R.I.P. Clarence Gilyard, James Trivette on 'Walker, Texas Ranger,' Theo in original 'Die Hard'
After 15 straight years on network television, Gilyard stepped back from acting to teach theater and screen acting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
With prominent roles both hit television series and films, the career of actor Clarence Gilyard won't soon be forgotten. Gilyard's death was announced Monday, Nov. 28, 2022 via a statement from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where he taught as an associate professor at the College of Fine Arts, according to CNN.
Gilyard wanted a career in show business after enrolling in acting classes at California State University, Long Beach. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gilyard eventually dropped out after making some progress outside of school.
His first television role came in 1981, appearing in a pair of episodes of Diff'rent Strokes. In 1982, Gilyard landed a recurring role during the crime drama CHiPs' final season, as Officer Ben Webster.
His career continued to pick up steam over the next handful of years with a spot appearance in Riptide, before playing naval officer Marcus "Sundown" Williams in Top Gun in 1986. Gilyard followed up that role with spots on TV series including Simon & Simon, 227 and The Facts of Life before getting his big break on the silver screen.
His role of computer hacker and tech expert Theo was a memorable one in the 1988 action thriller Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis. According to THR, Gilyard "revived his role as Theo for a well-received Die Hard battery commercial that aired during Super Bowl LV in February 2021."
He then landed the P.I. role of Conrad McMasters in Matlock, opposite of Andy Griffith. He played the part from seasons four to seven and returned as a guest in season eight.
In 1993, Gilyard joined forces with Chuck Norris as Ranger James Trivette in Walker, Texas Ranger, arguably his career-defining television role that lasted until 2001.
Gilyard changed paths in the mid-2000s. He began teaching at UNLV in 2006, suitably in screen and theater acting, according to THR. He also directed productions at the Nevada Conservatory Theatre. He told the Review-Journal he switched to teaching after he met his wife.
"We had kids, and my first two children didn't have me," Gilyard said. "I was out acting all the time - 15 straight years on network television. But the commitment to my family and my wife is paramount."
Nancy Uscher, Dean of UNLV's College of Fine Arts said in an Instagram statement Gilyard's students were "deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments."
The actor was 66.