Earl Cameron, Trailblazing ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Doctor Who’ Actor, Dies at 102

Widely considered “Britain’s first Black film star," the Bermuda-born actor made his onscreen debut in 1951's "Pool of London."
Earl Cameron
Earl Cameron
Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

Earl Cameron, widely considered “Britain’s first Black film star,” died in his sleep on Friday. He was 102.

Born in Bermuda on August 8, 1917, Cameron served in the British Merchant Navy before transitioning to acting. After some time as a stage actor on the West End, Cameron made his onscreen debut as the star of 1951’s “Pool of London,” a noir crime drama about the crew members of a merchant ship. In the film, Cameron played a sailor who romances a white woman (Susan Shaw).

“Pool of London” was credited as the first British film to feature an interracial relationship, as well as the first mainstream British film with a major role for a Black actor.

From there, Cameron went on to have major roles in both film and television, in projects like “Sapphire,” “The Dark Man,” “The Prisoner,” and Sidney Poitier’s “A Warm December.” In 1965, after originally being considered for the role of Quarrel in “Dr. No,” Cameron was cast as Pinder, James Bond’s assistant, in 1965’s “Thunderball.” Then in 1966, he starred as Williams in the “Doctor Who” fourth season serial “The Tenth Planet,” making him the first Black actor to play an astronaut onscreen.

In 2009, Cameron was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). His last major role was a small part in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” the following year.

“I never saw myself as a pioneer,” Cameron told The Guardian in 2017. “It was only later, looking back, that it occurred to me that I was.” He later told the BBC when he turned 100, “There’s a lot of talent out there and I think the British film industry would prosper by using more Black talent.”

Upon news of Cameron’s passing, there has been an outpouring of support from many touched and inspired by his work.

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