Born on Nov. 4, 1948 in St. Mary, Jamaica, the rise of Oliver Samuels from a banana plantation to the stage of TV, theatre, and as a standup comic is one of determination, extraordinary talent, and a philosophy he learned from his mother: “With hard work you can make it.”
Samuels grew up in poverty, attended the Salvation Army School, and Dinthill Technical High School. He was employed in various capacities to support himself, including as a storekeeper and clerical worker, but nothing assuaged his desire and talent for performing. He’d been bitten by the acting bug at the age of seven when he and neighbor children would read poetry and sing each week.
He enrolled in the Jamaica Theatre School and performed in numerous productions there. Criticism by a reviewer only made Samuels more determined to succeed. His breakthrough came with his first appearance in the pantomime “Music Boy” in which he was widely lauded. A variety of opportunities followed and he quickly became a household name through the popular TV series, “Oliver at Large.”
During his career, Samuels played major roles in more than 13 pantomimes and 30 other productions at home and internationally. He appeared in several British Broadcast Corporation series including “My Father Son-Son Johnson,” “The Fight Against Slavery,” and “Brothers and Sisters.” He also had roles in popular soap operas, along with appearances in an Italian film and two German films.
Samuels has a large overseas following and is known as one of the greatest talents to come from the Caribbean region. He also launched “Oliver’s Yaad Cyadd” featuring Samuels providing prompts in Standard English and patois for the international calling card industry.
He frequently toured throughout North American and Britain where he used his comedic talent to entertain Caribbean ex-patriots. He was honored with the Jamaican Order of Distinction for this work in the theatre. He has six children.
Photo source: Oliver Samuels Facebook