Actress Suzzanne Douglas, a Chicago native whose many roles included a mother of four on “The Parent ’Hood” and Cissy Houston on Lifetime’s 2015 biopic “Whitney,” has died at age 64.
The prolific actress made her film debut alongside Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. in “Tap” (1989) and went on to appear in “The Inkwell” (1994), “Jason’s Lyric” (1994) and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” (1998). “Inkwell” co-star Jada Pinkett Smith tweeted her condolences on Wednesday and said Douglas was “an elegant, gentle warm spirit.”
After several TV guest spots, she became a series regular on “The Parent ’Hood,” which ran from 1995 to 1999 on The WB (later merged into The CW). She played Jerri Peterson, a Harlem law student working with husband Robert (Robert Townsend, the show’s co-creator) to raise their children right.
“My heart is full because yesterday I lost my amazing dancing partner on TV for 5 years Suzanne Douglas,” Townsend tweeted Wednesday. “... I just remember a lot of laughter and a lot of tears … her regal bright light will be missed...”
The former South Sider grew up in the Altgeld Gardens housing development.
“It was 1067 E. 132nd St. but they called it Block Nine,” she told the Sun-Times in 1996. “We were right on the corner and we were broken into so many times. It was rough. We were not allowed off my block, and the playgrounds were rat-infested and there was broken glass all over.”
She traced her love of performing to a local production of the opera “Hansel and Gretel” in which she played a mouse at age 5.
“My mom made me this brown crepe paper costume but I got caught in the rain,” Douglas said. “And you know that rain and crepe paper don’t mix, so I was a soggy mouse. But once I hit the stage I just knew that this was it. It was a magical moment.”
Later, at Illinois State University, she shared the stage with a pre-Steppenwolf John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, Laurie Metcalf and others.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful program full of inspiration,” Douglas recalled. “It was really the place that started me on my way.”