The true measure of life, someone once said, should be its quality, not
its longevity. By any gauge, so far, I have had a full and happy life. At
this writing, I'm past the halfway mark of my projected stay on this planet.
(My goal is 150 years.) As Robert Browning wrote, "a man's reach should exceed
his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
When I began my acting career, I felt I would be content working on the stage for the rest of my life. I remember saying that if I could earn $100 a week as an actor, I would be fulfilled. Circumstance, happenstance and inflation conspired over the years to pull that dream into an unrecognizable shape.
Duke Ellington once described "luck" as being in the right place at the right time with the right stuff for the right people. I couldn't agree more. I have been lucky.
In 1956, strolling on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, I ran into a friend, fellow actor Ned Glass, who was a regular cast member of the hit comedy TV series You'll Never Get Rich (later known as the Sgt. Bilko Show and then The Phil Silvers Show). Ned told me that they were casting for the new season and that I should make sure to call for a casting appointment. I did just that, and landed a role that lasted me three great years.
Walking up Broadway in midtown Manhattan in 1965, I ran into an old acquaintance, producer Chet Collier, who informed me that Westinghouse Broadcasting was looking for someone to become the nation's first Black TV news anchor. That chance encounter landed me a three-year contract in Boston.
In 1970, as I was having lunch one day in the Universal Studios commissary in
Studio City, a casting director I knew saw me and said "I didn't know you were in
town!" When I explained that I was now living in L.A., he said "Call me!" I did,
and the result was an offer to play a principal role in McCloud. My agent had already
submitted me for two other series pilots: Douglas Selby, D.A. and San
Francisco International, either of which was mine for the asking. But
McCloud's star was Dennis Weaver, whose work I had seen and admired
in the Bonanza TV series and especially in Orson Welles' now-classic
film, Touch Of Evil. I made what turned out to be the right choice.
The McCloud series lasted seven wonderful years; those other series
projects never got beyond the pilot stage. Being in the right place at the
right time, etc. served me rather well...
I firmly believe that, in one way or another, we are all connected. What we do affects people we know, as well as many we don't know, directly or indirectly, in ways we can hardly imagine. John Donne's observation that "no man is an island" resonates strongly with me. I believe we are one, with all the interpersonal responsibility and compassion that such an idea implies.
Some years ago, I attended a conference in Washington, DC. A young Black man came up to me, shook my hand warmly and said "I want to thank you!" I was thoroughly confused since I had never laid eyes on this fellow before. He saw my puzzlement and went on to explain: "I used to watch Battlestar Galactica as a kid and I admired the authority you brought to the role of 'Colonel Tigh'. I wanted to be like you. So I chose my career path, studied hard and became an aeronautical engineer. It never would have happened if it weren't for you!"
I have also experienced other kinds of connectedness. The incident in which I broke my ankle while out roller-skating at the beachfront in Venice, California brought two strokes of good luck:
My loss of the role of "Lt. Boomer" in Battlerstar Galactica: When the producers were told my leg was in a plaster cast, the call for my replacement as "Boomer" went out immediately. Among the many young actors who responded was Herb Jefferson, Jr. But Herb was already in a TV show. Herb tells me that the Galactica producers compelled him to resign from his other gig before they would even audition him for the role of "Boomer". He decided to take the plunge, gambling on the chance that he might land the role. And he got it. So, for Herb, that was good luck, stroke one.
To tell the truth, at the age of 50, I didn't feel fully inspired by the demands of the "Boomer" character: jaunty, gung-ho, impetuous. When producers Glen Larson and Leslie Stevens later offered me instead the role of "Col. Tigh", I knew immediately, upon re-reading the script, that that character was where my head and heart were: passionate, dedicated, loyal, and observant of the Big Picture. For me this was good luck, stroke two.
Had I not stepped into that damned hole in the sidewalk when I was out roller-skating with my daughter, we might not be commemorating that TV event of more than a quarter century ago.
... All things, by immortal power,
When the wonderful, resourceful and clever creators of this website asked me to participate in its making, I immediately saw it as something more than a premature epitaph and less than an overdue autobiography. But, just as they say about that tree falling in the forest, if I have lived the life I lived and no one knows about it, have I really lived it?
