Nathaniel Taylor, the actor who played Rollo Lawson on the ’70s TV sitcom Sanford and Son, has died at age 80. Taylor died of a heart attack Wednesday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son Kaedi Taylor confirmed to the Associated Press on Saturday.
Taylor is best known as the slick-talking but level headed sidekick to Lamont Sanford (played by Demond Wilson) on Sanford and Son. Rollo’s kindhearted personality contradicted with his wardrobe of colorful clothing and hats typically associated with pimps and drug dealers of that era.
The St. Louis native began his career working as an electrician at the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles. He studied acting during his time off.
Taylor’s mentor, Larry Clark, suggested he try out for a part. Clark sent him down to Red Foxx’s room. They talked, and Foxx told him he had the part which later became Rollo Lawson.
After Sanford and Son was canceled, Taylor went on to act in The Redd Foxx Show and ’70s TV sitcom What’s Happening!!, based on the movie Cooley High.
Taylor also reprised the role of Rollo on the ’80s spinoff Sanford and the short-lived TV sitcom Grady.
Taylor was also featured in ’70s blaxploitation movies such as Trouble Man, starring Robert Hooks, and Dynamite.
After he retired from acting, Taylor opened a performing arts center where he mentored young actors.
Taylor and his wife Loretta had 7 children – four daughters and three sons. He is also survived by 6 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren and 3 siblings.