Born August 30th, 1938 in the small Northwestern town of Klamath Falls, Oregon, Don Pedro Colley is the son of parents who left the poverty of an existence in Kansas to find themselves the only permanent black residents of this major trading center, half-way between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco. The raw western community flourished with trade from ranchers, farmers, lumberjacks and servicemen.

His father's piano playing abilities and his mother's active interest in local social and political affairs gave Don Pedro a rich opportunity to participate in all community activities, unlike many of his black brothers of that era.

Being 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, athletics came easily, but instead of the obvious -- playing football -- Don Pedro found track and field more his liking. He eventually took up football late in college years due to the insistence of his friends, and by 1959, an offer to try out for pro football came his way. Still, the thought of finishing his schooling as an architect at the University of Oregon, and preparation for the 1960 Olympic Team as a discus thrower proved to be the stronger drive. However, a sixth place in the Olympic Trials and another year of intensive training as an architect altered his athletic and career plans.

Like so many other youth of the sixties, Don Pedro "cut loose and dropped out," moving to San Francisco. In those days the Bay area was the Avante Garde center of the West Coast. North Beach's Barbary Coast was a "Beatnik" haven. With the last of his childhood savings used up in two weeks, Don Pedro found himself sleeping in parks and the back doorways of side alleys.

Then one rainy afternoon, his entire life changed when some ex-college friends asked for a ride to the theatre for a rehearsal.

"This is how it all began," says Don Pedro. "By accident. These friends were called "The Firing Squad", a satirical comedy group like "The Committee". "I was kidded into doing some improvisations and, well, I became a member."

"The Firing Squad" supplemented it's comedic income by painting houses, a skill that became a painful contributor to his physical image today.

"While painting a house, I fell off a 15 foot scaffold. It took 16 stitches to close my head wound. "They had to shave my head and since I couldn't wear a wig while acting, I've kept it that way ever since."

The next five years were utilized learning his craft in San Francisco productions of "Merchant of Venice", Jean Anouilh's "Ring Around the Moon", "Lulu" by Frank Wilderkind, George Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man", and "Pantaleize" by Michele DeGhelderode, "A Doll's House" by Anton P. Chekov and "Exception and the Rule" by Bertold Brecht. He also worked in children's fairy tale theatre and finally moved into the Actor's Workshop with more Brecht and Shakespeare.

The roles were plentiful and the experience enriching and invaluable for Don Pedro, but the income was too limited without subsidizing it with outside work. So, to stay in San Francisco, he added the tasks of mopping floors, driving cabs, bouncing at night clubs, and playing jazz piano. By 1966, it was time to try for bigger things in theatre and movies in Los Angeles and Hollywood.

A reprise of "Heaven Can Wait", opposite Jack Palance at the Melodyland Theatre in Anaheim gave Don Pedro Colley his first real pay.

"It seemed more like a gift that I might have to give back," he was to say later. In his first year in Los Angeles, he did two films for TV. And starting in 1967 with the acquisition of good agents, he guest starred in episodes of "Daktari", "The Virginian", "Iron Horse", "Cimmaron Strip", appeared as special guest star in "Here Come the Brides", and played Canadian trapper "Gideon" in Walt Disney's 20th Century Fox Daniel Boone series. Other major character roles came his way in "Adam 12", "Nichols", "Starsky and Hutch", "The Bionic Woman", "Night Gallery", "Little House on the Prairie", "Fantasy Island" and the soon-to-be aired "Casa Blanca".

Los Angeles stage productions of "Anthony and Cleopatra", the Innercity Cultural Center production of "Mid Summer Nights Dream" and "Big-Time Buck White" helped him to go to New York as the understudy/standby for James Earl Jones in "The Great White Hope", and to secure the lead in the off-Broadway production of "Big-Time Buck White".

New seasons brought new challenges, including major parts in 12 feature films, among them "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" for 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers "THX1138" for George Lucas, the two part four hour TV World Premiere Movie "Vanished", TV Movie of the Week "Cable Car Murders", Paramount Pictures' "The Legend of Nigger Charlie", a major comedy role on a Bill Cosby special and regular appearances on "The Dukes of Hazard" TV hit as "Sheriff Little".

Don Pedro, with a busy career, still finds time for some commuting between a home in Los Angeles area and another important love -- his cabin near the shores of Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon, not far from his birthplace, His hobbies include outdoors recreation, tennis and a stable of classic cars.

Don Pedro Colley is a versatile actor, who has played a full spectrum of parts from TV sitcom to the classics during his career. Cast as a Black, Mexican, Arab, Portuguese and even Oriental, he has portrayed a complex range of characters with skill, timing and complete believability. A rare quality fostered by intuition, constant training, study and practice of his craft.

Don Colley is the proud father of a 21-year-old daughter named Kira Zuleka Zadow-Colley. She is attending the University of California at Davis, where she studies pre-law and is working toward a degree in education.

 

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