Suzzanne Douglas, Star Of ‘The Parent Hood’ & ‘When They See Us,’ Dies At 64
Actress Suzzanne Douglas, who had a four-decade-long career that stretched from Broadway to film and television, died at her home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She was 64-years-old.
Douglas’ husband of 32 years, Jonathan Cobb, said that his wife died from complications due to cancer, but did not specify exactly what type of cancer she suffered from. Douglas had been sick for over two years.
The actress had a rich and varied career but is most well-known for her role as the mother and law student on The Parent Hood, a sitcom that ran for five seasons and portrayed the day-to-day life of a family in New York City. Before receiving national recognition, Douglas starred in the 1981 television adaptation of the Broadway musical Purlie, as well as the theatrical movie Tap. The latter, which featured Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr. and Savion Glover, earned her an N.A.A.C.P. Image Award.
Douglas’ additional acting credits include The Inkwell (1994), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) and School of Rock (2003) and the sitcom The Parkers.
She played Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, in Whitney, the made-for-TV Whitney Houston biopic directed by Angela Bassett.
Douglas had an extensive stage career in addition to her roles in film and television. Notably, she was the first black woman to play the lead role of Vivian Bearing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit. The New York Times called her portrayal of the poetry professor struggling with ovarian cancer, “vibrant” and “defiant.”
Douglas made a habit of taking roles that sparked thought and conversation. In a 2015 interview, she said, “I believe that artists are, and can be, the consciousness of the nation. We have a social obligation to tell a story that creates a dialogue that allows us to grow and change.”
Most recently, she acted in the 2019 award-winning mini-series When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five, a group of teenage boys who were convicted of rape. DuVernay remembered Douglas as a performer and an individual, calling her “a confident, caring actor who breathed life into the words and made them shimmer.”
Douglas was a singer and composer, as well as an actress. When she died, her husband said that she had been working on an album. In a 2014 interview, she described the contrast between acting and singing, how the two art forms affected both the performer and the viewer differently. She said, “You’re more vulnerable. It’s just you. There’s no character to hide behind. There are no costumes, no lights. It’s just you sharing the songs and telling the stories within the songs so that they have a universal appeal and touch people where they need to be touched.”
Douglas is survived by her husband and daughter, Jordan Victoria Cobb.