Earl Cameron, a boundary-breaking Black British actor, has died. He was 102 years old. Born in Bermuda, Cameron passed away in his sleep at his home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, in the United Kingdom on Friday, according to his friend, Martin Beckett. "He had sheltered himself because of COVID and had not really been keen on going out, he had chest problems," Beckett said (via the BBC). "He's a great character, very spiritual, very modest, we're going to miss him. He would never take on roles that demeaned people of color... he was often subject of a lot of racial prejudice, but he never really got angry about it. He pitied people that couldn't accept him."
Cameron made his screen debut in 1951 when roles for Black actors were scarce and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2009. He appeared in the James Bond movie Thunderball in 1965. He was one of the first Black actors to appear in Doctor Who, in the serial "The Tenth Planet" in 1966.
The James Bond social media account tweeted after the news broke. "We are sorry to hear that Earl Cameron, who played Pinder in Thunderball, has passed away at the age of 102. Our thoughts are with his family at this time."
The Doctor Who Twitter account shared a similar statement. "We're sad to report the death of Earl Cameron, who starred in 'The Tenth Planet' and was one of the first black actors to forge a successful career in British film and television."
Cameron appeared in Neil Gaiman's television series Neverwhere. He also added his voice to the audio drama adaptation of Gaiman's novel Anansi Boys. Dirk Maggs, who directed that audiobook, shared a photo of himself with Cameron and Gaiman. He described Cameron as a "National treasure and fine actor."
Gaiman wrote a remembrance of Cameron on his blog. In it, he recalls working with Cameron on Neverwhere, "Earl had been a trailblazer as a performer on film and on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He had come to the UK from Jamaica during the Second World War, as a sailor, and had stayed, and become an actor. He was one of the first UK actors to 'break the color bar', one of the first black actors in Doctor Who, a mainstay of cinema and television, always acting with grace and moral authority. Now we were fortunate enough to have him and his compassion and his gentle humor, acting away in monkish robes in muddy cellars, chilly vaults, and deserted churches, all over London."
Cameron's other roles include starring alongside Nicole Kidman in Seans Peen in the 2005 film The Interpreter. One of his last on-screen appearances was Christopher Nolan's 2010 feature film Inception, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page.
The BBC interview Cameron at the time of his 100th birthday. In the interview, he said, "There's a lot of talent out there and I think the British film industry would prosper by using more black talent."