Taylor, Meshach 1947(?)–
Meshach Taylor 1947(?)–
Actor Meshach Taylor is probably best known for his portrayal of ex-con turned law student Anthony Bouvier on the television series Designing Women. The role has brought him stardom and a 1989 Emmy nomination. Earlier in his acting career, he played guest parts on toprated series such as M*A*S*H, Barney Miller, and The Golden Girls and was a regular on the short-lived Buffalo Bill. Taylor has had extensive stage experience and many film roles as well: he was part of the national tour of the musical Hair, and he played a homosexual window dresser in the motion pictures Mannequin and Mannequin II.
Named for a biblical character who escapes from a fiery furnace unharmed, Meshach Taylor was born in the late 1940s in Boston, Massachusetts. When he was very young, the family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where his parents, both college professors, took teaching positions at Dillard University. Taylor told Susan Schindehette and Lois Armstrong in People that he learned acting as a survival skill during his youth. Taylor was an extremely intelligent child, and, as he related in People, “The kids called me the Professor, and I got beat up a lot.” To protect himself, he learned to act less intelligent than he really was. During his childhood in New Orleans, Taylor decided that he wanted to become a singer and dancer. He had been inspired by watching the movies of celebrated dancer Fred Astaire. By the time his family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he attended high school, Taylor had altered his ambitions somewhat to include acting. He took acting classes in secondary school and upon graduation enrolled in Ohio’s Wilmington College to continue his dramatic studies. Taylor also studied drama at Florida A & M University; when he left there, he returned to Indianapolis, where he found a job at a local radio station.
Around the same time, Taylor entered into a brief marriage that resulted in the birth of his first child, a daughter named Tamar. When the marriage ended, Taylor delved into local theater work and got his first big break on the stage. He joined the national touring company of the rock musical Hair and performed with the show for two years, during which time he had the opportunity to travel to all fifty states. Hair closed in Chicago, Illinois, and Taylor chose to stay there for eight years, pursuing his acting career. He became a part of Goodman’s Theater and the Organic Theatre group, and in the middle and late 1970s he had
Given name pronounced “Mee-shack”; born April 11, c. 1947, in Boston, MA; raised in New Orleans, LA; son of two college professors; divorced, c. early 1970s; married second wife, Bianca Ferguson (an actress); children: (first marriage) Tamar; (second marriage) Yasmine, Esme, Tariq. Education: Attended Wilmington College and Florida A & M University.
Actor in television series Designing Women, CBS-TV, 1986—. Worked in radio in Indianapolis, IN; performed in the national tour of the musical Hair and in stage productions in Chicago, IL, including Streamers, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, Native Son, and The Island; performed in local PBS presentation of Huckleberry Finn and hosted Chicago television show Black Life. Appeared in motion pictures, including Damien—Omen II, The Howling, One More Saturday Night, The Allnighter, House of Games, Mannequin, From the Hip, Mannequin II, and Class Act. Appeared in guest roles on television series, including The Golden Girls, Barney Miller, Lou Grant, The White Shadow, and M*A*S*H; starred in television series Buffalo Bill, NBC-TV, 1983-84. Spokesperson for Monsanto’s Wear Dated carpeting.
Addresses: Studio —CBS-TV, 51 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019.
landed plum roles in such plays as Streamers, Native Son, and Sizwe Banzi Is Dead. Taylor’s work in the last won him the Joseph Jefferson Award. He also won a Chicago Emmy for his efforts in the PBS presentation of Huckleberry Finn and hosted a local talk show called Black Life.
In 1978 Taylor decided to move to southern California in pursuit of a career in film and television. At first he experienced hard times and actually had to live in his car for a few months. Taylor explained in a television interview with Detroit reporter Bill Bonds for Bonds On that he worked as a day laborer to earn money for food and to keep his car supplied with gasoline. He also used his earnings to join a gym, so that he had a place to shower before going on acting interviews. Taylor’s situation improved when he began getting film roles; one of his first was in the motion picture Damien—Omen II. He played a doctor who was killed by being sliced in half by an elevator cable.
