Bill Cobbs, Prolific Character Actor in ‘The Bodyguard,’ ‘Night at the Museum,’ Dead at 90

Bill Cobbs, the prolific and versatile actor known for performances in films such as The Brother From Another Planet, Night at the Museum, and The Bodyguard, has died. He was 90.

A member of Cobbs’ family confirmed his death on Facebook, saying the actor died “peacefully” at his home in California on Tuesday, June 25. “A beloved partner, big brother, uncle, surrogate parent, godfather and friend, Bill recently and happily celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by cherished loved ones,” the statement read. “As a family we are comforted knowing Bill has found peace and eternal rest with his Heavenly Father. We ask for your prayers and encouragement during this time.”

Cobbs came to acting in his thirties, after spending eight years in the Air Force, working for IBM, and even selling cars. As he told in 2013, it was one of his car customers who got him to try acting when he asked if Cobbs wanted to be in a play. He started appearing in productions at the Karamu House in his hometown of Cleveland, before eventually striking out for New York in 1970. 

Cobbs booked his first film role in 1974 — a small, one-line part as “Man on Platform” in the classic thriller, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. After that, he never really stopped working, with his IMDB page listing 195 credits for both film and TV.

Cobbs’ turns in films such as Christopher Leitch’s 1979 blaxploitation film The Hitter, and John Sayles’ 1984 sci-fi flick The Brother From Another Planet helped him become a reliable character actor. He popped-up in movies by Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money), Francis Ford Coppola (The Cotton Club), and the Coen Brothers (The Hudsucker Proxy). 


In The Bodyguard, he was the manager for Whitney Houston’s character Rachel Marron; in That Thing You Do! he played Del Paxton, the jazz pianist beloved by Tom Everett Scott’s character Guy; and in Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi, he played Civil Rights activist Charles Evers, the younger brother of Medgar Evers. In the 2000s and beyond, he put up memorable performances as Reginald, the security guard in Night at the Museum, Rev. Charlie Jackson in Aaron Schneider’s Get Low, and Master Tinker in Oz the Great and Powerful.

Cobbs’ television work was equally extensive: He had a recurring part on the early Nineties NBC drama I’ll Fly Away, a starring role on sitcom The Gregory Hines Show, and a regular part on the Matthew Perry-starring sitcom Go On. He made guest appearances on The Sopranos, The West Wing, and The Drew Carey Show. In 2020, Cobbs won a daytime Emmy for his work on the Canadian kids show, Dino Dana