|Best known for his muscular, sexually-charged performances in 70's Blaxploitation movies, Ernest Malone was not always the menacing, physically imposing presence that audiences came to know. In fact, Malone has described his childhood self as "a scrawny kid who liked to write science fiction stories and got beat up a lot". It wasn't until junior year of high school, when a sympathetic teacher introduced Malone to weight lifting, that the young man shed his nerdy image and began attracting the women. Attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, he majored in English and played football for several seasons before he was sidelined by a knee injury. Restless for a new extracurricular pursuit, Malone turned to the college's drama department. Within a matter of weeks, he had won the lead in a student production of Macbeth and made the decision to pursue acting professionally.
After graduation, Malone briefly toured the US and Europe as a model in the Obsidian Magazine Fashion Ensemble before enrolling in the National Negro Theatre Workshop Program in 1968. Several years later the struggling down-on-his-luck actor auditioned for a low budget black action movie directed by B-movie legend Grammar Haig, Jr; the film was Sophocles Brown and he won the lead. The movie catapulted him to stardom and led to two successful sequels The Return of Sophocles Brown and Goin' Down on Sophocles Brown (a single entendre that amazingly slipped right by the censors). Malone -- with his tough, sexy, b-a-a-dass image -- became a role model for black youth and a cross-cultural icon, appearing on the covers of not only Jet and Ebony but also mainstream publications like Time, Newsweek and Psychology Today.
Malone would go on to star in any number of blaxploitation classics, including Lance Towers, Lance Goes South, and Harlem Heist, but the classically trained actor was becoming increasingly frustrated with the undemanding nature of these roles and decided to make a surprising career detour into television. This apparent step down from his movie career becomes a great deal more explicable when one considers that UBC President Larry Rubin pitched the Dr. Pibb role to Malone as a "worldly Shakespeare-spouting poet-warrior of the streets". In fact, Rubin was only luring the actor into a contract by telling him what he knew he wanted to hear. Although Dr. Pibb was not the standard-issue embarassingly campy Huggy Bear-style pimp, he wasn't exactly an eloquent ghetto bard either. But the character was revolutionary for television in one regard -- he was a revolutionary. Dr. Pibb was one of the few African-American characters on TV that preyed upon rather than down-played whites' greatest fears about blacks: he was proud, angry and out to even the score. And, unlike George Jefferson, he was fully capable of snapping a man in two. Sadly, it was a characteristic that was sanitized out of the character in Kresky's final season.
In 1980, Malone emerged from the smoking wreckage of Kresky only to find himself between a rock and a hard place. The blaxpoitation genre was essentially dead and mainstream cinema just wasn't interested in him. He continued work in television and regional theater, but found he wasn't making enough money to comfortably support his family -- during Kresky he had married Tracey Wallace, his make-up artist on the show, and fathered three children. On the horns of a major financial dilemma, Malone made the surprising decision to switch careers, yet again. In 1983, with money he had borrowed from former co-star Ronald Dean Whitney, he opened a small restaurant in Santa Monica, appropriately named Malone's. Today, Malone's is one of LA's hippest eateries, famous for its fine eclectic cuisine and casually elegant atmosphere. He recently opened a sister restaurant in Santa Barbara and has plans in the works for several more.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of public interest in Malone, mostly due to a number of riveting small performances in independent features like The Reference Librarian and Putting Chloe Down, and the actor seems to be poised on the edge of a Travolta-esque comeback. In fact, Quentin Tarantino has described him as "one of the finest actors of his generation" and is reportedly writing a screenplay with him in mind. One can only wonder what the future has in store for Malone.
Malone lives in Santa Barbara, California with his wife Tracey.Return to Supporting Characters Page Return to Kresky Home Page "The Official Kresky Homepage" © Timothy J. Madison 1997, 1999. All rights reserved.