Joe Seneca

Actor, Singer, Songwriter
With his white hair and face cracked with wrinkles that bespoke the personification of kindliness and wisdom, Seneca is perhaps best remembered for his critically praised portrayal of a blues singer in "Crossroads" ... Read more »
Born: 01/14/1919 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Filmography

Actor (33)

A Time to Kill 1996 (Movie)

Reverend Isaiah Street (Actor)

Birdland 1993 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

Christy 1994 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

Doogie Howser, M.D. 1990 - 1991, 1993 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

In the Heat of the Night 1989 - 1991, 1993 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

Law & Order 1989 - 1991, 1993 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

SeaQuest DSV 1990 - 1991, 1993 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Actor

Sweet Justice 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

The Vernon Johns Story 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The Saint of Fort Washington 1993 (Movie)

Spits (Actor)

Malcolm X 1992 (Movie)

Toomer (Actor)

Mississippi Masala 1992 (Movie)

Williben (Actor)

Mo' Better Blues 1990 (Movie)

Big Stop's Friend (Actor)

Gordon Parks: Moments Without Proper Names 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

School Daze 1988 (Movie)

President McPherson (Actor)

The Blob 1988 (Movie)

Dr Meddows (Actor)

The 19th Annual NAACP Image Awards 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

The Cosby Show 1987 (Tv Show)

Actor

Crossroads 1986 (Movie)

Willie Brown (Actor)

Silverado 1985 (Movie)

Ezra--Outlaw (Actor)

Heart of the Garden 1984 (Movie)

Nimrod (Actor)

The Evil That Men Do 1984 (Movie)

Santiago (Actor)

The Verdict 1982 (Movie)

Dr. Thompson (Actor)

The Gentleman Bandit 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Kramer vs. Kramer 1979 (Movie)

Partygoer (Actor)

With All Deliberate Speed 1975 - 1976 (TV Show)

Actor

A Gathering of Old Men (TV Show)

Actor

Tarzan in Manhattan (TV Show)

Actor

Terrible Joe Moran (TV Show)

Actor

The House of Dies Drear (TV Show)

Actor

The Tenth Month (TV Show)

Actor

Wilma (TV Show)

Actor
Music (2)

Crossroads 1986 (Movie)

(Song Performer)

Crossroads 1986 (Movie)

(Song)

Biography

With his white hair and face cracked with wrinkles that bespoke the personification of kindliness and wisdom, Seneca is perhaps best remembered for his critically praised portrayal of a blues singer in "Crossroads" (1986). He spent much of the 1950s as a singer with the satirical group The Three Riffs and most of the 60s as an itinerant composer. From 1970-73, Seneca was a contributing writer for the acclaimed PBS children's show "Sesame Street".

Turning to acting in the 1970s, Seneca managed to debut in a big way, in the Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men" starring James Earl Jones. He later was featured in the Broadway and touring productions of "The Little Foxes", starring Elizabeth Taylor (1981), and co-starred in August Wilson's award-winning "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (1984).

Seneca made his TV debut in "With All Deliberate Speed" (CBS, 1976), about school desegregation, and went on to appear in "Wilma" (NBC, 1977), the biopic of athlete Wilma Rudolph, "Terrible Joe Moran" (CBS, 1984), with James Cagney and Art Carney, and "A Gathering of Old Men" (CBS, 1987), with Louis Gossett Jr. Seneca was a guest performer on numerous shows from "Amazing Stories" and "The Equalizer" to the comedic "The Cosby Show" and "The Golden Girls".

Although he had a bit part as a party guest in Robert Benton's "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979), Seneca's feature film career did not take off until the 1980s. Sidney Lumet cast him as Paul Newman's medical expert in "The Verdict" (1982) and he had a meaty role as teacher-singer Willie Brown in "Crossroads" (1986). Seneca was a scientist destroyed by "The Blob" and the college president in Spike Lee's "School Daze" (both 1988). He went on to appear in Lee's "Mo' Better Blues" (1990) and "Malcolm X" (1993). He also earned critical applause for his turn as Spits in "The Saint of Fort Washington" (also 1993). Seneca's final screen role was as Reverend Sweet in Joel Schumacher's "A Time to Kill" (1996).

Relationships

Betty Seneca

Wife
survived him

Milestones

1996

Final screen role, Rev. Isaiah Sweet, in "A Time to Kill"

1990

Re-teamed with Lee for "Mo' Better Blues"

1988

First appearance in a Spike Lee film, "School Daze"

1986

Appeared in and wrote song for "Crossroads"

1984

Co-starred in Broadway production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

1982

First substantial screen role, "The Verdict"

1981

Toured with Elizabeth Taylor in "The Little Foxes"

1979

Feature film debut, bit part in "Kramer vs. Kramer"

1976

TV-movie debut, "With All Deliberate Speed" (CBS)

1974

Appeared with James Earl Jones in "Of Mice and Men" on Broadway

1969

Writer, "Sesame Street"

Singer with satirical group, The Three Riffs, in 1950s

Bonus Trivia

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The press information for "The Saint of Fort Washington" and some subsequent reviews erroneously reported that Seneca had died after the conclusion of filming.

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