Actor Paul Benjamin of Do the Right Thing fame has passed away. According to Deadline, an Instagram post made by director Spike Lee confirmed that the veteran actor died on June 28th. The cause of death currently remains unknown. Benjamin was 81 years old at the time of his passing.
Benjamin’s roles were quite sporadic and minimal in length. Benjamin’s career commence in 1969 in which he played a bartender in the Oscar-nominated film Midnight Cowboy. Benjamin took on small roles in Sidney Lumet’s Anderson Tapes and Born to Win. It wasn’t until a mere 20 years later when he landed an iconic role as one of the three intelligent Brooklyn neighbors who hung by the street corners observing the daily interactions of the community in Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing .
Benjamin found extensive work through television appearing as a death row inmate on an episode of In the Heat of the Night and a recurring role as a poor man named Al Ervin in subsequent seasons of ER. He had guest appearances on Law & Order and The Shield. Benjamin would go on to work on an American Masters documentary surrounding critically-acclaimed author Ralph Ellison.
Benjamin died two days before the 30th anniversary of Do the Right Thing. His final film credit was James Hunter’s 2005 drama Back In the Day.