Actor Max Julian, star of the 1973 black exploitation film The Mack, has died. He died early Saturday morning, according to his wife, Arabella Chavers Julien. He was 88 years old. No further details were provided.
Born July 12, 1933 in Washington, D.C., Julien was a classically trained actor who began his career in off-Broadway theater before turning to film. His other film credits include 1968’s Psych-Out and 1970’s Getting Straight. Julien also co-wrote and co-produced another blaxploitation milestone, 1973’s Cleopatra Jones. Later in his career, Julien guest-starred on television series such as Mod Squad and One on One, and pursued other creative pursuits such as fashion design and sculpture.
“Throughout Julian’s decades-long career, he was known for his bravery, honesty and no-nonsense,” his representatives said in a statement. “He will live and speak his truth professionally and personally.”
Before The Mack, Julien gained attention for his prominent role in 1968’s Uptight, in which he played the role of black revolutionary leader Johnny Wells. While some critics have called his character combative, Julian is ambivalent about the term. Julian later said in a 1981 BET interview: “I don’t mind being called a militant because I am a militant.” But he hesitated about how the label overshadowed the rest of his character: “The man Also loves his mother, he loves his friends, he has a human level. But they never mention it.”
Julien brings these human qualities to his starring role in The Mack. He plays Goldie, an ambitious Oakland pimp trying to get to the top. Directed by Michael Camps, this political film examines the living conditions of black Americans. In the 2002 documentary McGinn Wasn’t Easy, Julian noted that there was an air of sadness in his character, “because I was there as a human being and I couldn’t hide it. That meant me.”
The film initially screened primarily on the black market, where it became a hit. In a 2013 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Camps said that at screenings of the film in Oakland, people stood up and screamed at the screen during the first scene. “They never sat down. Nobody showed that world — nobody depicted the black underworld,” he said.