Tim Reid Biography


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Birth Name: Tim Reid
Born: 12/19/1944
Birth Place: Norfolk, Virginia, USA


Born Dec. 19, 1944 in Norfolk, VA, his early years were difficult ones. Reid's father was abusive and a drug addict, and the turmoil of his home life had a detrimental effect on his school grades. He found an escape at the movies and dreamed of becoming an actor after meeting Hollywood stars who promoted their latest efforts in his town. Reid attended the all-black Norfolk State College, where educators gave a boost to his spiraling grades and attitude. In interviews, he credited their efforts with giving him the strength he needed to pursue his goals. After graduating in 1968, he worked as a supplies salesman for DuPont, but the position held little interest. After being partnered with insurance salesman Tom Dreesen to create an anti-drug campaign for local schools, the pair found that they could make audiences laugh, and decided to form a stand-up comedy duo, Tim and Tom. Their act was a tough sell in the racially charged atmosphere of the late 1960s and early '70s. After struggling for several years, the pair went their separate ways. Dreesen later became Frank Sinatra's regular opening act, and the two reunited in 2008 to write a history of their experience titled Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White.

Reid moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to pursue a fulltime career in entertainment. Bills were paid via stand-up gigs while he took acting classes by day. His first big break came with the improv group War Babies, which was chosen to co-star with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in a summer miniseries called "Easy Does It Starring Frankie Avalon" (CBS, 1976). He soon landed more TV work as a writer and performer on such cutting-edge comedy series as "The Richard Pryor Show" (NBC, 1977) and "Fernwood 2 Night" (syndicated, 1977-78) before moving into minor acting roles on series like "Lou Grant" (CBS, 1977-1982) and "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78).

In 1978, Reid auditioned for a new sitcom from Hugh Wilson about the offbeat personalities at a small radio station in Ohio. He was initially incensed at the role offered to him - DJ Venus Flytrap, whom he felt was a demeaning stereotype. Wilson offered to help Reid build a more realistic figure, so Flytrap became Gordon Sims, a Vietnam vet who falls into radio after deserting the military. Straight-laced and conservative by nature, Sims is encouraged to adopt a funkier personality for his late night shift at "WKRP in Cincinnati," and thus is born Venus Flytrap. Through him, the show was able to skewer racial issues, most notably in the episode "A Family Affair," where white station manager Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) finds his longtime friendship with Venus under question after he asks out Andy's sister. The episode was one of three that Reid penned for "WKRP." In 1992, he reprised the role for "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" (syndicated, 1991-93).

After a brief stint as a replacement cast member for the failed school comedy "Teachers Only" (NBC, 1982-83), Reid settled into a long run as Marcel Proust "Downtown" Brown, a police detective pal to the detective brothers "Simon and Simon" (CBS, 1981-86). Brown served as the Simons' connection inside the police force, and frequently traded information for favors. He departed the series in 1987 to strike out on his own with "Frank's Place," a comedy with dramatic overtones about a Boston professor (Reid) who inherits a New Orleans restaurant and the charismatic staff and customers that people it. A thoughtful and intelligent mix of character drama and sitcom, the series was created by Reid with Hugh Wilson, both of whom aimed for a higher standard than the average fare on television. Stories frequently focused on issues of race and class struggles, and the show was blissfully without a laugh track. Critics lined up to praise the show, which netted three Emmy awards, a Humanitas Award for Wilson, and a Viewers for Quality Television Award for Reid. Unfortunately, it lasted only a season.

Reid returned to television a year later with "Snoops" (CBS, 1989-1990), a comedy with detective show overtones about a criminologist (Reid) who solves mysteries with his wife, played by Reid's real-life spouse and "Frank's Place" co-star, Daphne Maxwell Reid. It too was met with critical praise, but lasted just one season. Frustrated by the lack of quality network programming that featured or was devoted to black viewers, Reid decided to take matters into his own hands. He gathered resources from a variety of television projects, including the Stephen King miniseries "It" (1990) and a four-year run as Tamera Mowry's father on the youth-oriented sitcom "Sister, Sister" (ABC/The WB, 1994-99), and with the help of outside funding, formed his own production company, United Image Entertainment. Their first production was the independent drama "Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored" (1995), an emotionally driven and often unflinching look at life for blacks in the mid-century Deep South. Led by a stellar cast that included Al Freeman, Jr. and Phylicia Rashad, it marked Reid's debut as a director, and played well at film festivals and in urban theaters.

Spurred by its modest success, Reid returned to his native Virginia to launch his own movie studio in order to give his projects a home. New Millennium Studios opened in 1998 and soon saw production on a number of television commercials and two indie features, the thriller "Asunder" (1998) and the comedy "For Real" (2003). Reid also served as producer on several family-driven dramas for television, as well as the short-lived but critically acclaimed series "Linc's" (Showtime, 1998). While managing his expanding entertainment interests, Reid kept a hand in acting, most notably as the improbably biological father of Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson) on "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006) and the ABC Family series "Roommates" (2009), which reunited him with Tamera Mowry.




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