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Kene Holliday

Kene Holliday, a native of Amityville, has been writing, teaching, acting and performing on stages large and small for over forty years and now leads the Moto Theatre Works Company currently located in Hempstead. (Feb. 13, 2012) (Photo by Nancy Borowick)

Kenneth Earl “Kene” Holliday (born June 25, 1949) is an American character actor of stage, film, and television, best known for his role as Ben Matlock’s original private investigator, Tyler Hudson, on Andy Griffith’s hit television series Matlock and as Sgt Curtis Baker on Carter Country from 1977 until 1979. Yet it is as the voice of the character Roadblock in the 1980s cartoon series, G.I. Joe, and 1987’s G.I. Joe: The Movie that cements him in Cult Faction. Only ten characters in the original series had more lines than Roadblock. Though interestingly, although Holliday has a number of acting credits to his name has only this role, to date, on his voice over resume.

Roadblock was one of the first few Joes to run around in little more than a tank-top to show off his muscles. Course there’s Quick-Kick too, but that guy was nuts enough to run around fighting barefoot and shirtless so you can’t count his fashion sense against him. At that time, a bald black guy was a unique look so I think it’s safe to assume that Roadblock was the inspiration for The Rock.

gijoe 23
As you can see from the cover of comic book #23, Roadblock was a towering, intimidating guy. He had to be in order to carry the massive Browning .50 calibre machine gun he totes around like a pistol and Kene Holiiday’s voice fits him perfectly. According to his backstory the big muscle-man of the team primarily joined the team so he could be a chef.  It’s such a fun contradiction from what was the norm for a team’s black character at the time and helped to give Roadblock an outside the box personality. Although there wasn’t much hint of Roadblock as a black Gordon Ramsey in GI Joe: The movie, the characters outlandish personality did survive.

Roadblock had one of the more unique traits on the show as he typically spoke in rhymes. He was as far I am aware the first character in any cartoon to utter the phrase ‘I don’t need to see clear to fracture your rear.’

In G.I. Joe: The Movie, Roadblock has a prominent role. He leads a team of Joes in pursuit of the fleeing Cobra after their initial attack on G.I. Joe in an attempt to steal the Broadcast Energy Transmitter. Roadblock and Joes follow Cobra into Cobra-La, where they are captured. During an escape attempt the other Joes are re-captured, with only Roadblock managing to escape, but not before being temporarily blinded by Nemesis Enforcer. Aided by the slowly mutating Cobra Commander, Roadblock escapes Cobra-La and wanders through the snow with Cobra Commander before eventually being found by a G.I. Joe search party. With his vision restored, he is then able to lead the Joes back to Cobra-La’s ice dome, where the final battle between Cobra-La and G.I. Joe takes place.

In early 1986, while providing the voice of Roadblock, Kene Holliday received a phone call from producers Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove for their first choice as Matlock’s original private investigator, Tyler Hudson, on Matlock, opposite TV veteran Andy Griffith.

“At 9 o’clock that morning I was another struggling guy trying to do voiceovers, and by 9 p.m. that evening I was well on my way to prosperity and fame again,”

Holliday, who knew all the characters from The Andy Griffith Show, but watched the sitcom occasionally, had accepted the role, which shot him to TV stardom. For his three seasons, he had a wonderful on- and off-screen chemistry with Griffith, when Griffith was too difficult to work with himself. Also, Holliday had travelled with Griffith, almost everywhere, while filming. Early in the third season, Holliday’s behaviour became erratic. In addition to arriving at work late, his drug and alcohol abuse had finally caught up with him, as Holliday was sent to rehab on an outpatient basis, which made his schedule more difficult, yet missed 7 episodes altogether. Even though he was 3 months sober, he left the show and was replaced by Clarence Gilyard, who played a similar role until he left in 1993.

FAME may be fleeting, but Kene Holliday didn’t give up easily. After a roller-coaster career that dipped with bouts of drug and alcohol abuse and swerved into an evangelical ministry, he earned the best-actor award from the Newport International Film Festival for his role in the independent film “Great World of Sound,” distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

In the partly unscripted movie, directed by Craig Zobel, Holliday plays Clarence, music producer-in-training. With his buddy Martin, played by Pat Healy, he travels the South, seeking to give undiscovered musicians a chance to realize their dreams in exchange for a small fee. But the company they work for is scamming everyone, including the producers, who are searching for their own moral compass.

These days he is a spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, does storytelling, mentors school groups and still goes on auditions. He was now been sober for 24 years.

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