How Charles S. Dutton Who Served Jail Time and Went On to Become A Hollywood Star

Charles S. Dutton has been through a lot in his quest for greatness. He quickly moved from prison to Hollywood after spending almost eight years in jail, following a crime of manslaughter. Inside the inspiring life of the icon.

Charles S. Dutton has impressed many supporters with his superb acting in various television shows and movies. The 70-year-old veteran actor is best known for his character Roc Emerson, a good-natured Baltimore trash worker trying to make life better for himself and his family in the 1991 TV series, “Roc.”

Apart from the three-season sitcom, the star actor was also recognized for his distinguished performance in the 1990 play, “The Piano Lesson,” which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor.

Dutton is a talented actor, but his directing skills are also very commendable. Many admire him for his directing skills in a drama series close to his heart, “The Corner.”

The movie earned him his first Emmy nomination, which he eventually won. While giving his speech, he expressed gratitude to the cast and other personalities, who ensured the series was a success.


The Hollywood icon’s life may appear to be glamorous, but he has been through his fair share of struggles on his road to success.

Dutton was the middle child of three kids. His parents were not in the best marriage, and when the actor was five years old, his dad and mom called it quits. Sutton’s father, a truck driver, took custody of his kids and ensured to give them a comfortable life.

As a child, Dutton, nicknamed Roc, already got into rock fights in his neighborhood. He loved leading riots and often sustained injuries to his head, which led him to the name “Rockhead.” His nickname was shortened to Roc when he began boxing as an amateur.

When Dutton was only 16 years old, he got into a fight, which started a conflict. The young teenager was a trained boxer and ended up killing his opponent.

Not long after, he was charged to court for manslaughter and received a sentence of five years in Jessup correctional institute, Maryland.

After serving his time, Dutton was released but soon went back to prison on the counts of robbery and weapon charges. While in prison, the actor continued with his rebellious lifestyle. He got into a fight with a guard, and his actions earned him some days in solitary confinement.

Dutton’s experience in solitary confinement was a terrible one. He was locked up in a five-by-seven-foot cell with a sink without a commode or bed.

The cell was often flooded with sewage by correctional officers through a hole. Prisoners who were kept in isolation were only given food once every three days and one book to read.


While serving his punishment in isolation, a book of plays sent by a girlfriend on the outside kept the actor busy. He had become an ardent reader, reading only leftist literature. However, he accidentally grabbed the book of plays while he was hauled off to isolation. This book changed his entire life.

After reading one of the plays, “Day of Absence” by Douglas Turner Ward, Dutton was intrigued and developed an interest in staging a drama troupe.

Thus, after spending a few years in prison and his release, he abandoned his life on the streets to pursue his new dream. He got admitted into Towson State University, where he graduated with a degree in Theater Arts.


Shortly after his graduation, Dutton sought to know more, and with advice from his drama coach, he applied to Yale drama school and was accepted. His love for theatre eventually led him to Hollywood, landing roles in many movies and series, including “Roc.”

Often Dutton was asked about the secret to his change and he explained it was not related to rehabilitation but discovering his humanity and realizing that everyone had a short time to live. He has paid deaf ears to negative comments and drawn inspiration from pressure faced in Hollywood.

Being more experienced in stage acting, Dutton once revealed he had jitters when filming the first episode of “Roc.” He had doubts about receiving directions from the series’ directors and needed more advice on being a good TV actor. He said,

“I guess they are used to TV actors. Stage actors need advice. They give you the jokes and the set-up. You are out there on your own.”

At some point, the director questioned his choice of signing a TV contract, but he believed his role on “Roc” was a stepping stone to greatness.

According to Dutton, he had no intentions of coming to Hollywood to be an ordinary actor who was doing financially well, but he wanted more. He tried to use the opportunities to set things in place for his own production company, which he did.

After appearing on “Roc,” Dutton bagged other acting roles in movies like “Rudy,” “A Time To Kill,” “Menace II,” and “Powers,” where he served as Captain Cross, the head of a homicide department. He also paid rapt attention to producing and directing shows.


Apart from his onscreen performances, Dutton was also known for his previous union with American actress Debbie Morgan. The pair tied the knot in 1989, but after five years of marital bliss, they divorced.

Irrespective of their split and differences, Morgan still spoke highly of Dutton during interviews. Once as a guest on OWN, she spoke candidly about what attracted her to the actor, despite his criminal records.

The “All My Children” star noted that when she became aware of the life Dutton had led, she found it seductive. Sadly, the marriage did not last. Speaking about the reason for their divorce, Morgan made a surprising revelation. She noted that Dutton said to her:

“I really never could have made you happy because I’m not worth it to be anybody’s husband.”

Despite his criminal records, Dutton loved his ex-wife, and as confirmed by Morgan, he was never physically abusive.


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