Actress Olivia Cole was most famous for playing Chicken George’s wife Matilda in the 1977 miniseries “Roots.” Her starring performance in the series earned her an Emmy Award.
At the time, Cole was married to actor Richard Venture. Their marriage lasted for only 13 years, and after then Cole never remarried. However, Venture remarried twice afterward before his death in 2017. Find out more about him.
Venture was born on November 12, 1923, in New Jersey. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on aircraft carriers in the South Pacific during the Second World War.
In 1951, he made his Broadway debut in “Dinosaur Wharf,” which turned out to be his first of many appearances on the Great White Way.
Later, he became a member of the Arena Stage theatre company in Washington D.C. He was also a member of the Long Wharf theatre company in New Haven, Connecticut.
Venture starred in multiple films and television series in his lifetime. Indeed, he was a prolific character actor and was most known for portraying Peter Seller’s valet in Hal Ashby’s “Being There.” In 1980, he played a cop who killed himself in Steve McQueen’s last film, “The Hunter.”
He played Blair Brown’s father on the television series “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.” Venture also starred on “Seinfeld,” where he portrayed the dad of Jerry’s then-girlfriend. His character in the series was also an accountant and Elaine’s co-worker.
In Allan J. Pakula’s 1976 film, “All The President’s Men,” Venture played an assistant Metro editor. He became an American ambassador in 1982’s “Missing,” before portraying Al Pacino’s brother in the 1992 movie “Scent of a Woman.”
Venture had recurring roles in television shows like “Street Hawk,” “Falcon Crest,” “The Boys,” “Law & Order,” and “Mary Hartman.” He also had stints on “The Thorn Birds,” “L.A. Law,” “The Waltons,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and many more.
Despite not being a household name, Venture’s large volume of film and television series roles and his adaptability to the diverse roles he played stood him out among others. He died on December 19, 2017, in Chester, Connecticut. He was 94.
Venture was married four times in his lifetime. His first marriage was to Grayce Grant from 1950 to 1971, and they shared four children, Anthony, Kathy, Rebecca, and John.
After their divorce in 1971, Venture married for the second time to actress Olivia Cole, who became the stepmother to his four children.
Cole is famous for her role in the renowned miniseries “Roots,” for which she won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries in 1977, becoming the first African-American actress ever to do so.
Cole and Venture met at one of the regional theatres where they appeared. During their marriage, the couple jogged daily and played tennis together. Their marriage lasted for 13 years before their divorce in 1984.
Venture married for the third time to Lorraine Venture in 1984. However, they divorced in 1995. He married for the fourth and final time to Katherine Catalano in 2003 and remained with her until his death.
At the height of her “Roots” success in the late 1970s, Cole lamented the lack of opportunities for Black actors and actresses.
COLE’S LIFE AFTER DIVORCE FROM VENTURE
After her award-winning performance in “Roots,” Cole continued working for decades. She starred in another miniseries, “Backstairs at the White House,” for which she got an Emmy nomination.
She also starred in the Oprah Winfrey-produced miniseries, “The Women of Brewster Place.” She also appeared in the film “First Sunday,” which Tracy Morgan starred in.
In 1979, Cole played the role of the first Black maid to be employed on the presidential floor in the film “Backstairs,” which was based on a best-selling memoir.
She once spoke about the role and the movie, revealing that it offered a challenging role for an actress and not a Black actress. Cole cautioned people against thinking in terms of black and white but think in terms of who is best for something in terms of ability.
In 2016, Cole starred in a production of the 1995 play “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.” The production was held at the Long Wharf Theatre and Hartford Stage in Connecticut.
It told the story of two elderly sisters who grew up in the Jim Crow era. Cole played Sadie Delany while her co-star, Brenda Pressley, portrayed Bessie Delany.
Pressley described Cole, who she had known since the ’90s, as eccentric, spiritual, and devoted to her craft. She said the actress demanded her time to really sink into every moment she wanted to convey.
In 2016, Cole also starred in “Having Our Say,” a new “Roots” version, which was aired on the History Channel. She described it as a story every generation should know.
Cole was born on November 26, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her dad was a worker at Grumman Aircraft, while her mother was a tennis player and instructor. Her parents divorced after moving to New York City.
She graduated from Hunter College High School in New York City in 1960. Afterward, she attended Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where she studied drama.
From there, she got a scholarship to attend London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1964, she graduated from the Academy with honors. When Cole returned to America, she got a Master’s degree in theatre arts from the University of Minnesota in 1967.
In her last 35 years, Cole lived in San Miguel de Allende, a Mexican city with many expatriates and retirees. There, she formed a Shakespeare club and held readings of his 37 plays for 30 years.
Her close friend, Wendy Sievert, said Cole told her she had done her best work in the Shakespeare group because she learned a lot. Despite living alone in Mexico, she had a vibrant social life.
Cole died at 75 on January 19, 2018, 31 days after her ex-husband, Venture’s death. She did not own a cell phone and stayed away from technology but will never be forgotten thanks to her valuable impact in Hollywood.