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Cherlynne Theresa “Lynne” Thigpen (December 22, 1948 – March 12, 2003) was an Americanmarker stage and television actress.

Early life

Thigpen was born and raised in Joliet, Illinoismarker, and obtained a degree in teaching. She taught English in high school briefly in her hometown, while studying theatre and dance at the University of Illinoismarker, then in 1971, she moved to New York Citymarker to begin her work as a stage actress.



She had a long and prolific theater career, appearing initially in musicals such as Godspell, The Night that Made America Famous, The Magic Show, Working, Tintypes and An American Daughter (for which she won her Tony Award for her portrayal of Dr. Judith Kaufman in 1997).


Her first feature film role was Godspell (1973) co-starring opposite Victor Garber and David Haskell. She appeared notably as the omniscient Radio DJ in The Warriors, and the mother of an expelled student in Lean on Me, a story of famous American principal Joe Louis Clark. She also played the Second President of the world council in Bicentennial Man (1999). Her last film was Anger Management (2003) starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson (which was released only a month following her death and paid tribute to her in the end credits).


Thigpen was perhaps best known for playing "The Chief" of the ACME Detective Agency in the long-running PBS children's geography game show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, which involves both education and comedy, and, on occasion, musical performance. She was the only World cast member to star in Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. She also appeared on another children's show, Bear in the Big Blue House, voicing the character of Luna, the moon.

She also appeared in many other television series during her career, most notably her recurring role as Grace Keefer on the ABC daytime drama All My Children and a supporting role as Ella Mae Farmer, a statistics clerk for the Washington, D.C.marker police department, on the CBS crime drama The District (for which she played the role until her death in early 2003). She has guest starred in episodes of Gimme A Break!, L.A. Law, Law & Order, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Thirtysomething.


She appeared in radio skits of the Garrison Keillor program A Prairie Home Companion. Her dusky voice was also heard on over 20 books on tape. The books were often works with socially relevant themes.


On March 12 2003, Thigpen was found dead at her home in Marina del Rey, Californiamarker, by a friend; she had died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54. She had been complaining of headaches for several days. Drugs and foul play were ruled out by the coroner's autopsy, which found "acute cardiac dysfunction, non-traumatic systemic and spontaneous intraventricular hemorrhage and hemorrhage in the brain". She was interred at Elmhurst Cemetery, Joliet, Illinois.


When Thigpen died, The District had a funeral for her character in the third season finale as well. Her untimely death led to a four-year hiatus of Bear in the Big Blue House.

A planned film version was also put on hold. According to journalist Tara Mooney (Shadow), who was interviewed by Ray D'Arcy on Irelandmarker's Today FM in 2005, "the crew's hearts just weren't in it anymore" two years after Thigpen's death. Friends established a non-profit foundation, The Lynne Thigpen - Bobo Lewis Foundation, to help young actresses and actors learn how to survive and succeed in New York theater, to mentor the next generation of Broadwaymarker stars.

She was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna the moon in Bear in the Big Blue House, but lost to Jeff Corwin. Her last film, Anger Management (2003), starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson, was dedicated to her memory.



  • Godspell: 1973
  • The Night That Made America Famous: 1975
  • The Magic Show: 1976
  • Working
  • But Never Jam Today
  • Tintypes: 1980-81
  • August Wilson's Fences: 1988
  • Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena: Obie award, 1992
  • A Month of Sundays
  • Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter:1996-7 (Tony Award 1997)
  • Jar the Floor






Awards and honors

Awards won
  • 1997 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – An American Daughter

Awards nominated

  • Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet, IL


  1. Muppet Central Articles - Tributes: Lynne Thigpen
  2. Lynne Thigpen School

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