Joe Seneca

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Joe Seneca
Joe Seneca.jpg
Born Joel McGhee Jr.
(1919-01-14)January 14, 1919
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died August 15, 1996(1996-08-15) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor, singer, songwriter
Years active 1940s–1996

Joe Seneca (January 14, 1919 – August 15, 1996)[1] was an American film and television actor, singer and songwriter. He had a lengthy acting career, portraying bit parts in many films and television sitcoms from the 1970s to the 1990s, he played Ezra Johnson, the father of Danny Glover's Mal Johnson, in the film Silverado.

Life and career[edit]

Seneca was born Joel McGhee, Jr. in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to his acting career, he belonged to the R&B singing group The Three Riffs, which was active from the late 1940s and performed at upscale supper clubs in New York City.[2] He was also a songwriter and had big hits with "Talk to Me" which was sung by Little Willie John, and "Break It to Me Gently," which was a smash hit twice, once by Brenda Lee in 1962 and once by Juice Newton in 1982.

In the 1982 film, The Verdict, Seneca plays the supporting role of Dr. Thompson, a small-town women's hospital physician brought in by attorney Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) to support his belief that two famous doctors' incompetence left his client alive but in a coma. Seneca's performance, while subdued, brings a gritty realism to the court proceedings and was one of his more important film roles. Arguably his most well-known roles are that of bluesman Willie Brown in Crossroads (1986) and Dr. Meddows in The Blob (1988), the evil head of a government team sent to contain the title creature.

Seneca also made multiple appearances on The Cosby Show as Hillman President Dr. Zachariah J. Hanes, he also played Alvin Newcastle, a man suffering from Alzheimer's disease, on an episode of The Golden Girls entitled "Old Friends".[3] Seneca appeared in Spike Lee's School Daze as Mission College President McPherson.

Seneca played Eddie Haynes, on Matlock, in the May 9, 1989 episode "The Blues Singer." He later played a blind murder witness in the October 13, 1993 Law & Order episode "Profile."

Seneca appeared in Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" music video in the late 1980s.

He died from asthma at the age of 77.[4]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 255. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  2. ^ "The Three Riffs ", Vocal Group Harmony. Retrieved 25 October 2016
  3. ^ The Golden Girls Season 3 episode 52; air date September 19, 1987
  4. ^ Crocker, Catherine (August 17, 1996). "Obituaries | Joe Seneca, Singer, Composer, Actor". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. 

External links[edit]