Reginald Vel Johnson
Born: August 16, 1952
Birthplace: New York, NY
Zodiac Sign: Leo
Career and Life
Reginald Vel Johnson is an American actor. He is best known for playing policeman characters such as Carl Winslow on the sitcom Family Matters, which ran from 1989 to 1998, and LAPD Sgt. Al Powell in the films Die Hard and Die Hard 2. He played air traffic controller, Bob Abbot, in the 2012 film, Air Collision.
Vel Johnson on August 16, 1952, in the Queens borough of New York City, the son of Eva, a nurse’s aid, and Dan, a hospital attendant. His father left the family, which included Reginald's brother Barry, when Johnson was 13 years old. Their mother subsequently married John Reilly. Johnson attended Benjamin N. Cardozo High School where he was classmates with George Tenet. He later obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater from New York University, where he had a chance to work with Joseph Papp's Black/Hispanic Shakespeare Company, in which Morgan Freeman and CCH Pounder were among his fellow actors. Early in his acting career, he changed his name from Reginald Vel Johnson (his birth name) to Reginald VelJohnson. He later said he changed the spelling "because I wanted a name people would remember."
VelJohnson is known for playing police officers in films and on television. His early career included a brief appearance in Ghostbusters (1984) as a Municipal Corrections Officer, and an appearance in Crocodile Dundee (1986) as a limo driver. VelJohnson played a police officer alongside Tom Hanks in Turner & Hooch (1989). He would also play a ambulance driver in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985).
VelJohnson had his breakthrough role as Sgt. Al Powell in the 1988 film Die Hard. He came from New York to California to film it for nine months, which was so long that he just ended up residing in California permanently thereafter. He also later reprised the character in the 1990 sequel Die Hard 2. VelJohnson again portrayed Sgt. Powell in the GameCube video game title, Die Hard: Vendetta, in 2002.
In 1989, VelJohnson was cast as the memorable police officer and family patriarch Carl Winslow in the ABC (later CBS) sitcom Family Matters, alongside Jo Marie Payton, who played his wife Harriette Winslow. He starred on the show until it ended in 1998.
Since the end of Family Matters, VelJohnson has done mostly voice and guest star work. VelJohnson has also made guest appearances in several TV shows, including The Equalizer, Diagnosis: Murder, Twice in a Lifetime, Will & Grace, Monk, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Eve, Crossing Jordan, The Parkers, That's So Raven, and Bones. He also had a minor role in the 2002 film Like Mike.
In 2007, he appeared in the short films Reverse, Nerve Endings, and Time Upon A Once which were made during the reality show On the Lot. The following year he appeared as the "Sgt. Al Powell" character from the Die Hard series in an episode of NBC's Chuck titled "Chuck Versus the Santa Claus", as the cousin of Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence). In 2010, VelJohnson started a recurring role as the principal on the Disney sitcom I'm in the Band and also Funnyordie.com's short HBO film titled Just 3 Boyz starring Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, and Zack Galifianakis. He has also appeared in the comedy film, The Formula, starring alongside Brandon Baker and Sasha Jackson.