Charlie Robinson, Actor Best Known for ‘Night Court,’ Dies at 75

Charlie Robinson, the veteran actor whose best-known role was Mac, the good-natured and pragmatic court clerk, on the long-running NBC sitcom “Night Court,” died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 75.

His family confirmed the death, at the Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center, in a statement. The family said that the cause was a heart attack and organ failure brought on by septic shock, and that Mr. Robinson also had adenocarcinoma, a cancer of the glandular cells.

Mr. Robinson’s acting career spanned six decades and included roles in television and film and onstage. His first credited onscreen appearance was in Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut, “Drive, He Said,” in 1971.

In 1984, he was cast in the role for which TV viewers would come to know him best: Macintosh Robinson, better known as Mac, on “Night Court,” then in its second season.

“Night Court,” which aired on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m., after “Cheers,” was set in a Manhattan courtroom that played host to a parade of oddballs and misfits in the dead of night. It was built around Harry Anderson as Harry Stone, a quirky, kindhearted judge, but it was really an ensemble show.

John Larroquette became the breakout star as Dan Fielding, a bawdy, lascivious prosecutor, but Mr. Robinson became a fan favorite as Mac, a levelheaded Vietnam veteran turned court clerk who favored cardigan sweaters, plaid shirts and knit neckties. He played the role for the rest of the show’s nine-season run and directed three episodes.

Mr. Robinson was born in Houston on Nov. 9, 1945. He served in the Army and briefly attended the University of Houston before leaving to pursue an acting career.

He attended the Studio 7 workshop at the Houston Music Theater in the late 1960s and also trained at the Alley Repertory Theater there before moving to Los Angeles, where his family said he studied at the Actors Studio, the Mark Tapper Forum and the Inner City Cultural Center.

In addition to “Night Court,” Mr. Robinson was seen on numerous TV shows, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Key and Peele,” “This Is Us,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “NCIS.” Before joining the cast of “Night Court” he was a regular on “Buffalo Bill,” the Dabney Coleman sitcom that lasted only two seasons but developed a cult following. His film credits include “The Black Gestapo,” “Gray Lady Down” and “The House Bunny.”

Mr. Robinson won the 2006 Ovation Award for best actor in a play for his performance as Troy Maxson in a production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Join Times theater reporter Michael Paulson in conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, catch a performance from Shakespeare in the Park and more as we explore signs of hope in a changed city. For a year, the “Offstage” series has followed theater through a shutdown. Now we’re looking at its rebound.

Later in his career, Mr. Robinson had recurring roles on the CW comedy-drama “Hart of Dixie” and the CBS sitcom “Mom.” In 2020, he appeared in “Love in the Time of Corona,” a mini-series on the Freeform cable channel about people seeking connections amid the coronavirus pandemic. His wife, Dolorita Noonan-Robinson, played his nurse.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Robinson’s survivors include his children, Luca, Charlie, Christian and Byron, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

One of Mr. Robinson’s final professional performances was onstage opposite Wendell Pierce in James Anthony Tyler’s play “Some Old Black Man” at the University of Michigan. Mr. Pierce, best known for his role as a curmudgeonly detective on “The Wire,” played a college professor who moves his father, played by Mr. Robinson, into his Harlem penthouse. The play was staged in the fall of 2020 and was streamed online earlier this year.

Mr. Pierce said on Twitter that he, Mr. Robinson and the play’s production team quarantined together for nearly a month.

“Only 27 days in quarantine with Charlie Robinson and I got to appreciate the man, not just the wonderful actor of great charm and skill on stage, TV and film,” Mr. Pierce wrote. “In the life of an actor the only things you take with you are the work that you do and the people you do it with.”

In an interview, Mr. Pierce said that he had just finished a run playing Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” in London. Mr. Robinson had played the role in 2013, and the two bonded over having portrayed Willy, traditionally a white character.

Mr. Pierce said Mr. Robinson encouraged him to never stop being a student of his craft.

“He just schooled me on the sort of actor that I wanted to be,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about how I put my best days behind me, and the way he worked — well it just gave me inspiration.”

Must Read