EXPIRED: 07/09/10 – Vonetta McGee, 65, was black. She became famous because she was black, she got typecast because she was black, and unfortunately, she had trouble finding work eventually – because she was black.
You see, McGee, a young talented actress from San Francisco ended up in Hollywood as a hot-to-trot Blaxploitation film actress. And when Blaxploitation films went out of fashion, so did McGee.
During her prime, she co-starred in a Blacula, Hammer, Thomasine, Bushrod, Melinda and the action thriller Shaft in Africa in which McGee took the role of Aleme, the daughter of an emir, who teaches John Shaft, played by Richard Roundtree, some good old Ethiopian geography.
McGee was like a lot of black actors of that era. Besides Roundtree, Billy Dee Williams and Pam Grier, were, like McGee, perceived as little more than cogs in a black moneymaking machine. Outside of that their marketability was limited, although McGee did get a chance to star alongside Clint Eastwood as the female lead, Jemima Brown, in the 1975 flick The Eiger Sanction.
Earlier in her career she played with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski in The Great Silence and with Sidney Poitier in The Lost Man. But she didn’t see much varied work after the Blaxploitation fad ran it’s course.
In the ’80s, she had bit parts and recurring roles in TV shows like Bustin’ Loose, L.A. Law and Cagney & Lacey on which she played as the wife of detective Mark Petrie, played by Carl Lumbly. It must’ve felt right, because she married Lumbly shortly thereafter and they had a son, Brandon, in 1988.