Obscure Black C-Listers: Phill Lewis
Phill Lewis’ familiar face has been seen in roles ranging from frat boy to pimp to teacher and back. He’s got a corny, straight-edge, wholesomeness to him that can turn on a dime to play edgier, meaner characters, but he also has a comedic streak. Born in Uganda to a U.S. Ambassador father, his child acting career boasted guest spots on sitcoms including Amen, small parts in movies such as Heathers and City Slickers, and a recurring role as Kappa Lamda Nu pledgemaster Sam Lee on A Different World. Lewis even had his own very short-lived series Teech, a confusing and silly outing in which he played a bright-eyed music teacher to nondescript gaggle of white prep school kids. I’d be a failure as a black pop culture writer if I didn’t also mention the tv-movie Brother Future, where Phill Lewis plays an around-the-way tough kid who gets hit by a car and wakes up during slavery days, Denmark Vesey played by Carl Lumbly and all. Lewis suddenly hit personal legal troubles — he was convicted of manslaugher in 1991 after his drunk driving killed a woman and served one year in prison as a result. One would think that a few years out of the spotlight would seriously slow his career but by the mid-nineties Lewis was back in the spotlight from the ground up, returning to television with parts on Living Single, Sparks, and the made-for-tv landmark Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored in 1995. Everyone rolls their eyes at me when I profess my love for Shawn and Marlon Wayans but Phill Lewis certainly cannot front on the paychecks from his five year-run as pimped out T.C. on The Wayans Bros., his first major role following his stint in prison. After that show was cancelled, black sitcoms started dying out but thanks to his “family friendliness,” Lewis continued to work at a breakneck pace. Most notably he scored a recurring role on Scrubs and plays the cash cow character Mr. Moseby on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck. For those of you not down with Disney, those are the immensely popular Jonas Brothers shows that are sure to finance his retirement. He also has a few Disney family movies in the pipeline and is only forty years old, so that retirement probably won’t be anytime soon!