Madge Sinclair; Stage and Screen Actress Won Emmy


Madge Sinclair, the Jamaican-born actress who won an Emmy for her role as James Earl Jones’ love interest on the ABC series “Gabriel’s Fire,” has died. She was 57.

Sinclair, also remembered for her work in the historical miniseries “Roots” and as the voice of the lion queen in last year’s animated feature film “The Lion King,” died of leukemia Wednesday in Los Angeles’ Good Samaritan Hospital.

Nominated for Emmys five times, Sinclair portrayed the wife of protagonist Kunta Kinte in “Roots” in 1977. She also had roles in television’s “Grandpa Goes to Washington,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “O’Hara” and “Me and the Boys.” She won a Los Angeles regional Emmy for the 1987 PBS play “Look Away,” in which she portrayed the former slave who was Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker.


Sinclair was also featured in last year’s Turner Broadcasting System miniseries “A Century of Women.”

“Some people get snooty about it, but I like working for TV,” she told The Times in 1990. “I can finish something and see it the next week.”

Born, reared and educated in Kingston, Jamaica, Sinclair taught school there until she was 30. After moving to New York, she began acting in the New York Shakespearean Festival and at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre.

She made her film debut in 1974 in “Conrack,” which starred Jon Voight. Sinclair also had a major role as Eddie Murphy’s mother in the 1988 film “Coming to America.”

Her local stage work included roles in seven plays at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and “Division Street” at the Mark Taper Forum. She gravitated to LATC, she said, because it reminded her of her beginnings in New York’s Public Theatre.

“You may either hate or love the shows,” she said, “but there’s always something interesting going on.”


In reviewing Sinclair’s performance as the female title character in “Boesman and Lena” at LATC in 1986, Times theater critic Dan Sullivan noted: “I’ve rarely seen an actress as thoroughly in the moment as Sinclair. . . . She’s magnificent.”

In addition to the Emmy recognition, Sinclair earned the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, two NAACP Image Awards and, from the prime minister of Jamaica, the Order of Distinction, Rank of Commander.

She is survived by her husband, Dean Compton; two sons, Wayne and Garry Sinclair; her mother, Jemima Austin, and a sister, Norma Foote.

Memorial services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1014 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena, and on Jan. 6 in Kingston.

The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Leukemia Society of America or to Maxfield’s Children’s Home in Kingston.