Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Hertha Mae (nee Ward) and Joseph T. Taylor, former dean of students at Dean University in New Orleans, who was also the first dean of arts and science at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis.
After the family moved from New Orleans to Indianapolis, Taylor graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1964 where he took an interest in acting and went on to study in the dramatic arts programs at Wilmington College (Ohio) and Florida A&M University. Leaving Florida A&M a few credits shy of graduation, he worked in Indianapolis as a State House reporter for AM radio station WTLC, where he used the on-air name Bruce Thomas and as the host of a community affairs program on television station WLWI (now WTHR) as Bruce Taylor. Many years later in May 1993, he received his bachelor's degree in theatre arts from Florida A&M.
Theater and TeleplaysEdit
Taylor's first professional acting gig was a national tour of Hair. He honed his craft in repertory theater as a member of Chicago's Goodman Theatre and the Organic Theatre Company alongside Joe Mantegna, Andre DeShields, Dennis Franz, Keith Szarabajka, Jack Wallace and director Stuart Gordon. While in Chicago, he appeared in Dave Rabe's Streamers, Native Son (1979 Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play), The Island and Athol Fugard's Sizwe Banzi is Dead, for which he garnered the 1977 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Principal Role in a Play. He received an Emmy Award for his role as Jim in the WTTW production of Huckleberry Finn and hosted the Chicago television show Black Life. In 1988, Taylor made his Broadway debut as Lemiere in Beauty and the Beast, where he starred alongside Toni Braxton. In September 2012, he appeared in Year of the Rabbit at Ensemble Studio Theater-LA as Vietnam veteran JC Bridges.
Television and FilmEdit
In 1978, Taylor moved to Los Angeles where he crafted a gallery of memorable characters in film and on television, including his Emmy-nominated turn in the CBS sitcom Designing Women co-starring Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, Alice Ghostly, Jan Hooks, Julia Duffy and Judith Ivey. Taylor played Anthony Bouvier, the assistant at the fictitious Sugarbaker interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1989, he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
In May 1981, the ninth season of M*A*S*H, he was seen as a corpsman in the final episode “The Life You Save”. From 1993 to 1997 he was a series regular as a plastic surgeon Sheldon Baylor on Dave's World but had a recurring role as Alastir Wright, the history teacher turned school principal on Nickelodeon's sitcom Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide and Buffalo Bill with Dabney Coleman.
The following television shows that he made appearances on are as follows:
- The Unit
- Hannah Montana (as a fashion designer)
- All of Us (as Neesee's father)
- The Drew Carey Show
- Static Shock
- Caroline in the City
- Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
- Women of the House
- In the Heat of the Night
- Punky Brewster
- What's Happening Now!!
- Hill Street Blues
- The Golden Girls
- Cagney & Lacey
- Barney Miller
- Lou Gant
- The White Shadow
- The Incredible Hulk
- Barnaby Jones
In 1996, Taylor hosted his own series on HGTV titled as The Urban Gardener with Meshach Taylor, and in 1988 he hosted Meshach Taylor's Hidden Caribbean on The Travel Channel. He was a regular panelist on the 2000-02 revival of To Tell the Truth. He co-hosted Living Live! with Florence Henderson on Retirement Living TV. In 2008, the program was revamped as The Florence Henderson Show.
In November 2012, Taylor guest-starred on Criminal Minds opposite Joe Mantegna (Rossi) as Harrison Scott, Rossi's former Marine sergeant with whom he served in Vietnam on the episode “The Fallen”. He reprised this role in the episode “The Road Home” in 2014. Taylor appeared in feature films including Mannequin, Mannequin Two: On the Move and Damien: Omen II.
Taylor married actress Bianca Ferguson in 1983. They had four children, daughter Tamar Taylor, Esme Taylor, Yasmine Taylor and son Tariq Taylor and four grandchildren.
On June 28, 2014, Taylor died of colorectal cancer at his home in Altadena, California. Taylor is survived by his wife Bianca Ferguson Taylor, their four grandchildren, his mother Hertha Taylor who celebrated her 100th birthday 11 days before her son's death, his sister Judith Taylor, his brother Hussain Taylor, and four grandchildren.