Family & Companions
A member of American television royalty on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992), actor-director-musician Malcolm-Jamal Warner continued to expand his artistic horizons long after leaving the nurturing environs of the Huxtable nest. Rocketing to national stardom as Bill Cosby's likeable TV scion, the industrious Warner soon began extending himself with directorial work on episodes of the hugely popular sitcom, in addition to installments of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96) and music videos for such acts as New Edition. Once "The Cosby Show" had completed its lengthy run, Warner tried his luck as the co-star of the short-lived sitcom "Here and Now" (NBC, 1992-93), followed by a more satisfying stint on "Malcolm & Eddie" (UPN, 1996-2001), opposite comedian Eddie Griffin. Other endeavors included the post-apocalyptic drama "Jeremiah" (Showtime, 2002-04), the debut release from his jazz/funk band Miles Long in 2005, and a co-starring role on the family comedy "Reed Between the Lines" (BET, 2011), which he also produced. Comfortable with his place in television history, but determined not to be defined by it, Warner's diverse interests and talents ensured his continued success in whichever medium he chose.
Born Aug. 18, 1970, Warner - who was named after Malcolm X and jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal - was raised primarily by his mother, Pam Warner, who moved with her son to Los Angeles when he was five. At nine, he expressed an interest in performing, which led to his enrollment in entertainment-oriented schools. By the age of 12, he was landing guest appearances on network television series, which culminated in an audition for veteran comic Bill Cosby's latest TV sitcom. Warner was cast by Cosby himself as son Theodore "Theo" Huxtable on the last day of a national talent search. Based loosely on Cosby's own son Ennis, Theo was a likable teen who struggled with his schoolwork (dyslexia was later revealed to be the source of his problems) but eventually became a top student and an educator. Audiences found Warner a winning weekly presence, and he earned several nominations and awards, including an Emmy nod in 1986 and two Young Artist Awards in 1985 and 1989.
Unlike many of his peers, Warner enjoyed a scandal-free young adulthood in the spotlight, and parlayed his fame into largely positive (if unremarkable) projects like "A Desperate Exit" (1986), an "Afterschool Special" (ABC, 1972-1995) about teen suicide; and "The Father Clements Story" (1987), a TV movie about a crusading priest (Louis Gossett) who adopts a troubled teen (Warner). He also made the expected guest appearances as Theo on the "Cosby" spin-off series, "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993), as well as hosted "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) in 1986. In 1988, he made his off-Broadway debut with "Three Ways Home." The following year, he tried his hand at directing a music video for the popular R&B group, New Edition, which lead to several turns behind the camera at "The Cosby Show;" a short, "This Old Man," (1991), and an all-star educational special titled "Time Out: The Truth About HIV, AIDS and You" (1992). He also served as director, executive producer and host of "The Last Laugh: Memories of 'The Cosby Show'," which aired before the series finale in 1992.
After "Cosby" left the airwaves, Warner tried his hand at several subsequent series, including "Here and Now" (NBC, 1992-93), which cast him as a youth counselor, but it disappeared quickly. He found steady work on the animated series "The Magic School Bus" (PBS, 1994-97) as the voice of The Producer (who fielded calls from viewers about the episodes), and later on "Malcolm and Eddie" (UPN, 1996-2001), an "Odd Couple"-style sitcom with comedian Eddie Griffin which netted him an Image Award nomination in 2001. He also directed 15 episodes of the series. There were guest shots on other series as well, including an appearance in a 1995 episode of "Touched By an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003), which earned him another Image Award nod. He also had supporting roles in the feature "Drop Zone" (1994) as Wesley Snipes' brother and the made-for-TV features "The Tuskegee Airmen" (1995) and "Tyson" (1995).
After the fourth season demise of "Malcolm and Eddie," Warner turned up on "Jeremiah" (Showtime, 2002-04), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series which cast him and Luke Perry as survivors of a global plague who seek to rebuild civilization. His next TV effort, "Listen Up" (CBS, 2004-05) brought him back to the major networks as a former pro athlete and ladies' man who co-hosts a TV talk show with a nebbishy Jason Alexander. Despite good reviews, production costs required its cancellation after just one season. Warner kept busy with directing gigs and his side project as bassist and band leader for the jazz outfit, Miles Long, which released a CD, Love and Other Social Issues, in 2005. In 2008, Warner had a supporting role in the Matthew McConaghey/Kate Hudson romantic comedy "Fools' Gold." Back on familiar television turf, Warner picked up a recurring role on the short-lived Sherri Shepherd vehicle "Sherri" (Lifetime, 2009) and another as the ex-husband of study group member Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) on the more successful "Community" (NBC, 2009-15; Yahoo!, 2015). In 2011, he produced and co-starred on the sitcom "Reed Between the Lines" (BET, 2011) as Dr. Alex Reed, the stay-at-home patriarch of a busy modern family.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Played breakthrough role of Theodore Huxtable on the highly popular NBC sitcom "The Cosby Show"; received supporting Emmy nomination for the 1985-86 season
Landed lead in "A Desperate Exit," an "ABC Afterschool Special"
TV-movie acting debut, the NBC biopic "The Father Clemens Story"
Made off-Broadway debut in "Three Ways Home"
Made directing debut with a music video for the group New Edition
Directed first of several episodes of "The Cosby Show"
Helmed the short film "This Old Man"
Executive produced, directed, and hosted "The Last Laugh: Memories of the Cosby Show"
Played a graduate student helping troubled kids on the short-lived NBC comedy series "Here and Now"
Feature acting debut, playing Wesley Snipes' brother in "Drop Zone"
Voiced the character of The Producer on the animated children's show "The Magic School Bus" (PBS)
Directed several episodes of "Sesame Street"
Landed featured roles in the HBO films "Tyson" and "The Tuskegee Airmen"
Hosted "CBS Schoolbreak Special"
Returned to series TV with co-starring role on the sitcom "Malcolm and Eddie" (UPN), also directed episodes
Made second feature, the ensemble piece "Restaurant"
Co-starred with Luke Perry on the Showtime sci-fi series "Jeremiah"
Acted in the romantic comedy "Fool's Gold"
Guest starred on the Lifetime comedy series "Sherri"
Co-starred with Tracee Ellis Ross as husband and wife on the BET comedy "Reed Between the Lines"; also produced and directed episodes
Took on the recurring role of Chuck Cooper on the series "Major Crimes"
Began playing Al Cowlings on "American Crime Story"