Remembering Taurean Blacque who changed lives while being a key cast member of Hill Street Blues

James Patrick
Actor Taurean Blacque who played Neal Washington on Hill Street BluesGetty Images

In a year where the world has lost many big names in Hollywood, we have lost others who may not be household names who also made their mark.

Taurean Blacque was one of those names. His family announced he passed away from a sudden illness at 82. He is best remembered playing the cool, level-headed, and smart Neal Washington on one of the greatest shows of all time, Hill Street Blues. He was nominated for an Emmy for his role.

(below is a commercial Taurean did to promote adoption)

Taurean Blacque's story is very unique. He was a mailman but at age 30 he decided to go into acting. He got his first television job at 37 and landed the role of Washington at 41. Hill Street Blues was never a ratings blockbuster but people knew at the time that this was a special show. It remains the lowest-rated show in television history that was given a second season. It was the 87th most watched show out of 96 that first year.
The Early Casts of Hill Street BluesMtm Enterprises/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Co-creator Steven Bochco was asked in interviews if he ever thought the show would be canceled. Bochco said, “The Networks told me after season 1 that they wanted to cancel the show, but how do you cancel a show that is nominated for a record amount of Emmy's?”

After the first season, it won a then-record 8 Emmy’s, which at the time was the most ever won by a new show. Only Hill Street Blues and the West Wing ever won 4 straight Primetime Outstanding Drama Series Emmy’s and each won it in the show's first 4 years which is also a record. In 2013 TV Guide voted Hill Street Blues the greatest primetime drama show of all time and the 23rd greatest television show ever. And don't forget the theme song by Mike Post which climbed to #10 on the U.S. top 100 Billboard Charts.
J.D. LaRue & Neal Washington of Hill Street Blues played by Kiel Martin and Laurean BlacqueROBERT ISENBERG/NBCU PHOTO BANK/NBCUNIVERSAL/GETTY

What made the show amazing was the groundbreaking realism of the show and the characters. While the network wanted Neal Washington to play a hip, jive stereotypical African American, to their credit they allowed Blacque to create a deep, laid-back, and grounded person that became one of the pillars of the police force. Blacque said it was important to create an African American character with depth and substance. And boy was he cool with his laid-back demeanor, deep voice, and the toothpick in his mouth.

(below is Mike Posts top 10 hit, The Theme Song from Hill Street Blues w/Larry Carlton on Guitar)

“Taurean was a sweet and kind guy," stated Daniel J. Travanti who played Captain Furillo. “He was almost like a preacher. People don’t know about his humanitarian spirit adopting several children. He shared his faith through his actions and not by preaching."

In 1989 President George H. W. Bush appointed Taurean the national spokesperson for adoption. He had 2 sons with his wife before he divorce. Eventually he wound up adopting 10 children. He fought the adoption agencies that didn’t support him because he was a single father. He hoped that every child could have a home.

Every cop and law show uses a part of Hill Street Blues in its episodes and it never got its due, and neither has Taurean Blacque. In his later years, he was active in theater and enjoyed his family. Those that knew him will always remember him fondly. He is immortalized playing a role in one of the greatest television shows of all time. His most lasting gift was not sharing his talents, but sharing his heart in promoting adoption. A life well done.

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Writer & Host of The Forum Celebrity Podcast with Florence Carmela. We conduct Celebrity Interviews, cover Pop Culture & Trending News Stories! I've been a featured guest on several radio shows & podcasts. Twitter: @realjamespat @FlorenceCarmela

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