In 1991, the Fox network had only been on air for five years. As a competitor to the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), Fox programming contained unconventional shows that pushed the envelope; one of which was the American comedy drama, Roc.
Created and directed by Stan Daniels, Roc debuted on the upstart television network on August 25, 1991. Starring Charles S. Dutton as the show’s title character, it initially began as a traditional television sitcom, chronicling the life experiences of Charles “Roc” Emerson, a Baltimore garbage collector who lived with an admirable amount of integrity.
What set Roc apart from many other situational comedies, is its more dramatic tone – something the series adopted as time progressed. It featured social commentaries on gang violence, drug usage, and the Black struggle in America. Alongside Dutton, the show’s stellar cast – which included Ella Joyce, Garrett Morris, and Rocky Carroll (just to name a few) – helped to provide unforgettable television moments.
Unfortunately, two of Roc’s key figures passed away after the show’s final episode in May of 1994. Carl Gordon, who portrayed Andrew “Pop” Emerson, Roc’s wisdom-filled father, died in 2010; and Dwight Myers – better known as Heavy D – who played Roc’s friend and co-worker Calvin Hendricks, departed in 2011.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Roc’s debut, we look back on the show’s stars – then and now.
Charles “Roc” Emerson
Charles S. Dutton portrayed the show’s title character, a sanitation worker who although was a reluctant spender, would extend himself in any capacity for his family.
Charles S. Dutton
After Roc, Charles S. Dutton went on to further his stellar acting career. The Tony Award-nominated actor went on to play in Rudy, A Time to Kill and Menace II Society. He also won two Emmy Awards in 2002 and 2003 for his guest roles in The Practice and Without a Trace.
Eleanor Carter Emerson
Played by Ella Joyce, the TV wife of Roc was a night shift nurse and the rock of the Emerson household.
Since the show’s finale, Joyce has been in TV shows from NewsRadio to My Wife & Kids, and films such as Set It Off. She also wrote the book “Kink Phobia: Journey Through a Black Woman’s Hair.”
Joey was a musician but gained a reputation as Roc’s freeloading, trumpet-playing brother.
After ROC, actor and director Rocky Carroll went on to play on other long-term series such as Chicago Hope, NCIS and its spinoffs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans.
In Season 3 of the show, 11-year-old Sheila Hendricks moved in with the Emersons after her father went to prison.
In Season 2, Loretta Devine appeared in five episodes of the sitcom as the hilarious “Cynthia.”
Known for her numerous roles across stage, television and film, Devine has maintained an acting career spanning over 30 years. With stellar performances in Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife, Lottery Ticket and Jumping the Broom, she has become one of Hollywood’s most bankable actresses.
The up-and-coming comedian and singer Jamie Foxx played Roc and Eleanor’s crazy, but loveable neighbor “Crazy George.”
After Roc, Jamie Foxx has become a household name with American audiences. He would go on to have a successful film and music career, winning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy. He now co-hosts Shazam with his daughter, Corinne.
Only appearing in Roc’s inaugural season, Garrett Morris was a standout in his portrayal of “Wiz.”
In what would be considered a legendary acting career, Morris starred in shows such as Martin, The Jamie Foxx Show and 2 Broke Girls. He has also appeared in episodes of ER, The Wayans Bros., This Is Us and Scandal.
Richard Roundtree garnered critical acclaim with his performance of Russell Emerson, Roc’s uncle, and Andrew Emerson’s brother.
Having already established himself as the iconic detective, Shaft, Roundtree has reprised his role in the 2000 and 2019 remakes of the film.
An important character during the show’s transition, Clifton Powell evoked various emotions from audience members as Andre Thompson, a powerful drug dealer who threatened the safety of Roc’s community.
Powell has had a prolific film and career after his breakout role as “Andre” in Roc. Playing alongside Dutton in 1993’s Menace II Society, he has also played in films like Dead Presidents, Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and Ray. He has been praised for his comedic performance as “Pinky” in the Friday series.
As a vigilante and neighborhood watch man Ronnie Paxton, this was the rapper Tone Loc’s first big acting gig.
Outside of having a lead voiceover role in C-Bear and Jamal, Tone Loc also appeared in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Chowder. He continues to perform is classic hits, “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Media” to this day.