Home » Ron Thompson, Actor in ‘No Place to Be Somebody’ and ‘American Pop,’ Dies at 83

Ron Thompson, Actor in ‘No Place to Be Somebody’ and ‘American Pop,’ Dies at 83

by UNN Feed

Ron Thompson, the unheralded actor who starred on Broadway for Charles Gordone in the Pulitzer Prize-winning No Place to Be Somebody and played father and son musicians for Ralph Bakshi in the animated cult classic American Pop, has died. He was 83.

Filmmaker Joe Black told The Hollywood Reporter that he found Thompson in his Van Nuys apartment on Saturday afternoon. The two had worked together in eight features, including Hate Horses (2017), Chicks, Man (2018) and Suffrage (2023), and Black visited him a couple times a week to help him out.

“For a man of his age, he was so full of life, he had such a presence,” Black said. He called Thompson “the Sam Jackson to my Tarantino.”

In 1969, Thompson originated off-Broadway the role of Shanty Mulligan in the Joseph Papp-produced No Place to Be Somebody, starring Ron O’Neal, then accompanied the drama to Broadway and on a tour around the country.

In his review for The New York Times, Mel Gussow wrote that Thompson was “splendid” in his turn as a “hip-talking, drum-playing white Uncle Tom who desperately want to be Black.”

Robert Hooks, the Negro Ensemble Company co-founder who knew Thompson from their days as New York actors, told THR that his good friend “stole that play from everybody.” He said he felt compelled to go backstage to meet Thompson after seeing No Place to Be Somebody for the first time.

“It might seem odd, but Ronnie Thompson is the only white actor I have ever known who deserves to be included in Black Theatre History,” Hooks wrote on Facebook. “I have never known a white actor absolutely unafraid to go to the emotionally naked places that expose white jungle-fever delusion and turn it into heartbreaking pathos and high art.”

In American Pop (1981), Thompson portrayed the two lead characters, Tony Belinsky and his son, Pete. He and the other actors were filmed for animators, who then would create cartoon characters…

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