- - Monday, November 6, 2017

Actor Nathaniel Taylor is one of only five surviving cast members from the groundbreaking sitcom “Sanford & Son.” For six seasons Mr. Taylor played the fast-talking, slick-looking Rollo on the Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning comedy.

At The Hollywood Show, a Los Angeles-based autograph convention, Mr. Taylor  reminisced about his good times on “Sanford & Son” with Redd Foxx and his not-so-good times with “the other guy.”

Question: Have you done a lot of these autograph shows?

Answer: No. The first one I did was in North Hollington, Ohio, at a classic car convention. Then I did anther one at the Hard Rock Cafe Casino six months later. And then someone told me about this. This is my third one ever.

Q: What is the most common thing the fans say when they meet you?

A: They just say that they loved me on the show. 

Q: How did you become and actor?

A: I was working in a small theater, and I had no idea I was ever going to become an actor. I built stages, hung lights, did scenery for small plays that we did at the community theater. That’s what I did.

Q: How did you move from behind the scenes to being on stage?

A: One day I was standing there with the guy who ran the theater named Vantile Whitfield. He had moved from running the theater to working for National Endowment for Humanities and the Arts. He told me, “You oughta go. They are doing interviews for the TV.”

I said, “I don’t wanna be on no TV! For what? I like it right here.” He said, “Just go out there and read for the guy.”

So I went out and read for [producer] Aaron Ruben. But I got in to read for him by telling a lie. (Laughs)

Q: Tell us that story.

A: I told him I was the telephone repairman. See when he came out the door to tell another guy to come in and read, he saw me and said, “Oh, you must be the telephone repairman,” because I had on my utility tool belt from the theater.

I said, “Yes, I’ll fix the phone for ya.” I went in and actually fixed the phone. There were just a couple of loose wires. So I tightened them up.

Then I said, “Mr. Ruben?”

He said, “How do you know my name?”

I said, “It’s on your desk. But listen, I told a lie. I’m not a telephone repairman. I came to read for the part of Rolo or Rollo, something like that.”

He picked up the phone and saw it worked. He said, “OK, well, you’re good at that. Can you read this?”

He gave me the side. I looked at it and put it back down. He said, “No, I want you to read.”

I told him, “I got the gist.”

We read back and forth. Then he asked if I knew Redd Foxx. I said, “I’ve heard of the clown, but I ain’t never met him.” He told me Redd was on stage 13.  He told me to go down to stage 13, tell him what happened upstairs and see what he thinks about it.

Q: What was it like meeting Redd Foxx for the first time?

A: I went down and saw him talking to Gig Young, Jerry Lewis and Gerald Wilson. I went straight to him, and he said, “What you looking for, sucker?” 

I said, “What did you say?!”

Q: Are the stories about him pulling guns on people who woke him up from a nap true?

A: What? Not true. And there was another thing that someone who got fired from the show put out there that [actress Lewanda Page] used to supply drugs to everybody on the show. That’s a blatant-ass lie!

Q: What was life like on the set?

A: Fun. As long as Redd Foxx was there. If Redd wasn’t there, it was no good.

Q: How many episodes did you do as Rollo?

A: I only did 32 episodes. Demond didn’t let me do no more. Redd and me got along great. The other guy (Demond Wilson)?  We didn’t get along too well. It happens.

Q: After playing a classic character like Rollo, was it hard to get other roles?

A: I never tried. I had three sons to raise. I had neglected my sons for the five years that I was in the business. I was out all the time.

I really wasn’t “Hollywood,” so to speak. I was happy going back to the community to teach in the theater.

Q: Are you still teaching today?

A: I’m still teaching. I’m still mentoring. I do more mentoring. I’m not stabilized, but most of the time I’m at a place called Leimert Park. I direct down there. I might direct a play down there this year called “The Blackening.”

My buddy who was in the performing arts society of Los Angeles, that was our theater. I haven’t been well. I’ve got a bum knee, a bum this and a bum that. But I’m fine.

Q: What advice do you give to young actors?

A: First of all, learn your craft and you can’t go wrong. And the best way to learn your craft is in small theaters. Got to go and get some theater work. Come out of the theater.

Most of the best actors and actresses back in the day come from the theatre. And they knew their craft.

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