landed a recurring role on The Cosby Show as Stanley, the boyfriend of Rudy Huxtable and the rival of Rudy’s friend Kenny (Deon Richmond). He was then cast as Marcus Dixon in the short-lived sitcom, Getting By, starring Cindy Williams and Telma Hopkins. Deon Richmond was cast as his brother Darren, due to their interaction on The Cosby Show.
In November 1994, Santana appeared on Sister, Sister as Joey, in which he falls in love with Tia and Tamera (Tia and Tamera Mowry) at Rocket Burger.
In 1995, Santana was cast as Marcus Henry in the short-lived CBS family drama Under One Roof, co-starring with James Earl Jones, Joe Morton and Vanessa Bell Calloway. Between 1996 and 1999, he played the role of Ohagi on Moesha.
In 1996, he landed the role of Romeo Santana on The Steve Harvey Show. In 2001, he played the role of Jermaine in the movie Flossin. In 2002, he appeared in the VH1 TV movie, Play’d: A Hip Hop Story with Toni Braxton. That same year, Santana had a role in the Eddie Murphy comedy Showtime. His last television acting role was on the UPN series, Half & Half, his last film role was a 2003 comedy film, The Blues with Deon Richmond.
In November of 2002, Santana was shot in the head as he and his best friend, former child actor Brandon Quintin Adams (also featured in the clip above) were in a car leaving Damien Andre Gates‘ home. As it turns out, Gates’ girlfriend Monique King, who was just 15 years old at the time of Santana’s death, falsely claimed that Santana made sexual advances towards her, which prompted Gates’ and friend Brandon Douglas Bynes‘ attack.
But before the tragic incident, Santana’s career as an actor was starting to show even more promise and he was being considered for a lot of different roles. He is and will be missed. Here are some of his work you can watch: