Nathaniel Taylor, Actor on 'Sanford and Son,' Dies at 80

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Nathaniel Taylor

Taylor played Rollo, a fast-talking but good-hearted friend of Lamont Sanford who dressed in colorful suits and hats.

Nathaniel Taylor, the actor best known as Rollo Lawson, the street-smart best friend of the son on the 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son, has died. He was 80.

Taylor died Wednesday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after a heart attack, his son Kaedi Taylor on Saturday told the Associated Press.

Taylor's character was the sidekick to Lamont Sanford, played by Demond Wilson, and often drew the skepticism of TV patriarch Fred Sanford, played by comedian Redd Foxx, who thought Rollo was a bad influence on Lamont because he'd spent time in jail. The fast-talking but good-hearted Rollo dressed in colorful suits and hats and called Fred "Pops."

Taylor went on to act in other shows and movies, later opening a performing arts studio for young actors. But his son said Taylor never tired of people recognizing him as Rollo.

"It was a time and an era — just to be on TV as a black man, it was an honor," said Kaedi, who works in show business behind the scenes. "It was an honor for people to remember him."

Nathaniel Taylor also appeared on The Redd Foxx Show, Police Story and What's Happening! and in blaxpoitation films such as Dynamite and Trouble Man. He reprised his role as Rollo on the 1980s spinoff Sanford.

Hip-hop music promoter Alonzo "Lonzo" Williams, one of Taylor's longtime friends, said the actor was a mentor to many. "He was always there with a wise word and a kind word and a joke to put a little icing on it," he said.

Taylor is survived by his wife, Loretta, four daughters and three sons.