Clarence Williams III, who starred alongside Prince in the film Purple Rain, has died at the age of 81. The actor’s passing was confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter, which noted colon cancer as his cause of death.

Williams began his career as a stage actor, earning a Tony award nomination in 1965 for his work in the drama Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.

From 1968 to 1973 he starred as Lincoln "Linc" Hayes on the TV show The Mod Squad. The series helped make cop shows cool, as Linc - alongside partners Pete Cochran and Julie Barnes - were counterculture youths who agreed to work as undercover detectives. The trio’s style and demeanor made them pop-culture icons, and Williams stayed with the show for 123 episodes before departing.

In 1984, he scored his first film role, playing the physically and emotionally abusive father of Prince’s character, the Kid, in Purple Rain.

In a 1995 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Williams described working with Prince as “chaotic,” but also extremely special. One moment in particular stood out in his mind.

“There was an acoustic guitar laying on the set and Prince was sitting on the floor, just staring off into space and I guess he was going through the same process I was going through--thinking about what we had shot,” Williams recalled. “He just picked up the guitar and started doodling. I had my eyes closed, and I was leaning back in the chair and I thought about Jimi Hendrix. I mean he was hitting some chords and the soundstage was absolutely quiet. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

Williams' further film credits include I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), Sugar Hill (1993), Tales From the Hood (1995), Half-Baked (1998), The Legend of 1900 (1998), The General’s Daughter (1999) and Reindeer Games (2000). He also had guest spots on a long list of television series, including Twin Peaks, Empire, Justified, Burn Notice, Cold Case, Everybody Hates Chris, and Law & Order.

 

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