PERSONAL: Married Kathleen Dunn; children: Tracey, Harold. Education: Tulane University, degree in psychology, 1972.
ADDRESSES: Agent—United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2427.
CAREER: Actor and screenwriter. Worked at DePaul (psychiatric hospital) and New Orleans Free Southern Theatre, New Orleans, LA, c. 1972-74. Actor in films, including Night of the Strangler, 1972; (as Nathan Lee Morgan) Sounder, Part 2, Gamma III, 1976; (as first goon) Alex and the Gypsy (also known as Love and Other Crimes), 1976; (as doctor) A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich, New World, 1978; (as D. C.) Fast Break, Columbia, 1979; (as Alvin Martin) Inside Moves, Associated, 1980; (as Perryman) An Officer and a Gentleman, Paramount, 1982; (as Johnson) Uncommon Valor, Paramount, 1983; (as Tanneran) Vision Quest (also known as Crazy for You), Warner Bros., 1985; (as Pete Blanchard) Innerspace, Warner Bros., 1987; (as Max Bryson) Space Rage (also known as A Dollar a Day, Space Rage: Breakout on Prison Planet, and Trackers,), Vestron, 1987; (as Brian Armstrong) Hit List, New Line Cinema, 1989; (as Frank) Corrina, Corrina, 1994; (as James Tyler) The Sixth Man, Buena Vista, 1997; (as Willie Reed) Trippin', October Films, 1999; and (as Stan Wade) Missing Brendan, 2003.
Actor in made-for-television movies, including (as Rider) Richie Brockelman: The Missing 24 Hours, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1978; (as Sergeant Johnson) Uncommon Valor, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1983; (as Granville) Hearts of Steel, 1986; (as Sam) Double Your Pleasure (also known as The Reluctant Agent), 1989; (as Oliver Jackson) Angie, the Lieutenant, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1992; (as Art Regan) In the Line of Duty: A Cop for the Killing (also known as A Cop for the Killing), NBC, 1990; (as John Gilbert) Line of Fire: The Morris Dees Story (also known as Blind Hate), NBC, 1991; (as Lieutenant Paul Moret) Love and Curses . . . And All That Jazz, CBS, 1991; (as George Dunaway) In the Deep Woods, NBC, 1992; (as Lieutenant Jack Emery) Someone She Knows, Warner Bros. Television, 1994; and (as God) What Wouldn't Jesus Do? 2002.
Actor in television series, including (as Deputy Aaron Fairfax) Walking Tall, NBC, 1981; (as Agent Dwayne Thompson) Today's F.B.I., ABC, 1981-82; (as Harry Dresden) Mary, CBS, 1985; (as Russell) Shaky Ground, Fox, 1992-93; (as Grill) Married . . . with Children, Fox, 1994-97; (as Colonel John Henchy) The Army Show, The WB, 1998; and (as Wendell Loman) City of Angels, CBS, 2000. Guest star on television series, including Hill Street Blues, A Different World, and NYPD Blue.
MEMBER: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, John Anson Ford Theatre Foundation (board member), Urban League (board member), Tulane University President's Council.
(With others) NYPD Blue (television series), American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1993.
Passing Glory (made-for-television movie), Turner Network Television (TNT), 1999.
(And co-executive producer) On Hallowed Ground: Streetball Champions of Rucker Park (television special), Turner Network Television (TNT), 2000.
(And producer and story editor) City of Angels (television series), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Best known for his role as Al Bundy's coworker and friend "Griff" on the sitcom Married . . . with Children, Harold Sylvester has also had a productive career behind the camera. He has written for two television series, and has also written a movie, Passing Glory, which is based on his own life.
Sylvester grew up in a housing project in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents were devout Catholics, and they sent Sylvester to an all-black, all-male Catholic high school, St. Augustine, where he became one of the stars of the basketball team. Since this was the mid-1960s and segregation was still in full force in Louisiana, the black schools played in one league and the white schools played in another. In 1965, when the St. Augustine Purple Knights were clearly the best black team in New Orleans, a local television sports commentator suggested that the top black team in the state should play the top white team, which happened to be a New Orleans Catholic school called Jesuit High. This historic game is the focus of Sylvester's film Passing Glory.
Passing Glory had an all-star team behind the cameras: basketball star Magic Johnson produced, and Steve James, who also directed the critically acclaimed film Hoop Dreams, directed. This is a "raw and passionate and exquisitely paced" film, Ray Richmond noted in a review for Variety, and Sylvester's script "features sprightly interaction and sharp dialogue, with lines like, 'Down here, "should" and "is" is a long way apart.'"
After that first integrated basketball game in the New Orleans Archdiocese, the black and white Catholic high schools started to play each other more often. In the next year's Catholic Youth Organization basketball tournament, which before 1965 had only included white schools, St. Augustine won and Sylvester was named Most Valuable Player. In 1968, on the strength of his basketball skills, Sylvester became the first African-American student ever to receive an athletic scholarship to Tulane University.
Originally, Sylvester had planned to study psychology, but when he took a psychodrama class and wound up playing a part in one of the theater department's productions because of it, "I fell in love with the whole process," Sylvester told Tulane University Magazine interviewer Jason Eness. After graduating in 1972, Sylvester worked in a mental hospital while acting with the New Orleans Free Southern Theatre in his free time. Then, in 1974 he auditioned for and got the lead role in the movie Sounder II. He moved to Los Angeles and has been working in Hollywood ever since.
Sylvester's son, Harold Jr., is following in his father's footsteps, at least as far as basketball is concerned: he was a walk-on player for the University of California—Los Angeles in the late 1990s.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 34, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Mapp, Edward, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, second edition, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1990.
Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), January 4, 1996, "Sylvester Warms Bench, but Lives Dream," p. S3.
Fresno Bee (Fresno, CA), September 13, 1998, review of The Army Show, p. H4.
Lansing State Journal (Lansing, MI), February 21, 1999, review of Passing Glory, p. E5.
Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1984, Robert Koehler, "Just a Case of the Blues," p. 13.
New Orleans Magazine, March, 1981, Joe Leydon, review of Inside Moves, pp. 36-37.
New Yorker, January 23, 1984, Pauline Kael, review of Uncommon Valor, pp. 91-93.
New York Times, February 20, 1999, William Mc-Donald, "Good Sports Matched against Bad Odds," p. B7.
People, November 26, 1990, David Hiltbrand, review of IntheLineofDuty, pp. 9-10; December 21, 1992, David Hiltbrand, review of Shaky Ground, p. 14.
Record (Bergen County, NJ), May 13, 1999, review of Trippin', p. Y2.
Variety, December 14, 1992, Dominic Griffin, review of Shaky Ground, p. 48; February 15, 1999, Ray Richmond, review of Passing Glory, p. 49.
Black Collegian Online,http://www.black-collegian.com/ (March 11, 2003), Russell L. Stockard, Sr., "Passing Glory—Past History: 1965 Revisited."
Tulane University Magazine Online,http://www2.tulane.edu/ (March 11, 2003), Jason Eness, "Path to Glory: Harold Sylvester."
TV Tome,http://www.tvtome.com/ (March 11, 2003), "Harold Sylvester."*