Actress Janet MacLachlan dies at 77 in LA

by Brian W. Carter

LOS ANGELES (NNPA)—Janet MacLachlan, star of the stage and small screen, passed on October 11, at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles. She had suffered cardiovascular issues recently at her Silver Lake home according to media sources. MacLachlan was 77.


Her life was a successful one filled with roles both on and off the stage. MacLachlan had worked with numerous actors and actresses, including Bill Cosby, Jim Brown, James Earl Jones and Maya Angelou.

MacLachlan’s story began on Aug. 8, 1933 in Harlem, New York. She was born to Iris South (MacLachlan) and James MacLachlan. She attended P.S. 170 and schools in the 1950s and later earned her B.S. degree in psychology from Hunter College in 1955.

MacLachlan worked as a clerk and studied acting at the YMCA, Herbert Berghoff Acting Studio and the Little Theater of Harlem. She would also receive further training at The Actors Studio, Joanie Gerber Voiceovers and the Theatre East of Los Angeles.

She got stage parts and would eventually take Cicely Tyson’s place in The Blacks: A Clown Story by Jean Genet. In the early 1960’s, MacLachlan would go on to performances like, Hell in the Sun. She was also an active member of Actors Equity and The Committee for the Employment of Negro Performers.

MacLachlan spent a year with the Minneapolis’ Tyrone Guthrie Theater and worked in Washington, D.C.’s Shakespeare Festival. Universal Studios eventually offered her a contract in 1964.

In the 1960s and 1970s, she would refuse to act in the popular ‘Blaxploitation’ films of that era. MacLachlan often took roles as a social worker, teacher, nurse, doctor, psychiatrist, or judge.

She would be featured in numerous television shows over the next five decades. MacLachlan appeared in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I Spy, Star Trek and Good Times among many others. She also appeared in television movies like, Up Tight (1968), For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (1983) and The Tuskegee Airmen (1995), to name a few. MacLachlan won an Emmy Award for her performance in KCET’s “Voices of Our People: in Celebration of Black Poetry.” She was the Grant Committee Chair of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

MacLachlan leaves behind her daughter, actress Samantha MacLachlan, and a sister. She leaves a rich and full legacy of fine acting for future aspiring actors.

(Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel)

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