Reg E. Cathey passed away on Friday, and in the wake of his death, attention turned to the family of the beloved actor, who had no wife or children, but did seem to create many lasting friendships through his decades on television and movies.
The 59-year-old actor died on Friday after a battle with lung cancer, drawing condolences and remembrances from many that he had worked with. Cathey was best known for his work on The Wire and House of Cards, and longtime friend David Simon, creator of The Wire, first shared the news of the actor’s death on social media.
“Not only a fine, masterful actor – but simply one of the most delightful human beings with whom I ever shared some long days on set. On wit alone, he could double any man over and leave him thinking,” Simon wrote. “Reg, your memory is a great blessing.”
His passing on Friday drew new attention to Cathey’s private life and his family, two subjects he rarely broached in interviews. In a 2008 interview, Reg E. Cathey did open up a bit about his private life, noting that he was single and lived alone in New York and musing about his perfect day — waking up in a chateau with Halle Berry.
Cathey was born in Huntsville, Alabama, but grew up in West Germany. As the Guardian noted, Cathey’s father was an army officer who fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. His mother had a top-secret job with the Department of Defense — so secret that even Reg did not know what his mother did.
Though he did not speak often of his family, Reg E. Cathey did occasionally share insights from his upbringing in Alabama. After returning from Germany at age 14, Cathey said he was surprised to see how his family was treated by other blacks at the time.
“Oh my god, it was terrible,” Cathey told the Guardian. “I was prepared for how white people treated black people in the south, but I wasn’t prepared for how black people treated each other. How my parents had taught us to present ourselves in public, two eloquent black kids raised in Germany, meant we did not fit in at all.”
Though Reg E. Cathey was quiet about his own family, he did seem to garner many strong friendships through his work. After his death on Friday, many actors and executives spoke out about his kind demeanor and acting prowess. Cathey’s career spanned more than four decades, starting with what he called his “big break” on the children’s television series Square One, and lasting through his most recent projects, which included an Emmy win for House of Cards.