On This Day in comedy on August 16th 1952 Comedian, actor, writer, Reginald VelJohnson was born in Queens, New York.
Reginald Vel Johnson changed his name to VelJohnson so people would remember it. He is best known though as the man who plays cops. In Ghostbusters he appeared as a jail guard. In the Tom Hanks vehicle, Turner & Hooch he played a police officer. In Die Hard and later Die Hard 2 he played LAPD Sgt. Al Powell and reprised to part for GameCube’s video game, Die Hard: Vendetta.
VelJohnson was never a real cop, but he also played one on TV. From 1989-1998 he inhabited the role of Carl Winslow, a cop, on ABCs sitcom, Family Matters. The show introduced the public to “Steve Urkel”; black nerd personified. The show was a consistent ratings hit.
Once VelJohnson’s run ended on ABC he concentrated on stage roles, writing and guest starring parts. He had the title role in the off-Broadway production of She all Dat! (VelJohnson played ‘she’). He wrote Division Street, an acclaimed series of short stories. One was made into a short film starring VelJohnson and Kiki Shepherd called Sunday Evening Haircut. He guest starred on Will & Grace, Eve, The Parkers, Mike & Molly and That’s So Raven. VelJohnson also had a recurring role as the principal on Disney’s I’m in the Band, but being a cop again was always lurking in the shadows. He reprised the role of Sgt. Al Powell for an episode of NBCs Chuck in the part that kept on giving and giving.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton