Remembering Yaphet Kotto: Alien Star Died at 81

Remembering Yaphet Kotto: Alien Star Died at 81

Remembering Yaphet Kotto: Alien Star Died at 81

For some people the name Yaphet Kotto might not mean much until they look it up on a Google search, but for those of us that are well aware of who he is and what he’s done the actor was someone that was hard to forget since he starred in a number of projects that helped to cement his legacy. Sadly Yaphet passed away recently, and it’s easy to say that it’s another passing that people should notice. Born Frederick Samuel Kotto, he was actually an understudy to James Earl Jones at one point in his time on Broadway. It’s likely that there’s a lot that people don’t know about Yaphet considering that he started his career as an extra in the early 60s. But as anyone can probably tell he rose in a big way from that point on as he did what he could to find directors that would allow him to create something that the audience would like with each role. Usually my eyes roll when an actor gets to talking about how they want to ‘create’ something on set while they’re working, but in many cases, it’s wise to simply let the actors do as they will when one notices that their creations enhance the overall experience. Yaphet was one of those that could definitely bring something extra to a set, in a good way that helped the movie or TV show he was featured in. There are plenty that try to do this and end up looking like divas, but he certainly wasn’t one of them.

Yaphet had several memorable roles in his lifetime, not the least of which was that of Parker from the original Alien movie, which saw only one survivor would become the iconic face of the franchise, Sigourney Weaver. But in the initial movie Parker was the kind of guy that a lot of us have worked with in the past or possibly still work with today. He was the guy that was interested in his shares and his profits when all was said and done and not much else. The guy was good at keeping the ship running and he was useful in a pinch since he was big and capable of defending himself and others, but on a ship where an unknown xenomorph was running loose and one of the crew members ended up being an android that was determined to keep the killer alien alive even at the expense of the crew, things went from bad to worse in a very short time. Parker maintained his stance as the ship’s mechanic and as the guy that was thinking of his money right up until it was discovered that the stuff had hit the fan. Then he was about as serious as he could be, since like everyone else he was scared out of his mind, as he knew that whatever was killing his fellow crew members had to be something big and vicious. Strangely enough, though it wasn’t long after he starred in Alien that he turned down not only the role of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back, but he also turned down the role of Captain Picard in The Next Generation. Apparently, he didn’t want to be typecast and thought that this would have happened had he taken on either role.

He did keep showing up in other movies though and he was seen in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare as the character of Doc. He was one of the only characters in the movies that wasn’t as susceptible to Freddy’s tricks since he could control his own dreams through a great deal of self-discipline. Needless to say, this wasn’t one of his best roles but it was one that people tend to remember largely because it did happen. The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was still popular at that time but it’s fair to say that it was bottoming out a bit when it came to ideas since Freddy’s Dead was all kinds of horrible depending on who one speaks to. But for his own part, Yaphet was the type of actor that managed to take on roles that he could do what he wanted with a lot of times, and what he ends up doing with them might have been subjected to a bit of criticism now and then, but it was still something that ended up creating a better movie experience for the audience. It’s been said that actors come and actors go and that only the very best get remembered. Kotto was definitely one of those that will stick in the memory of many people in the years come, but it’s fair to say that no actor that’s ever tried their best should be forgotten. Rest in peace sir, you’ll be missed.

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