• Bill Cobbs is a legendary actor, appearing in films such as "The Bodyguard", "Oz the Great and Powerful" and the "Hand of God" series.
• He was born into a family with several children, with his cousin James Baskett being an actor who was awarded an Honorary Academy Award.
• Bill served in the US Air Force and then worked at IBM before pursuing his acting career.
• He has appeared in both stage and screen productions, such as "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" and "Night at the Museum".
• He has been honored with the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award and is an active supporter of Cleveland Clinic's Minority Men's Health Center.

Known for movies

Short Info

MarkDeep resonant voice
FactHe was awarded the 1988 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play for "Driving Miss Daisy" in Chicago, Illinois.

Bill Cobbs is a legendary actor, who’s had an extensive acting career and has appeared in such movies as “The Bodyguard”, “Oz the Great and Powerful” and the “Hand of God” series.

Early life and family

Wilbert “Bill” Francisco Cobbs was born on 16 June 1934, in Cleveland, Ohio USA, under the sign of Gemini; his nationality is American. He was born into a family with several children; his mother was a domestic worker, and his father worked in the construction industry.

Bill had a cousin, James “Jimmy” Baskett, who was also an actor, and can be seen in such movies as “Harlem Is Heaven” (1932), “Revenge of the Zombies” (1943) and “Song of the South” (1946), and who was also rewarded with an Honorary Academy Award, becoming the first black male performer who received such an award. Having several relatives working in the entertainment industry, Bill was inspired to become a performer ,perhaps an actor since his childhood.

Educational background, army

Right after his matriculation from his local high school in Cleveland in 1952, Bill joined the US Air Force and served as a radar technician for over eight years.


Bill started working right after leaving the Air Force. He sold cars in his hometown of Cleveland, and then served as a clerk at IBM, before deciding to pursue his acting career.

Theatre career

Having a strong desire to become an actor, Bill debuted on stage in “Ride a Black Horse” in 1971, landing the role of Lloyd in the St. Mark’s Playhouse production. His performance was very convincing, and he continued with more stage roles in various productions – in 1972 he was in the production of Joseph Papp Public Theatre’s “Black Visions”, performed during New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1973 he was cast in his first main title role in “Freeman”, landing the role of Freeman Aquila in the American Place Theatre production.

Bill Cobbs

He could then be seen in productions including “What Winesellers Buy” (1973), “Les Femmes Noires” (1974), and “Black Picture Show” (1975). His stage career developed successfully, and he was invited to participate in several productions of the Negro Ensemble Company, such as “The First Breeze of Summer” (1975) and “Weep Not for Me” (1981). Being an alumni of Karamu House, he played in a number of their productions, including “Purlie Victorious”. Among his other works there were “The Amen Corner” (1981 – 1982), “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (1984 – 1985) and “Twelfth Night, or What You Will” (1980).

Career on Screen

Bill didn’t refuse to consider offers from movies and films director, and so started appearing in minor or episodic roles in such movies as “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” in 1974, “Greased Lightning” in 1977 and “A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich” in 1978. He continued appearing in the background of multiple movies as “a man in the bar”, “a man in the park” or “a man with a cup of coffee”, but was later cast for major roles. He played Walter in “The Brother from Another Planet” (1984), Sgt. Williams in “Compromising Positions “ (1985) and the role of Orvis in “The Color of Money” (1986).

In the early ‘90s he could be seen in such movies as “New Jack City” (1991), “Carolina Skeletons” (1993), and “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” (1995). Over the next decade he appeared in “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” (1998), and “The Ultimate Gift” (2006). His appearance in the comedy “Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller made him even more popular, and he was also invited to appear in the sequel “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”, but in the end the scene with him in it was deleted; however, he also appeared in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”. His latest works are “The Great Gilly Hopkins” (2015), “Call Me King” (2016) and “New Life” (2016).

Most recently, he appeared in “Block Party” and “Carolyn” in 2022, at the age of 88.

Appearing in the TV series

Bill has made numerous appearances in TV sitcoms and dramas, debuting as a series actor in “Sesame Street” in 1985. He then played in “Kate & Allie” in 1986, then became a regular cast member in “The Slap Maxwell Story” from 1987 to 1988, and played the role of Lewis Coleman in the TV drama “I’ll Fly Away” from 1991 to 1993. In the late ‘90s he could be seen in such popular series as “The Outer Limits” (1995 – 2002), “The Wayans Bros.” (1995 – 1999), in which Bill played the role of Fred Watson, and “The Sopranos” (1999 – 2007), a super popular drama series in which Bill played the role of Reverend James Sr. in one of the episodes in 2000. Later he participated in such projects “The Michael Richards Show”, “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “The Carmichael Show”. His latest appearance was as ‘an elderly Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ in 2020,


Overall, Bill has appeared in over 100 films, and almost 90 TV shows. Bill was honored with the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award in 1988 for his work in “Driving Miss Daisy”, in which he played one of the principal roles, a man named Hoke. The play was conducted in Chicago.

Personal life, wife Carolyn Cobbs

Bill is married to Carolyn Cobbs, and has appeared with his spouse a couple of times at such events as the premiere of  “Get Low”, produced by Sony Pictures Classics and AFI Associates at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on 27 July 2010. Their photos in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, located in Beverly Hills, California, are rare evidence of his married status, as most of the time Carolyn doesn’t show up much.

Hobbies, favorite things and interesting facts

Bill often plays characters which are a bit older or much older than he is in real life. Bill once participated in the campaign of DJ Ra called “Hip-Hop Literacy”, spreading the word about the autobiography of Ice-T, a famous rapper and hip-hop performer.


Bill is an active supporter of Cleveland Clinic and its Minority Men’s Health Center in particular. He appeared in a special short video raising the awareness of men about the diseases they may face, sharing that African-American men are often at higher risks of prostate cancer, higher blood pressure and diabetes. In his message, he also encouraged African-American people live a healthier lifestyle – quit bad habits and eat good food.


Bill has dark brown hair, but almost always shaves his head; he has dark brown eyes. Bill is 6ft 1in (1.,85m) tall, while he weighs around 210lbs (95kgs). He sometimes wears glasses due to light miopia.

Net worth and salary

Bill’s current net worth is estimated to be around $4 million earned from his career as an actor, producer and executive producer. He is assigned to almost ten new projects, among them such films and series as “Sabora Mi”, “The Interims: When Between Time & Place”, “The Dark Return of Time”, and “Singletrack: The Movie” in which rumors suggest that Bill will play a mountain bike museum owner

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General Info

Full NameBill Cobbs
ProfessionActor, Technician


AwardsDrama Desk Award for Most Promising Performer
MoviesThe Bodyguard, Night at the Museum, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Ultimate Gift, Air Bud, New Jack City, The Color of Money, The Hudsucker Proxy, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, The People Under the Stairs, Hope Floats, The Ultimate Life, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Get Low, The Derby Stallion,...
TV ShowsGo On, The Michael Richards Show, The Others, The Gregory Hines Show, I'll Fly Away

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Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

As a Freelance Writer at Biography Pedia, I oversee the full writing process, from in-depth research to the development of compelling narratives, ensuring accuracy and excellence in our output. Our goal is to produce insightful profiles that deeply explore the lives of prominent figures in business, entertainment, and other fields. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, we spotlight the significant journeys and achievements of individuals who captivate and inspire our readers.

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