By the early 1980s, Taylor was getting guest parts on television series as well. He showed up on such popular favorites as M*A*S*H, Lou Grant, The Golden Girls, and Barney Miller. During the 1983-84 television season, Taylor had his first regular part in a series, as Tony in Buffalo Bill. The series also starred Dabney Coleman and Geena Davis, but it was canceled after a short run.
Then, in 1986, Taylor auditioned for the part of delivery man Anthony Bouvier—a role that was originally intended for a single episode of the series Designing Women. However, both the viewing audience and the show’s producers were so impressed with his portrayal of Anthony that the character was incorporated into the storyline and Taylor became a regular player on the program.
Designing Women is a highly rated series that centers on the eccentricities and adventures of the women who run the Atlanta-based Sugarbaker Designing Firm. Since 1986, Taylor’s character has gone through many changes on the show. Beginning as a delivery man who had spent time in prison, Anthony has constantly worked to better himself—entering and finishing college, becoming first an independent contractor and then a partner in the Sugarbaker Designing Firm. At the end of the 1991-92 season, Anthony entered law school.
Anthony is a widely regarded as a positive black role model, and Taylor is conscious of this. As Vernon Scott pointed out in an article for Good Housekeeping, “Meshach’s position as a black performer in a predominantly white series carries some special responsibilities. Doubtless, millions of black viewers tune in because he is a vital element in the show. It is important to him that Anthony Bouvier not be deferential to the women nor made to look foolish.” Nevertheless, Taylor affirmed to Scott: “I have to be true to myself and not step out on the stage thinking I represent a whole race of people. That’s too much responsibility. I just play this character and hope some people can relate to him because of the universality of his feelings that go beyond the racial thing.”
The ever-diplomatic and dignified Taylor easily weathered the behind-the-scenes bashing that plagued the cast and crew of Designing Women in the early 1990s (and resulted in several personnel changes, including the controversial departure of actress Delta Burke following a long feud with the show’s producers). Though Taylor has become such an important element of the series—both on and off screen—he has still found time for roles in film. One of the best known was his portrayal of a character named Hollywood—a gay man who works as a window dresser—in the 1987 comedy Mannequin. Taylor was asked back to do the sequel, Mannequin II. He was also featured in the 1992 comedy Class Act. When asked by Bonds about his plans beyond Designing Women, Taylor admitted that he would like to develop his own projects. He suggested that an ideal role would be the lead in his own television series about a detective hero on a Caribbean island—sort of a “black Jim Rockford,” he explained, referring to the character popularized by James Garner in the hit detective series of the 1970s, The Rockford Files.
Taylor lives with his second wife, actress Bianca Ferguson, and their three children, in a Los Angeles suburb. He makes every effort to separate his family from the hype of Hollywood. Perhaps as a result of his separation from his oldest daughter following the breakup of his first marriage when she was still very young, Taylor now places supreme importance on his role as father to his growing children. He takes an active hand in their upbringing and told Bonds that he never wants them to think of him “as a star.”
Good Housekeeping, April 1992.
People, May 18, 1992.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from a taped television interview with Bill Bonds featured on Bonds On, WXYZ-TV/Detroit, May 1992.
Taylor, Meshach 1947(?)- (Mesach Taylor, Moshach Taylor)
Taylor, Meshach 1947(?)- (Mesach Taylor, Moshach Taylor)
Born April 11, 1947 (some sources cite birth year as 1960), in Boston, MA; father a professor of sociology; mother also a college professor; married second wife, Bianca Ferguson (an actress), January 1, 1983; children: (first marriage) Tamar (daughter); (second marriage) Yasmine, Esme Alana, Tarique (son). Education: Attended Wilmington College, Wilmington, OH; Florida A & M University, B.A., 1993. Avocational Interests: Travel, foreign languages.
Manager—Gordon Gilbertson, Gilbertson Management, 1334 Third St., Suite 201, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Actor. Member of Organic Theatre Group and Goodman Theatre, both Chicago, IL. Appeared in commercials. Worked as political reporter for a radio station in Indianapolis, IN; head of privately funded program for rehabilitating street gang members, Indianapolis, IN; also worked as an accountant and security guard.
