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Clark Johnson – Biography

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Clark Johnson, actor,
Clark Johnson publicity still from The Wire. Click to enlarge.

Born in Philadelphia to interracial parents, Clark Johnson arrived in Montreal with his sister Taborah at the age of 15. He attended Concordia University and Eastern Michigan University on a partial athletic scholarship for football. He attended several other universities including Loyola and the University of Ottawa before ending up at the Ontario College of Art as a film major. Johnson was drafted by the CFL and even played stints with the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburg Steelers before he decided to make a go of it in the film and television business.

In 1980 he broke into the business as a special effects technician on David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and The Dead Zone. He began appearing in front of the camera with small parts in films like Nowhere to Hide, Adventures in Babysitting and Colors before securing a recurring part in the popular Canadian cop series Night Heat (1985–88). In 1993, Johnson became part of the original cast of the critically-acclaimed series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–99) playing Detective Meldrick Lewis for all seven seasons and the reunion movie, as well as directing several episodes. Johnson had a passion to direct, which he first expressed by directing music videos for his younger Canadian-born sister, jazz singer Molly Johnson.

His Hollywood break came when he was chosen to direct S.W.A.T., the big-screen version of 1970s television police drama starring Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell, which was a box office hit in 2003. His extensive television directorial credits include La Femme Nikita, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, The Wire (including the series pilot), The Shield (Primetime Emmy nomination for best director), Sleeper Cell, The Walking Dead, Flashpoint and Homeland. His Canadian film acting credits include Iron Eagle II, Rude (Genie nomination for best supporting actor), Soul Survivor, The Planet of Junior Brown, Love Come Down, The Limb Salesman, Nurse.Fighter.Boy (Genie nomination for best actor), You Might As Well Live and Defendor.

In 2011, Johnson was in Toronto to direct the pilot for King, a police drama starring Amy Price-Francis as a no-nonsense cop. It ran for just one season. More recent credits include the hit US series Homeland as well as Lost Girl, The Walking Dead, Breakout Kings, Copper, and more. In short, now into his third decade in front of or behind the camera, Clark Johnson remains busy and in demand. What`s in the works? In 2010 he told The Globe and Mail, “Right now I`m working on a movie about Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian journalist who took on his government over oil in that country. I’m also writing my parents’ life story, which is an ongoing project. My parents were peaceniks and civil-rights activists. We moved to Canada from the U.S. because they were an interracial couple, and that wasn’t easy at the time. It’s a great story, but getting a movie made is so freaking hard.”

Molly Johnson, Clark Johnson,
Molly & Clark Johnson at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards © 2018 R.A.Lucas.
At the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards, Clark Johnson was honoured with The Earle Grey Award, which is presented to an actor or actress whose body of work in Canadian television has had an exceptional impact on the strength of the industry at home and around the world. He was accompanied by his sister.

Go to Clark Johnson’s filmography.

Northernstars logo imageThis biography was written for Northernstars.ca by Wyndham Wise and is Copyright © 2018. It may not be reproduced without prior written permission. Click here for more about copyright.