Actress Madge Sinclair graced her roles with an undeniable and regal presence— no matter the title role— and became a force to reckon with in the entertainment industry. She was known for her roles as Bell Reynolds in the TV miniseries Roots, as Queen Aoleon in Coming to America, and the voice of Simba’s mother and Mufusa’s wife in The Lion King. In tribute to the above-stated role which will be missed in the highly anticipated Coming 2 America sequel out today, we take a look back at Sinclair’s life and achievements.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica on April 28, 1938, Sinclair worked as a teacher in Jamaica until she was nearly 30 years old. In 1966, she decided to move to New York to pursue an acting career.
Although she got her start modeling, her first role in 1974 as Mrs. Scott in Conrack earned Sinclair, who was born Madge Dorita Walters, an NAACP Image Award nomination. Sinclair followed up that feat with a starring role in the TV mini-series Roots. Her role as Bell Reynolds earned Sinclair her first nomination for Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series in 1977. She would go on to be nominated five times for Primetime Emmys for her work, and later secured a win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series in 1991 for her role in Gabriel’s Fire.
A few years before her Emmy win, she made a notable appearance as Queen Aoleon in Coming to America in 1988. The part reunited her with her Roots husband and co-star John Amos. Sinclair’s last film appearance received incredible notoriety when she voiced the character of Sarabi in The Lion King in 1994. That part saw Sinclair and her Coming to America husband James Earl Jones reunited as king and queen once more, as he voiced the character Mufasa.
Altogether, Sinclair appeared in 27 TV shows and 17 films. During her 20-year-career, she received the Order of Distinction bestowed by the Prime Minister of Jamaica and two Image Awards from the NAACP.
Sinclair also defied the odds in her personal life, battling leukemia for an astounding 13 years before passing away on December 20, 1995, at the age of 57. She left behind a legacy and irreplaceable timeline of film and television works that we continue to honor to this day.