Rest in Peace, Yaphet Kotto

By Brian Moakley Mar 17, 2021

When I was five years old, I bought two packs of movie trading cards. I loved movies as a kid and movie trading cards were my substitute for baseball cards. One package was the recently released Superman movie, starring Christopher Reeve. The other was for the sci-fi horror film, Alien.

In the resulting years, I’ve grown to be a huge fan of the series so, by extension, Yaphet Kotto (technician Dennis Parker) has always been apart of my life.

I don’t know much about Yaphet. He was a couple of years younger than my father. Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, his own father was Crown Prince of the Royal Bell family of Cameroon. He started acting in Othello and kept a steady pace until the nineties. He tended to place police officers and FBI agents probably due to his size and stature.

Besides Alien, his other big role was the villain, Mr. Big in the Jams Bond movie, Live and Let Die. I don’t remember much about that movie, but my oh my, does Yaphet have a killer smile.

Yaphet Kotto in Live and Let die

I’m guessing, like most actors, he didn’t think much of the Alien gig. It was a paid job with (hopefully) a decent salary. Little did he know he’d perform in a landmark film that continues to resonate to this day.

In 2014, he was able to reprise his role as Parker in the game, Alien Isolation. Throughout the Sevastopol station, you can find audio logs from the original crew of the Nostromo. The actors, thirty years later, recorded new dialogue for the game.

You can hear Yaphet give his audio report at 2:04

Yaphet recites a few lines, but like the rest of the cast, you can hear all the subsequent years in his voice. Still, it was a great cast reunion, albeit a short one.

One other reason I think of Yaphet, which has nothing to do with the Alien series, is that he worked in an incredibly racist America (mind you, it still is). Yaphet was very dark-skinned and I wonder about his struggles as a black actor. He was planning to write a memoir at the time of his death, but now that’s lost. It’s a shame. I would have liked to have read his story.

Here’s to you, Yaphet. Thank you for the wonderful entertaining years. May you sleep well and in peace.

By Brian Moakley

Brian Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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