Joseph Jefferson Award, c. 1976, for Chicago production of Sizwe Banzi Is Dead; Q Awards, best supporting actor in a quality comedy series, Viewers for Quality Television, 1988, 1989, and 1990, and Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, 1989, all for Designing Women; RiverRun International Film Festival Award (with others), best ensemble acting, 2000, for Jacks or Better; Chicago Emmy Award for Huckleberry Finn.
Dr. Kane, Damien: Omen II (also known as Omen II and Omen II: Damien), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1978.
(As Mesach Taylor) Shantz, The Howling, Avco-Embassy, 1981.
Deputy Herbert, The Beast Within, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1982.
Sam, The Haircut (short film), 1982.
Gordon Miller, Explorers, Paramount, 1985.
Second video technician, Warning Sign, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1985.
Bill Neal, One More Saturday Night (also known as Datenight), Columbia, 1986.
Inside Out, 1986.
Hotel detective Philip, The Allnighter, Universal, 1987.
Mr. Dean, House of Games, Orion, 1987.
Hollywood Montrose, Mannequin, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1987.
From the Hip, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 1987.
Freddy, Inside Out, Hemdale Film, 1987.
Elijah, Welcome to Oblivion (also known as Ultra Warrior), Concorde, 1990.
Doorman and Hollywood Montrose, Mannequin: On the Move (also known as Mannequin 2: On the Move), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1991.
Duncan's dad, Class Act, Warner Bros., 1992.
(As Moshach Taylor) Voice of Cecil, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, MGM-UA Home Entertainment, 1998.
Ron, Jacks or Better, Trips to Win, 2000.
Bruno, Friends and Family, Regent Entertainment, 2000.
Cabbie, Tranced, Hypnovision Productions/Lotus Pictures/Sylver Enterprises, 2008.
Crazy Briggs, Hyenas, Entertainment Dome/Entertainment Lab, 2008.
Television Appearances; Series:
Tony, Buffalo Bill, NBC, 1983-84.
Anthony Bouvier, Designing Women, CBS, 1986-93.
Sheldon "Shel" Baylor, Dave's World, CBS, 1993-97.
Mr. Winsproggle, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Showtime, 1994.
Host, The Urban Gardener with Meshach Taylor, Home and Garden Television, 1996.
Host, Meshach Taylor's Hidden Caribbean, Travel Channel, 1998.
Mr. Wright, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide (also known as Neds ultimativer schulwahnsinn), Nickelodeon, 2004-2007.
Host of Black Life, WMAQ (Chicago, IL).
Television Appearances; Movies:
Crosby, The Last Innocent Man, HBO, 1987.
Danny, How to Murder a Millionaire (also known as Bad Times in Beverly Hills, The Beverly Hills Get Rich Quick Caper, The Couch Potato Murders, and Your Money or Your Wife), CBS, 1990.
Mr. Nofziger (Mr. N), Double, Double, Toil and Trouble (also known as The Twins Halloween Caper), ABC, 1993.
Anderson, "Virtual Seduction" (also known as "Addicted to Love"), Roger Corman Presents, Showtime, 1995.
Lionel Clark, The Right Connections, Showtime, 1997.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Virgil, "The Rec Room," NBC Presents the AFI Comedy Special (also known as American Film Institute Comedy Special), NBC, 1987.
Toronto host, The CBS All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade, CBS, 1990.
Motown 30: What's Goin' On!, CBS, 1990.
Anthony Bouvier, The Designing Women Special: Their Finest Hour, CBS, 1990.
Laughing Back: Comedy Takes a Stand, Lifetime, 1992.
The 61st Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, syndicated, 1992.
Side show barker, The All New Circus of the Stars and Side Show XVII (also known as The 17th Annual Circus of the Stars and Side Show), CBS, 1992.
Voice of the rat, "Jirimpimbira: An African Folktale" (animated), ABC Weekend Specials, ABC, 1995.
