Meshach Taylor. It's a name that many young people may be unfamiliar with, but one local returning citizen considers the man-behind-the-name to be a groundbreaker for returning citizens in media.
Taylor, a Boston, Massachusetts native, died in at his Altadena, California home after a long battle with cancer, on Saturday.
Taylor's family posted on his Facebook that he was near death. The Facebook note reads:
It is with love and gratitude that we sorrowfully announce that our darling, amazingly brilliant and dynamic, Meshach, the incredible father, husband, son and friend has begun his grand transition. Our friends who know and love us, please offer your prayers for his peace and blazing light as he ascends to the heavens. Those who need to call the family please do. Those who desire to post memories, we are open and graciously accepting all gestures of peace.
“He was one of the good ones who was well respected in our community and rightly so. He was wonderful spirit full of life, and I had the honor of representing him. I know when people think of him, they smile,” said Dede Binder, Taylor's agent, to Hollywood Reporter.
He played Anthony Bouvier on long-running beloved CBS sitcom Designing Women (1986-93). He played a deliveryman on the show - but was more than just a deliveryman; he played a deliveryman who was a returning citizen (actually the descriptive was ex-convict). Taylor's character had a recurring role in the first two seasons and a starring role in the show's remaining five seasons. There were even episodes that focused specifically on Anthony Bouvier and his pervious (and post) incarceration.
D'Qwan Morris is a retuning citizen who lives in the District of Columbia and remembers Taylor's character. While his character was unknowingly involved in a robbery, Morris says he knew exactly what he was getting into. He, Morris, assisted in a bank robbery in another state; he was eventually arrested and sentenced to nine years in state prison. He served his time and eventually moved to the District after successfully completing his probation.
"I didn't know a whole lot about Taylor as a person, but his character was brought up just like me," he said. "He was raised by his grandmother because his mom was a drug addict who eventually abandoned him. He never knew his dad, just like me."
Morris said he ended up watching the show because his grandmother watched the program, but it wasn't until he saw the re-runs of the show, that he began to make the connection.
"I was in the halfway house shortly after my release and me and some other dudes were watching Designing Women," he recalls, "and that episode was about Taylor's character reconnecting with an old cellmate of his. That's when I started thinking about everything."
Morris added the more he watched episodes of the show, he remembered that other programs that was on at the time generally depicted criminals as - well...criminals. Furthermore, returning citizens were mostly looked at as people living on skid row, or homeless, or choosing to go back into a life of crime.
Morris said, "I feel like people of the that time didn't even think that rehabilitation was even possible for someone who made a mistake."
Meshach Taylor played his role so perfectly that he was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy in 1989, and was long-liked throughout the series.
Taylor was surrounded by his mother, wife (actress Bianca Ferguson), and children.