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Acting legend Cameron thrilled to be back on island

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Earl Cameron (photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

Bermudian acting legend Earl Cameron was back in the limelight in his homeland last night.

Mr Cameron, who turned 100 in August, was the star of Our Earl is 100 Years Young at the City Hall in Hamilton.

About 300 fans and supporters crowded into the Earl Cameron Theatre, which is named in his honour, to hear him tell his story.

Mr Cameron told The Royal Gazette: “I seem to have a fair amount of energy. They seem to be very proud of me here; named a theatre after me. It’s very kind of them.”

Mr Cameron made a name for himself in London theatre before becoming the first black star to play a leading role in a British film.

But he said his first acting role came about almost by accident.

Mr Cameron added: “When I arrived in London, I had no qualifications for anything.

“It was a period when it was almost impossible for a black person to get any kind of job.”

Mr Cameron went to see a friend in a show and, after noticing a number of black actors, asked him if he could have a part.

Mr Cameron said: “He said no way. The show was cast, but strangely enough three weeks later he came by late one afternoon and said my big chance had come.”

“He said a guy on the show hadn’t shown up, it was the third time he had missed a matinee so the director said to get someone else.”

Mr Cameron made his debut in the chorus that night.

Mr Cameron was still able to sing some of his lines this week, more than 60 years later, but he was less lucky on his debut on the boards.

“I knew none of the words. All I could see were faces of people in the packed Palace Theatre.

“I was sweating, my knees were trembling, but I was thinking to myself it’s better than washing dishes.

“From that night forward, I was bitten by the theatre bug. I never looked back.”

Mr Cameron returned to Bermuda after the Second World War, but just five months later he was back on a ship, heading to New York and then to London, where he won a role as an understudy in Deep are the Roots.

He said: “That play did me a lot of good. When the show closed, the guy who played the lead went off to live in Paris and I became a package deal with the show for the repertory theatres across England.

“I owe an awful lot to that play. It was the best part I had up to that period.”

Mr Cameron later made the move to the silver screen with a starring role in Pool of London, which made him one of the first black stars in the UK.

He went on to earn roles in Simba, Sapphire, the James Bond movie Thunderball, The Queen and The Interpreter.

Mr Cameron was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to drama in 2009. The University of Warwick awarded Mr Cameron an honorary doctorate in 2013.

Mr Cameron also had some advice for young and aspiring actors.

He said: “To be honest, I spent the best part of my life in showbusiness, but I am reluctant to recommend that to young people.

“It’s a hell of a life. I got the best part of it.”

Mr Cameron added he was thrilled to be back on the island where he was born.

He said: “It feels wonderful to be here as there’s no place in the world like Bermuda. It’s a delightful place.”

Earl Cameron (photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)
Earl Cameron (photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)