Bernie Casey passed away at 78 years of age on Tuesday, following a short illness. He was admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he passed away, according to his representative. Casey was beloved by millions for his artistic endeavors, which included painting as well as acting, and for his earlier football career.
From NFL Player To Actor, Bernie Casey Was A True Star
When Bernie Casey retired from his position as a Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, his fans might have feared that they would never hear from him again. Fortunately, Bernie had other plans, throwing himself full-time into acting. In fact, one of his earliest films had him playing a football star for another team. As the Chicago Bears player J.C. Caroline, Casey starred in the ABC made-for-television movie, Brian’s Song, which told the story of a rare friendship between Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gayle Sayers (Billy Dee Williams).
Following that role, Bernie continued his rise in Hollywood with a series of blaxploitation films, such as Cleopatra Jones and Boxcar Bertha. One of his most revered roles may be as a character largely based on Black Panther Party member George Jackson in 1977’s Brothers. That film recreated the story behind the 1971 prison breakout, which resulted in Jackson’s death.
In 1997, Bernie Casey took on the roles of director and writer for The Dinner. Casey’s foray into filmmaking revolved around a dinner party for three black men, who spend an evening discussing everything from slavery to homophobia. Bernie’s first love would always be acting, however, and he never passed up the chance to play an interesting character. He appeared in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Sharky’s Machine (1981), and Another 48 Hrs. (1990)
“From that point on, it’s a downward spiral into the abyss of non-consideration and obscurity and a lot of other things that they never recover from,” Bernie Casey once said in explaining his switch from football to acting. “I want to think in my instance, it’s the beginning. There’s a lot of life left after 32.”
As for his artwork, Casey is just as respected for his paintings as he was for his sportsmanship and his acting. He received an honorary doctorate from The Savannah College of Art and Design, where he also maintained a position as chairman of the board. Bernie spent much of his life serving as an advocate in support of the arts.