Tony nominee and L.A. stage regular Anthony Chisholm dies at 77

Anthony Chisholm in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of August Wilson’s “Jitney.”
Anthony Chisholm in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of August Wilson’s “Jitney.” The production played the Mark Taper Forum in 2019.
(Joan Marcus)

Award-winning actor Anthony Chisholm, a familiar face to Center Theatre Group patrons and a performer celebrated for his work in a number of August Wilson productions, has died at 77.

Chisholm’s passing was confirmed via a statement from his talent agency. “The Katz Company is saddened to announce the passing of our longtime friend and client, Tony nominee, Anthony Chisholm. Affectionately called ‘Chiz,’ he was an actor and storyteller like none other, embodying loyalty, devotion, and compassion to his artistry,” the statement said.

No cause of death was given.

Chisholm, who played Burr Redding in the HBO series “Oz” as well as a role in the Spike Lee film “Chi-Raq,” recently appeared in Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Tony-winning revival of Wilson’s “Jitney,” which ran last year at the Mark Taper Forum. The ensemble work was praised by Times theater critic Charles McNulty as “among the finest productions of a Wilson play I’ve seen.”

“We are deeply saddened to hear that actor Anthony Chisholm passed away,” read a Center Theatre Group statement. “Anthony delivered many stunning performances on our stages, including just last year in the return of August Wilson’s ‘Jitney’ at the Mark Taper Forum. That performance was particularly poignant, as it marked his return to the Taper in the same role, as he joined us for ‘Jitney’ in 2000.”


Chisholm over the years appeared in a number of other CTG productions of Wilson’s works, including “Gem of the Ocean,” “Radio Golf” and “Two Trains Running.” Chisholm was nominated for a featured actor Tony for his role as Joseph Barlow in “Radio Golf.” Reviewing the play for The Times in 2005, Daryl H. Miller wrote that Wilson’s “characters are talkers, their thoughts tumbling forth sometimes with poetic grace, sometimes with the coarseness of everyday language — yet always sounding deeply urgent and insistent, as if they were blues refrains. Chisholm … is particularly adept at the style.”

He was recognized for his performance as the alcoholic driver Fielding in “Jitney” with Drama Desk and Obie honors.

“Anthony Chisholm gave a performance in ‘Jitney’ that mesmerized audiences from NY to London,” actor and theater producer Wendell Pierce wrote on Twitter. “As a producer on the play, I received a master class in the metamorphosis an actor can achieve mentally [and] physically when you fully embody character. Anthony didn’t perform, he transformed.”

Chisholm spoke often in interviews of how he cherished the challenge of bringing Wilson’s characters to life. “August’s writing is an immense journey of finding new stuff,” Chisholm said in a 2017 interview with Broadway World. “Like Picasso painting a painting, he could always add a dab or splash.”

Chisholm, born in 1943 in Cleveland, was drafted and served as an Army platoon leader in the Vietnam War before returning to the Midwest and embarking on an acting career. He acted and toured in John DiFusco’s “Tracers,” a play created and performed by Vietnam veterans, including a stop at Los Angeles’ Coronet Theater in 1985. His experiences in Vietnam reportedly inspired the 1987 HBO project “Vietnam War Story.”


While Chisholm had about two decades of work on his resume before meeting Wilson in 1990 on “Two Trains Running,” the actor said their similar ages and backgrounds — the late Wilson was from Pittsburgh — allowed for an instant professional connection.

“His writing is so vivid it’s so — it runs so deep in your veins when you read his work,” Chisholm told PBS. “It conjures up images; it takes you on a journey instantly into his world and through his story. You see the image of your character in your mind’s eye and it just takes you over. It’s wonderful.”

While Chisholm is best known for his work on the stage, he also had more than 40 film and television credits.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd, another actor who frequently appeared in August Wilson plays, died last week in a shooting in Atlanta.