Earl Cameron, who was among the first Black actors to break into significant roles in British film, died on Friday at age 102. His agent confirmed his death and said he “passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his wife and family” in Kenilworth in Warwickshire.
Born in Bermuda in 1917, Cameron came to the U.K. in 1939 after a stint with the British Merchant Navy. By 1941, he had his first role, appearing in the stage production of Chu Chin Chow.
“When I arrived in London, I had no qualifications for anything. It was a period when it was almost impossible for a black person to get any kind of job,” Cameron told the Royal Gazette in a 2018 interview.
Cameron continued to work in theater, and finally debuted on film in the 1951 crime drama Pool of London. It is beleived to be the first British film to portray an interracial relationship.
He went on to appear in films like Simba, Guns at Batasi, and Safari. In 1965, Cameron had a role as James Bond’s assistant in Thunderball.
In television, Cameron became a regular on the BBC series The Dark Man. He also appeared on season 4 of Doctor Who, reportedly becoming the first Black actor to play an astronaut on screen.
His final major role was a small part in the 2010 film Inception.
Cameron was honored in 2009 when he was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 2016, he was inducted into Britain Screen Nation Hall of Fame.
David Harewood called Cameron a “total legend,” while Paterson Joseph thanked him for laying a foundation for actors today.
Cameron’s children spoke to The Guardian about their father.
“Our family have [sic] been overwhelmed by the outpourings of love and respect we have received at the news of our father’s passing,” his children said to The Guardian. “As an artist and as an actor he refused to take roles that demeaned or stereotyped the character of people of colour. He was truly a man who stood by his moral principles and was inspirational.”
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