Yaphet Kotto

Yaphet Kotto Biography

Yaphet Kotto

Yaphet Kotto was an American actor born on November 15, 1939. He was widely known for his numerous film roles, as well as for his breakout performance as Lieutenant Al Giardello in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street from 1993 to 1999.

Kotto grew up in New York City, and by the age of 16, Kotto was already studying acting at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio. Just three years later, he made his professional acting debut in a production of Othello. He was later accepted into the prestigious Actors Studio in New York and honed his craft on Broadway, where he appeared in several productions, including The Great White Hope.

Yaphet Kotto’s film debut came in 1963, when he appeared in an uncredited role in the film 4 for Texas. He went on to have a successful film career, appearing in several notable films, such as Michael Roemer’s Nothing but a Man (1964) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), in which he played a supporting role. Kotto also played the confused Marine Lance Corporal John Auston in the first season of the hit TV show Hawaii Five-O in 1969.


Kotto’s most well-known films include Bond villain Dr. Kananga in Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), the science-fiction horror film Alien (1979), in which he played Parker, and science-fiction action film The Running Man (1987). He was also praised for his performance in the comedy thriller Midnight Run (1988), in which he starred opposite Robert De Niro.

Despite retiring from film acting in the mid-1990s, Kotto continued to take on television roles and was particularly known for his portrayal of black Sicilian Lieutenant Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street.

Outside of acting, Kotto had several other passions and talents. In 1967, releasing a single, Have You Ever Seen the Blues / Have You Dug His Scene. He was also a talented writer and penned the book Royalty, as well as scripts for Homicide. In 2014, he voiced Parker for the video game Alien: Isolation, reprising the role he played in the movie Alien in 1979.

Kotto was married three times, first to German immigrant Rita Ingrid Dittman, with whom he had three children. He later married Toni Pettyjohn, with whom he had three more children, and finally married Tessie Sinahon from The Phillipines. Kotto passed away on March 15, 2021 aged 81 .