Author: Institute of Caribbean Studies | Date: 02 November 2018
Comedian, actor, and playwright the Hon. Oliver Samuels O.D. will one of several honourees at the Caribbean-American Heritage Awards Gala, to be held on Friday, November 16, 2018, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington DC.
Oliver Samuels widely considered to be one of Jamaica's luminaries was born on November 4, 1948, in Harmony Hall, St. Mary. He grew up on a banana plantation where his father worked as a casual labourer and his mother sold items on the estate. His involvement in drama began at the age of seven when he and the other children on the plantation would sing and recite poetry on Friday nights.
It was to be the beginning of a lifetime love for all things dramatic for the poor boy who made good by adopting his mother's belief that with hard work he could make it out of poverty. Samuels went to the Salvation Army School, Rose Bank Primary and then attended the high school in Highgate, after which he went to the Dinthill Technical High School which he says offered no scope for the development of his innate dramatic creativity.
After school, he worked at a couple of jobs, first at the Orange River Agricultural Station, then in Kingston to which he eventually moved, on the encouragement of his friends.
He enrolled in the Jamaica Theatre School from 1971 to 1973 where he participated in various productions. His first play was "A Raisin in the Sun", in which he was a voice off stage. His role as "the coolie" in the play "Servant of Two Masters" came under heavy criticism from Gleaner critic, the late Henry Milner who commented that Samuels was "laboring under a misconception".
This statement made him even more determined to prove the critics wrong. His popularity increased when he appeared in his first pantomime "Music Boy" and his performance as the character "Moon Drops" impressed even his former critic. Several roles followed thereafter, and Oliver Samuels soon became a household name.
He has appeared in no fewer than 13 national pantomimes playing major roles. His pantomime credits include "Music Boy", "Queenie's Daughter", "Dickance for Fippance", "Hail Columbus", "The Witch", "Johnny Reggae", "Ginneral B", "The Pirate Princess", "Trash", "The Hon. All Purpose" and "The Dancing Princess".
Samuels has also appeared in 20 other productions including overseas productions such as "The Fight Against Slavery", the British Broadcasting Corporation's television series which aired in 1974. There were other BBC productions such as "My Father Son Son Johnson", "Chef" and "Brothers and Sisters".
More success and accolades followed when he was given his own television series, including "Oliver", "Oliver at Large" and "Large and in Charge". An album with the well-known single "Oliver Yu Large" was also produced, and has done well on the local and overseas market.
His more recent acting roles include the soap opera "Royal Palm Estate" in which he played "Son-Son". He has also appeared in Canadian, Italian and German films.
Presently Samuels is dedicating his time writing his own theatrical material. His latest piece "56 EAST" AVENUE" opened in Miramar on September one to very enthusiastic response.
For his outstanding body of work and for bringing "Brand Jamaica" to the performing arts locally and internationally, Samuels will be awarded the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caribbean American Heritage Awards Gala which has as its theme, "A Celebration of Excellence and Service"...
Other honorees will include Reggae Foundation Grammy Winning Inner Circle Band widely known for their song "Bad Boys", Jamaican Microbiologist and current President of the J.Craig Venter Institute, Dr. Karen Nelson; Rising Star of the Opera, Alyson Cambridge, who is of Guyanese heritage; and Sherry Herbert, Vice President of Black Enterprise, who hails from Nevis.