Thursday, July 15, 2021

Rest in Peace: Charles Robinson


I have to say that the primary way I know Charles Robinson is by his work on Night Court.

To me, he was the most overlooked and under-rated of the cast.

Robinson was a strong, masculine presence on the show that was always hidden behind his pleasant demeanor and colorful sweaters.  In one scene he could get weepy about a ruined cardigan and in the next, man-handle Dan (John Laroquette) by the throat without breaking a sweat.  And Robinson made these disparate elements of the character feel effortlessly harmonious.  His Mac Robinson was one of the most complex characters on the show with a fantastic story arc.  

Mac was a Vietnam War veteran who worked to rebuild his life after the war.  A child he looked after while in Vietnam, Quan Le (Denice Kumagai), grew up and came to America.  He marries her in a green card marriage, but doesn't realize that she has always been in love with him.  After some time, his affection for her grows and they fall in love.  But all the while, they struggle.  In one of his most dramatic turns, Robinson plays a down-and-out Mac trying to scratch extra money as a night club singer, but he is clearly at the end of his rope.  

These incredibly dramatic moments were few and far between for the character as Robinson played him mostly as the steady center of all the chaos.  While insanity flew all around the court, Robinson was the eye of the hurricane.  He projected intelligence, competence, and kindness.

In one of my favorite episodes with him, Mac gets promoted to his dream job of clerking for a State Supreme Court Justice.  He is fantastic at this new job and seems very happy with where he is.  But then he realizes that he was only hired because of political tokenism.  In an act of supreme character, Mac walks away from a job where is only valued because of his race and returns to the job where he valued because of who he is.

Robinson was an excellent actor that should have been a much bigger star.  He could flip from comedy to drama at the drop of a hat and without losing any credibility.  Night Court not only showed this acting range, but he had moments to show his musical ability as well.  He is the second regular cast member to pass away since the show went off the air, the first was star Harry Anderson.

I know very little about Robinson's personal life, but I do know that at one point he was discerning a vocation to Christian ministry.

I will be grateful for the way his artistic talent moved me.  

Eternal rest grant unto Him, O Lord.

Rest in Peace, Charles Robinson

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