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Top 10 Black Celebrities You Didn’t Know Died While Filming


Michelle Thomas-

Michelle Thomas (1968 – Dec. 23, 1998)

Cosby Show and Family Matters television teen star Michelle Thomas landed her first role as an adult on the CBS soap Young and the Restless in 1998, only to have her life cut short by cancer at 30.

A lifelong vegetarian who neither drank alcohol nor smoked, Michelle was diagnosed in August 1997 with intra-abdominal desmoplastic small-round-cell tumor, a form of cancer usually found in adolescent boys.

On Dec. 23, 1998, Thomas died in a private room at Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.


Aaliyah (Jan. 16, 1979 – Aug. 25, 2001) 

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The award-winning singer and actress Aaliyah Dana Haughton became an overnight R&B sensation in the 1990s.

On August 25, 2001, at the height of her stardom, Aaliyah was killed when a small Cessna passenger plane carrying the singer and her video crew crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff from Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.

Aaliyah was 22 years old at the time and had just wrapped up filming of the Rock the Boat music video, hours earlier. She had also just scored a major casting gig when she signed to appear in the two sequels to the blockbuster sci-fi thriller The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne.

Her death also stalled the remake of singer-actress Whitney Houston and producer Debra Martin Chase’s remake of the film Sparkle. Aaliyah was originally cast for the lead role.


Michael Clarke Duncan (December 10, 1957 – September 3, 2012)

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The incredibly affable actor was best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in The Green Mile, for which he was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

On September 3rd, 2013 Duncan passed away due to heart complications after suffering a heart attack two months earlier. The actor was at the top of his career at the time of his death. He had recently completed several films including In the Hive and The Challenger.


Lynne Thigpen (Dec. 22, 1948 – March 12, 2003) 

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Tony Award-winning actress Cherlynne Theresa “Lynne” Thigpen , best known for her role as “The Chief” in the various Carmen Sandiego television series from 1991-1995, died at home from a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2003.

Because Thigpen appeared to be in good health, the 54-year-old actress’ death came as a shock, especially to cast and crew members of the CBS drama series, The District, where she played the role of police chief aide, Ella Farmer.

According to New York Times, when Thigpen died, the set of The District was shut down. The show was filming its 20th episode of a 22-episode third season. The season finale paid tribute to her onscreen character.


Redd Foxx (Dec. 9, 1922 – Oct. 11, 1991) 

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Comedian Redd Foxx, remembered for his explicit comedy records and his starring role on the 1970s television sitcom Sanford and Son, died on Oct.11, 1991 from a heart attack .

The 68-year-old actor collapsed at Paramount Studios while rehearsing an episode of his television series on CBS, The Royal Family.


Lee Thompson Young (Feb. 1, 1984 – Aug. 19, 2013) 

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Lee Thompson Young , known for his teenage role as the title character on the Disney Channel television series The Famous Jett Jackson and as Chris Comer in the movie, Friday Night Lights, committed suicide on Aug. 19, 2013, according to the L.A. Times. 

His last starring role was as Boston police detective Barry Frost on the TNT police drama series, Rizzoli & Isles.  When Young failed to show up for filming an episode of the show, police were called to check on him at his Los Angeles apartment, where he was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

The actor, 29, was taking medication for bipolar disorder and was also suffering from depression when he shot himself, according to a report from the Los Angeles County Coroner.


Robin Harris (Aug. 30, 1953 – March 18, 1990)  

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Comedian and actor Robin Harris, famous for his film roles in Bebe’s Kids, as Kid’s father in House Party and as “Sweet Dick Willie” in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, died of heart attack in March 1990.

Early in 1990, Harris was maintaining a dangerously rigorous performance schedule. He continued his Thursday and Friday night emcee duties at the Comedy Act in Los Angeles; he flew around the country for frequent club dates; he juggled the taping of an HBO comedy special at Chicago’s Vic Theater with work on a supporting role in an action drama; his comedy album Bebe’s Kids had just been released; and he was beginning to work on a film version of the routine.


According to Gale Contemporary Black Biography, the entertainer was reportedly always tired from both his busy schedule and from a breathing problem that interfered with his sleep. Harris was notorious for nodding off during the day, even in the midst of conversation.


Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

The King of Pop Michael Jackson was on a comeback trial in 2009. His This is It World Tour was lauded as the greatest comeback in the history of pop.

Jackson was in the middle of filming the concert movie to accompany the tour when he died of cardiac arrest at 50 years old. The film was ultimately released posthumously and went on to gross over $260 million.


Steve James (Feb. 19, 1952 – Dec. 18, 1993)  

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Actor Steve James was a stuntman and martial artist who starred mostly in action films such as the American Ninja series, The Delta Force,  and The Exterminator. James also portrayed Kung Fu Joe in the 1988 comedy/spoof film I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, and its 1990 television pilot spinoff, Hammer, Slammer & Slade.

On December 18, 1993, James died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Burbank, California. He was 41.

His last roles were in the feature film Bloodfist V: Human Target with Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and the pilot for the television series M.A.N.T.I.S. The pilot aired on Fox network a few weeks after his death.

James was also scheduled to star in the role of Jax Briggs in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film.


Kevin Peter Hall (May 9, 1955 – April 10, 1991) 

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Kevin Peter Hall was the man behind the mask in the first two films in the Predator franchise.  He is also known for his film roles in Misfits of Science, Prophecy, Without Warning, and Harry and the Hendersons.

In 1990, Hall reprised his role as Harry in the television series Harry and the Hendersons, based on the 1987 film. While working on the television series, Hall announced that he had contracted HIV from a contaminated blood transfusion.

He died during the series’ first season from AIDS-related pneumonia on April 10, 1991. He was  35.

Written by How Africa

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