Glynn Turman is a man who has worn many hats over the years. Not only is he an Emmy-winning actor, but a renowned rodeo champion and real-life cowboy. Hailing from New York, Turman settled down at his IX Winds ranch in California decades ago to live life as a cowboy and raise his children in the peace of the country. He's even been talk of the town lately as the face of Beyoncé's latest Ivy Park collection, Rodeo. Not to mention, he had a personal relationship with the one and only Aretha Franklin.
Growing up in New York City, Turman started finding acting opportunities when he was just a child. He landed the role of Travis Younger in the original Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, opposite Sidney Poitier when he was just 12 years old, and went on to attend a performing arts high school. He continued acting after high school, traveling around the country with regional theater companies before starting to find work in Los Angeles. Pretty soon, he was a well-known actor who also dabbled in directing.
Film and TV career
Once he made it to Hollywood, Turman started making a name for himself in various TV shows and films. He's known for appearing in Cooley High, The Magical World of Disney, The Wire, Gremlins, A Different World, The Wayans Bros, Burlesque, Peyton Place, Buffalo Soldiers, Carter's Army, Together Brothers, Attica, A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich, Thomasine & Bushrod, Hawaii Five-O, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Murder, She Wrote, Five on the Black Hand Side, and Men of Honor. Honestly, the man has an incredibly lengthy filmography so I could go on for days. With 50 years in the business under his belt, Turman is definitely an American treasure.
He was awarded an Emmy Award for Best Guest Actor for his role on HBO's In Treatment
and earned an additional nomination for How To Get Away With Murder which stars Viola Davis. Additional recent roles include Super 8, Scrubs, Mr. Mercedes, Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opposite Chadwick Boseman, Bumblebee, Black-ish, Fargo, and House of Lies. Turman may be in his mid-70s but he's still constantly working which is pretty impressive.
Relationship with Aretha Franklin
That's right. Glynn Turman was married to the Queen of Soul in the late 70s/early 80s. He had previously been married to Ula M. Walker for six years, with whom he had three children. Obviously, the big question is, how in the world does one find themselves dating a superstar like Aretha Franklin?
In an interview with NPR, the actor explained that he went to see his friend (and fellow actor) Ben Vereen perform. While his friend was preparing for the show, Turman entertained himself by wandering around backstage when a young man stopped him. He said that his mother, Aretha Franklin, was a big fan of his acting work and wanted him to come to meet her in her dressing room. At this point, everyone knew who Aretha Franklin was, so Turman quickly agreed.
He explained that as he entered the dressing room, the superstar caught sight of him in the mirror. "She sees me in the reflection and let out a little scream...we were talking and she said she just moved to California and that she wanted to take some acting lessons. Well, I had been teaching acting for years at this point."
He ended up giving her the information for his class, assuming that someone like Aretha Franklin would never actually stop by. Sure enough, she showed up to class by limo donned in a fur coat, and pretty soon, the two were dating. They tied the knot in 1978 at Franklin's father's church in Detroit, Michigan. Though they called it quits after six years of marriage, it was mostly due to crazy schedules making the relationship long-distance and they remained friends until her death in 2018.
Rodeo career and cowboy life
While many recognize Turman for his acting work, he has an entirely separate fanbase that recognizes him solely from his rodeo career. He's a National US Team Roping Champion finalist and was even inducted into the Western Heritage Multi-Cultural Museum's Hall of Fame in 2011. Turman explained to Variety that one time, following a rodeo competition in Las Vegas, a boy asked him for his autograph and he just assumed it was because he was a recognizable actor.
"I asked, "Which of my movies is your favorite?" He said, "What movies?" He knew me as a cowboy and had no idea I was an actor! So I never would have known or thought that in my life that's what I would be recognized for."
In addition to his competition days, Turman and his wife since 1992, Jo-Ann, started a free camp, Camp Gid D Up, for inner-city kids and at-risk youth in the greater Los Angeles area which they host at their ranch in Lake Hughes.
"First off, I learned that there was a need for that kind of space," Turman explained to Variety.
"I started that camp as a promise to Coretta Scott King, who called a summit after the '92 riots and asked some of the pillars of the community -- if I could include myself in such distinguished company -- to help ease some of the difficulties in our community. We've met wonderful young people who were able to reach goals that I don't think they would have necessarily thought of, had they not gotten out of the environment [they were in] and [been] exposed to a different environment."