Julius J. Carry III, whose love of acting was sparked by roles in "Hamlet" and "West Side Story" at Hales Franciscan High School, had a long career in TV and movies that included a scene-stealing turn as Sho'nuff in 1985's "The Last Dragon."
Mr. Carry, 56, died of complications from pancreatic cancer Tuesday, Aug. 19, in his Studio City, Calif., home.
Mr. Carry left the Midwest to pursue an acting career on the West Coast after one year at Quincy College in Quincy, Ill. He studied communications at Loyola Marymount University, where he received a master's degree, his mother said, and made his big-screen debut in 1979's "Disco Godfather."
That same year he had a part in "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh," and for the next 25 years he landed a steady stream of acting jobs, primarily on TV shows including "The White Shadow," "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.," "Tales from the Crypt," "Murder She Wrote" and "Murphy Brown."
While a versatile actor who moved easily between comedy and drama, he was somewhat limited by his height of 6 feet 5 inches, his mother said. But his size made him perfectly suited to play Sho'nuff, the bad guy who yearns to be the "Shogun of Harlem" in the cult action-comedy "The Last Dragon."
Sporting an outlandish frizzed-out hairdo and a tripped-out version of samurai garb, Sho'nuff demands to know from his followers, "Who da mastah?" to which they respond, "Sho'nuff!"
"It came to life with what he did," said Taimak, who played the movie's hero, Leroy Green. "He just stood out because the character was so over the top."
Mr. Carry inhabited his role so thoroughly that, during a climactic scene where he's pitted in a martial arts duel with Taimak's character, his mother recalled standing up in a Chicago theater and yelling, "Kill him!" in support of her son's opponent.
"He should have known better, I raised him better than that," she said, laughing.
Mr. Carry grew up in the Lake Meadows neighborhood and attended St. Elizabeth Catholic School before Hales Franciscan. After getting a taste of the stage in high school, he knew he wanted to be an actor, said Chicago attorney Roland M. Stewart, a friend since childhood.
He worked hard for his role in "The Last Dragon," badly injuring a biceps while working out in preparation for his martial arts scenes, Stewart said. Taimak recalled Mr. Carry taunting him off-screen to make sure the actors had a real edge between them during the shoot.
"He had a dream, and he knew how to make his dreams come true," Stewart said.
Mr. Carry, who was once divorced, also is survived by his second wife, Naomi; and a brother, Ronald.