Meshach Taylor, 67, an Actor On TV’s ‘Designing Women’


Meshach Taylor, the actor best known as the friendly colleague of four Southern women on the popular sitcom “Designing Women,” died on Saturday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 67.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Dede Binder, who said he had had cancer for some time.

Mr. Taylor played Anthony Bouvier, an ex-convict who starts as a deliveryman and eventually becomes a partner at an interior design firm in Atlanta, on “Designing Women,” which ran on CBS from 1986 to 1993. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1989 for his role on the show.

In a career that spanned more than three decades, Mr. Taylor appeared in films, on television and onstage. He was prominently featured in the 1987 film “Mannequin” and on the television shows “Dave’s World” and “Buffalo Bill.” On Broadway, he played Lumiere, the talking candlestick, in “Beauty and the Beast” in 1998.

“Designing Women” centered on the feisty Sugarbaker sisters, played by Dixie Carter and Delta Burke, who run the company, and their co-workers, played by Annie Potts and Jean Smart. Mr. Taylor said that his role had initially been a one-time guest spot in the first season, but the producers liked the energy between him and the sisters.

“They said, ‘There’s something happening here that we want to try to expand on,’ ” he told the television host Wendy Williams in 2011.

The role grew, and he remained on the show for all seven seasons — longer, it turned out, than two of the four original stars, Ms. Burke and Ms. Smart, who both left in 1991.

Mr. Taylor was born on April 11, 1947, in Boston. His parents were both college professors. He performed in a national touring company of “Hair” and in Chicago with the Goodman Theater and the Organic Theater Company.

In the late 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles, where, he later said, he once lived in his car while he went to auditions. His first film was the 1978 horror movie “Damien: Omen II.” In 1985, he played Jim, the runaway slave, in a stage version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” at the Goodman Theater.

Mr. Taylor memorably played Hollywood, a flamboyantly fashionable department store worker, in “Mannequin,” the story of a man (Andrew McCarthy) who falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life (Kim Cattrall). He played the same character in the 1991 sequel, “Mannequin: On the Move.”

Over the years he appeared as a guest star on several television shows, including two recent episodes of “Criminal Minds.”

Mr. Taylor is survived by his wife, Bianca Ferguson; four children; and four grandchildren.

On “Designing Women,” Mr. Taylor, the only main cast member who was African-American (and male), often addressed the issue of race in the modern South. In one episode, Ms. Burke’s character, Suzanne, mentioned “Gone With the Wind,” asking the room, “Don’t you just love that period of history?” His character, Anthony, replied, “Actually, my people didn’t enjoy the Civil War all that much.”

The comedian David Steinberg, one of the show’s directors, praised Mr. Taylor to People magazine in 1992. “Meshach is as strong as any of the women,” he said. “He never spills over into shtick — and he never misses a laugh line.”  



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