Veteran Actor Bill Nunn Dead at 62
Bill Nunn, the actor best known for his roles as Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing and the Duh Duh Duh Man in New Jack City,
died Saturday in his native Pittsburgh. He was 62.
Spike Lee, Nunn’s friend from Morehouse College who cast the actor in 1988’s School Daze, Nunn’s first role, first announced that Nunn had died Saturday morning. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also reported that sources close to the city’s theater community and Nunn’s family confirmed the actor’s death. No cause of death was provided.
“My dear friend, My dear Morehouse brother – Da great actor Bill Nunn as most of you know him as Radio Raheem passed away this morning in his hometown Of Pittsburgh,” Lee wrote. “Long Live Bill Nunn. Radio Raheem is now resting in power. Radio Raheem will always be fighting da powers dat be. May God Watch over Bill Nunn.”
“Bill Nunn was a friend, yet I knew him as such an accomplished actor who led Spike Lee’s Renaissance of Black cinema roles,” Chuck D tells Rolling Stone. “That role of Radio Raheem is the symbolic logo for Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power.'” The group’s incendiary 1989 classic became both the primary soundtrack cut off Do the Right Thing and Radio Raheem’s de facto anthem.
It was at Morehouse that Nunn discovered his passion for acting after considering a career in political science and majoring in English; his father William Nunn was a journalist and NFL scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I didn’t know what the heck I wanted to do really,” Nunn told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2007.
“When I got that theater bug that was my heart. That’s what I found I had a passion for.”
A year after School Daze, Lee cast Nunn in the actor’s most memorable role as the boombox-toting, Public Enemy-blasting Radio Raheem in the director’s 1989 breakout Do the Right Thing. The actor also appeared in Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues and He Got Game.
Nunn was also known for his role of the stuttering enforcer in the 1991 gangster film New Jack City. “I still get Duh Duh Duh Man in the grocery store and all that. To this day, 25 years later. Once a week, if not more,” Nunn told Eurweb in April. “I get a lot of Duh Duh Duh man love. I don’t think it’s taken over Radio Raheem, but it’s become really memorable though to people.”
Although Nunn’s physically imposing figure made him a natural fit for tough guy roles, the actor showcased his softer times in films like Regarding Henry, Legend of 1900 and the Tobey Maguire-starring Spider-Man trilogy, where Nunn played sympathetic Daily Bugle editor Robbie Robertson.