liquid blackness mourns the passing of actor, Nathaniel Taylor (March 31, 1938 – February 27, 2019). Although best known for the role of Rollo on the popular television series, Sanford and Son, Taylor was also an important film actor within the L.A. Rebellion group, starring as Jita Hadi in Larry Clark’s As Above, So Below (1973) and as Warmack in Clark’s Passing Through (1977). A member of PASLA (Performance Arts Society of Los Angeles), Clark’s and Taylor’s collaboration in Passing Through was just as intense and mutually inspiring as the filmmaker’s collaboration with musician Horace Tapscott who provided part of the score and appeared in the film.
Passing Through was the focus of the 2015 liquid blackness experimental research project, “The Arts and Politics of the Jazz Ensemble,” a screening, artist talk, and symposium dedicated to the film. The research project culminated in the publication of liquid blackness journal vol. 2 no. 5, Passing Through Film (September 2015).
At the symposium, filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson shared his short film dedicated to Taylor, Auditioning for Nathaniel (2016), which follows his “Rita Larson’s Boy” (2012). In the earlier film, ten actors auditioned for Taylor’s role of Rollo, offering what, in a conversation with Everson printed in the liquid blackness journal vol. 1 no. 2, Michael Gillespie described as a poignant repetition of performances of blackness in the pursuit of Taylor’s distinct 1970s cool.
Everson was finally able to locate Taylor through liquid blackness and Larry Clark.
Thanks to the distinct privilege of closely studying Passing Through, the liquid blackness group has come to appreciate the remarkable sensitivity, range, and power of Taylor’s acting and the depth of his characterizations especially when performing for a script that, among many other things, explored complex political implications in issues of creativity and masculinity. Passing Through was screened at Thelma Golden’s Black Male exhibition (Whitney, 1994).
- all images screen grabs from Passing Through (1977), courtesy of director, Larry Clark