Magnum, PI actor Roger E Mosley dies aged 83

<span>Photograph: William Nation/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: William Nation/Getty Images

Roger E Mosley, who played the helicopter pilot and Tom Selleck’s friend Theodore “TC” Calvin on all eight seasons of Magnum, PI, died Sunday at the age of 83.

The actor, a regular of blaxploitation films such as 1973’s The Mack, died from injuries incurred in a car accident three days earlier, his daughter Ch-a Mosley told the Hollywood Reporter.

Mosley’s most prominent film role was as blues and folk singer Huddie Ledbetter in Gordon Parks’s Leadbelly in 1976, which critic Roger Ebert called in his review “one of the best biographies of a musician I’ve ever seen”.

Mosley also appeared in several blaxploitation films, including Hit Man (1972), Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973) and Darktown Strutters (1975). In The Greatest (1977), the 6ft 2in Mosley played boxer Sonny Liston, who got beat up by Muhammad Ali, playing himself.

Born on 18 December 1938, Roger Earl Mosley grew up in the Imperial Courts project in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, raised by a single mother, Eloise.

He studied acting under Raymond St Jacques at the Mafundi Institute, a community arts school in Watts, and made his first television appearance on a 1971 episode of CBS’s Cannon, followed by small roles in The New Centurions and Hickey & Boggs. He appeared in 158 of Magnum, PI’s 162 episodes, which aired between December 1980 and May 1988.

According to Mosley, the white actor Gerald McRaney was set to play the part of TC Calvin, who owned a one-person local helicopter charter and often flew Selleck’s Thomas Magnum around Hawaii for various cases. But producers wanted a person of color for the main cast, which also included Larry Manetti and John Hillerman; Selleck suggested Mosley based on a prison film they made together, Terminal Island (1973).

“We could never mourn such an amazing man,” his daughter Ch-a wrote on Facebook. “He would HATE any crying done in his name. It is time to celebrate the legacy he left for us all. I love you daddy. You loved me too. My heart is heavy but I am strong. I will care for mommy, your love of almost 60 years. You raised me well and she is in good hands. Rest easy.”

Mosley is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Antoinette, son Brandonn, grandson Austin and many nieces and nephews.