RUMORS OF MY DEATH…
January 29, 2015: In the early morning hours, the entertainment newspapers on the West Coast headlined a report that Terry Carter, better known as "Col. Tigh" of Battlestar Galactica, had been killed in a road incident by a well-known figure in the recording business. The news stories carried pictures of Terry from his days on Battlestar Galactica and recapped highlights of his career as actor, producer and TV news anchor. Terry awoke that morning to a phone call from CNN, asking whether he was still alive. He emphatically insisted that he was still among the living. Then came the strange, tentative, curious phone calls from relatives and friends. He did a bit of research and discovered that the attorney for the accused was spreading the news about his "death". Terry immediately got on the phone, tracked the lawyer down and informed him that the story was untrue: that Terry Carter, actor-producer was alive and well. The lawyer apologized profusely and then called the trade papers to retract that element of the story: That the "Terry Carter" that was killed was not the well-known actor. The trade papers then did a second story on the incident correcting the inaccurate earlier story. But Terry knew that the Twitter world would be ablaze with the false news. So, he got on Twitter and tweeted "#Terry Carter: To quote Mark Twain, rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated." That turned out to be the right thing to do, in order to scotch the original false story. His message was re-tweeted over 2,900 times by grateful fans, friends and sci-fi enthusiasts. When it was all over, Terry remarked that the notion that many actors held: "Who cares what they say about me, as long as they spelled my name right!" was not at all true: the idea of being considered dead while you're still very much alive trumped that… But he did find it curiously interesting (in a ghoulish way) to read his own obituary…
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN…
December 2013: Terry moved back to the USA, after 19 years of "self-imposed exile" (5 years in Denmark and then 14 years in Norway) settling in his native New York. He brought with him a "souvenir" from Norway: Etta, his Ethiopian bride, whom he had met while living in Oslo and married in 2009. 19 years is a long time, but the transition back to the US was not so abrupt as it might seem: Terry had made many visits to the US while residing in Scandinavia.
2012: Terry was commissioned in 1990 to produce and direct a documentary on the phenomenal, colorful history of Berea College in Kentucky. He recruited world-famous historian Alex Haley (author of Roots) as host-narrator. Utilizing actors to bring to life the actual written words of the principal historical characters, Terry created a compelling docudrama that has continued to generate kudos from the viewers of Kentucky Public Television (KET-TV) over the years. Today, more than 20 years after it was originally aired, Once Upon A Vision continues to be aired on KET-TV as part of their program lineup and history curriculum. It can be viewed here: Once Upon A Vision
September 2008: Terry Carter attended the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the†Battlestar Galactica†series on board the SS Carnival, joining many former members of the original†Battlestar Galactica cast and reuniting with fans and supporters from around the globe. This four-day cruise, from Los Angeles, California to Mexico and back, featured Q&A panels, dinners with the celebrities, special screenings, signing sessions and all sorts of other activities.
April 15, 2008: Terry Carter found this old poster of him advertising Kent cigarettes. It shows how advertisement fools you, since Terry is a non-smoker himself.
July 5 - 17, 2007: A Duke Named Ellington was screened aboard the MS Rotterdam, on the first-ever North Sea Jazz Festival Cruise.
April 29, 2007: A Duke Named Ellington was screened at the Lincoln Centerís Walter Reade Theater in New York City, to commemorate the 108th birthday of Duke Ellington.
February 24, 2007: Producer-Director Terry Carter announces the recent release on DVD of†A Duke Named Ellington,†his two-hour musical biography of composer-bandleader-pianist Duke Ellington.††This extraordinary presentation has been widely acclaimed as the best documentary ever created about one of the world's greatest musical artists.† A Duke Named Ellington,†nominated in 1988 for an Emmy Award as "Outstanding Informational Special", has been featured at several international film and television festivals, has garnered several international awards, and has been aired on TV on every continent.
If you'd like to read why Terry Carter made this film, read this article: Why I made A Duke Named Ellington.
January 27, 2007: Some minor errors were corrected in this long overdue update! Great news: Terry starred in 18 episodes of the Norwegian daily drama series Hotel Caesar. He plays the role of "Solomon Tefari", an authoritarian, businessman, father of "Nadia Tefari", who has come to get her to fulfill her promise to the family. The episodes will be broadcast in May and July of 2007 in several European countries. Furthermore we're adding a chapter called "Terry's Favorites" at the "Biography" section which a unique insight into Terry's personal interests. We're starting off with Terry's favorite poem, which is very meaningful to him and has become his mantra. It has carried him through grim moments in his life.
October 9, 2006: A Duke Named Ellington was screened at the National Music Center and Museum in Washington DC, and was followed by a Question & Answer session, with Producer-Director Terry Carter, jazz scholars and experts on the Ellington legacy participating.
June 13, 2006: Several newspaper articles are added under "Articles" in the "Media" section. They're all reporting this story: In May 1978 Terry Carter was in Washington, D.C., for business when he heard a woman's cry for help. Playing a cop for 7 years on McCloud, he chased a thief by car and made a daring arrest. The story of a TV cop arresting a real-life crook was picked up by several newspapers, and was the subject of a Washington Post editorial.
May 21, 2006: In the "Media" section, 4 articles were added about Terry Carter's attempt to produce Tennessee Williamís classic play A Streetcar Named Desire with an all-Black cast.
May 1, 2006: After many requests from fans and a lot of positive feedback we're finally opening up Terry Carter's official website! Here you will also find future updates, so keep checking back.