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Percy Rodriguez (13 June 19186 September 2007; age 89) was the Canadian actor of Afro-Portuguese descent who played Commodore Stone in the Star Trek: The Original Series first season episode "Court Martial". As such, he was the first black actor to play a flag officer on Star Trek. He filmed his scenes on Monday 3 October 1966, and between Wednesday 5 October 1966 and Monday 10 October 1966 at Desilu Stage 9 and Stage 10.

Early life

Rodriguez was the first of four children born to parents of mixed African-Portuguese heritage; he was born in Montreal, Canada and grew up in the neighborhood of St.-Henri.

As the eldest son, Rodriguez began working odd jobs in Montreal but soon took up the hobbies of boxing and acting. In the mid 1930s, he joined Montreal’s Negro Theatre Guild and ultimately won the Canadian Drama Festival acting award in 1939. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Rodriguez found acting as a full time occupation difficult, leading to recieving training and work as a toolmaker and machinist. Throughout the 1940s and into the 50s, Rodriguez apprenticed with and later became a regular employee at Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil, Quebec.

Acting career

In late 1950s, Rodriguez relocated to the United States and found the setting in Los Angeles very conducive to rising young black actors. He quickly began securing roles in several popular shows such as The Nurses, Naked City, The Wild Wild West, and Route 66. His breakout role occurred in 1968 when he portrayed neurosurgeon Dr. Harry Miles in the prime time soap opera Peyton Place. He played the regular role of Dr. Harry Miles during that show's final season (1968-69). When he was initially cast on that series, a headline in the Los Angeles Times read "A Doctor's Role for Negro Actor," signifying the rarity of having black actors portray those types of roles at the time. [1]

His portrayal as Commodore Stone in Star Trek was also considered ground breaking for the time, portraying an authoritarian black officer in military command of white subordinates. Several years after his appearance on Star Trek, Rodriguez worked on another Gene Roddenberry project, the failed TV pilot Genesis II. Among his co-stars on this project were fellow Trek veterans Majel Barrett, Ted Cassidy, and Mariette Hartley.

In 1972, he starred with fellow TOS actor Phillip Pine in an episode of The Sixth Sense titled "Whisper of Evil". In 1979, he was part of the cast of the acclaimed mini-series Roots: The Next Generations, along with fellow Trek actors Brock Peters, Paul Winfield, and Bernie Casey. His other television roles include several appearances on Mission: Impossible, which, like the original Star Trek, was originally produced by Desilu Studios. Leonard Nimoy was a regular on Mission: Impossible when Rodriguez made his last appearance on the show in 1970. Rodriquez also appeared in an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. with James Doohan, at least one episode of T.J. Hooker with William Shatner, and at least five episodes of Benson, starring DS9's Rene Auberjonois and VOY's Ethan Phillips.

Rodriguez was also a regular guest actor on several front running black sitcoms of the 1970s, appearing on Sanford and Son (also starring Gregory Sierra), Good Times, What's Happening!!, and The Jeffersons. In 1980, he played the recurring role of Winston on the short-lived Sanford and Son spin-off Sanford. During this time, Rodriguez was also known for lending his rich, authoritative voice to the narration of a number of film trailers, most notably for the 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws.

Later works

In addition to his television work, Rodriguez co-starred in the acclaimed 1968 film The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. His other feature film credits include Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972), Rhinoceros (1974), and Invisible Strangler (1976, co-starring Robert Foxworth, Marianna Hill, and Leslie Parrish). His voice can be heard in such films as Galaxina (1980, starring Stephen Macht) and Heavy Metal (1981, co-starring John Vernon and Warren Munson) and also as narrator of Wes Craven's Deadly Blessing (1981, featuring Michael Berryman and Lawrence Montaigne).

Rodriguez retired from acting soon afterwards, with his last known screen work being the 1987 Perry Mason telefilm The Case of the Sinister Spirit, co-starring Dwight Schultz, David Ogden Stiers, and Leigh Taylor-Young. More recently, he came out of retirement to record the narration for the trailer of the upcoming documentary The Shark Is Still Workin, which examines the cultural impact of the film Jaws. Some two months later, on 6 September 2007, Rodriguez died due to kidney issues at the age of 89. [2]

Other Trek connections

Additional projects in which Rodriguez worked with other Star Trek alumni include:

External links