Harry Anderson: The Tricks of His Trade, CBS, 1996.
Intimate Portrait: Delta Burke, Lifetime, 1998.
Entertainment Tonight Presents: The Real Designing Women, 2000.
(In archive footage) Brilliant but Cancelled, 2002.
The Designing Women Reunion, Lifetime, 2003.
Judge, Queen for a Day, Lifetime, 2004.
(In archive footage) Retrosexual: The 80's, 2004.
Appeared in the special Huckleberry Finn, PBS.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Gus Venable, Nothing Lasts Forever (also known as Sidney Sheldon's "Nothing Lasts Forever"), CBS, 1995.
The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee, Fox, 2004.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Blue collar man, I'd Rather Be Calm, CBS, 1982.
Tony, Buffalo Bill, NBC, 1983.
Cop, The Golden Girls, NBC, 1985.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Parking lot attendant, "A Frame for Murder," Barnaby Jones, 1978.
M. P., "Blind Rage," The Incredible Hulk, 1979.
Calvin, "Home," Lou Grant, CBS, 1979.
Marcus Prescott, "Charlatan," Lou Grant, CBS, 1979.
Chipper, "Out at Home," The White Shadow, CBS, 1980.
Orderly, "The Life You Save," M*A*S*H, CBS, 1981.
Melvin Jackson, "Landmark: Part 2," Barney Miller, ABC, 1982.
"Internal Affairs," Cagney & Lacey, 1982.
Police officer, "Stan the Man," Hill Street Blues, 1982.
Cop, "The Engagement," The Golden Girls, 1985.
Buddy, "The Bully," What's Happening Now!, 1985.
Addison, "Pennsylvania 6-5000," ALF, NBC, 1986.
Rick, Melba, CBS, 1986.
Con man, "The Best Defense," Hill Street Blues, 1986.
Buddy, "Opening Day," What's Happening Now!, 1987.
Delivery man, "Unhooking Henry," Punky Brewster, 1987.
Tyler Corbin, "Brother's Keeper," In the Heat of the Night, NBC, 1992.
The Arsenio Hall Show, 1992.
Storytime, PBS, 1994.
Ozzie Banks, "Who Killed the Anchorman?" Burke's Law, CBS, 1994.
Anthony Bouvier, "Dear Diary," Women of the House, CBS, 1995.
The woodcutter (some sources cite role as voice of prince), "Rapunzel," Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, HBO, 1995.
James, "Caroline and the Cereal," Caroline in the City (also known as Caroline), NBC, 1996.
Voices of bus driver and cyclops, "Friends, Romans, Beavers!/Big Round Sticky Fish Thingy," The Angry Beavers (animated), 1998.
Dr. Harris, "Aftershock," Static Shock, 2000.
Panelist, To Tell the Truth, syndicated, 2000.
Oswald's double, "What's Wrong with This Episode IV," The Drew Carey Show, ABC, 2001.
"Coffee, Tea, or Me?," Rendez-View, 2002.
"Caution: Goldigger Ahead," Rendez-View, 2002.
Super Secret TV Formula, VH1, 2003.
Judge, Pet Star, Animal Planet, 2004, 2005.
Roger, "Liar, Liar," All of Us, UPN, 2005.
Howard Whitwell, "Old Home Week," The Unit, CBS, 2006.
Host, Living Live!, 2007.
Dahliano, "Yet Another Side of Me," Hannah Montana, The Disney Channel, 2008.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The 41st Annual Emmy Awards, Fox, 1989.
The 43rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Presentation, Fox, 1991.
Streamers, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1976.
Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, Goodman Theatre, 1976.
Native Son, Goodman Theatre, 1978.
The Island, Annenberg Center, Philadelphia, PA, 1979.
Lumiere, Beauty and the Beast (musical), Palace Theatre, New York City, 1998.
Also appeared in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, Westwood Playhouse, Los Angeles; and in Bloody Bess, Cops, Night Feast, The Sirens of Titan, and The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.
Toured U.S. cities in Hair.
Marty, Kid Safe: The Video, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1988.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 4, Gale, 1993.