Bill Nunn, (nee William Goldwyn Nunn III), the talented actor whose portrayal of Radio Raheem, the boombox-toting philosopher in Spike Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing” earned him critical acclaim, died Saturday, Sept 24, at 63, after a long struggle with cancer.
Nunn, the son of a well-known professional football scout, broke into the acting scene portraying a college student at a Black university in the 1988 film “School Daze,” also written and directed by Lee. But it was his role as Radio Raheem, carrying a boombox pumping out Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” through the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn) on the hottest day of summer and his poignant soliloquy delivered directly to the camera in which he critiques the endless battle between love and hate, that helped secure his reputation as an actor of the highest caliber.
The film’s stunning final scenes could be a snapshot from today’s urban streets as Radio Raheem is confronted by police officers and is subsequently choked to death. The action, which takes place in front of a crowd of his neighbors, incites the film’s wrenching conclusion. He went to appear in a variety of films including “New Jack City,” “Sister Act” and the “Spider-Man” trilogy. In 2004 he appeared in a Broadway revival of “Raisin in the Sun” as Bobo, alongside Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad and Sean Combs.
A frequent collaborator with Lee, he also appeared in his films “Mo’ Better Blues” and “He Got Game.” Lee referred to him on Saturday as “my dear friend, my dear Morehouse brother,” in reference to both attending the historic Atlanta college. Lee memorialized Nunn in a series of social media posts on Saturday, sharing the text of his “Do the Right Thing” soliloquy as well as pictures of him as Radio Raheem.