Cherlynne Theresa Thigpen: Pioneer Actress Best-Known for Role as “The Chief”


Cherlynne Theresa “Lynne” Thigpen was a pioneer actress, best known for her role as “The Chief” in various Carmen Sandiego television series.

Thigpen was born in Joliet, Illinois, on December 22, 1948. Thigpen obtained a degree in teaching and taught high school English while studying theatre and dance at the University of Illinois.

She moved to New York City in 1971 to begin her acting career on stage. Thigpen had a long and prolific theater career, and appeared in numerous musicals including Godspell, The Night That Made America Famous, and The Magic Show.

Thigpen also had an extensive career a television and film actress. She was nominated for six Daytime Emmy Awards, five of which were for her work on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? In 1997, she won a Tony Award in 1997 for portraying Dr. Judith Kaufman in the Broadway production of An American Daughter. Her voice is featured on over 20 audiobooks, many of which were works related to socially relevant themes, such as novels by Toni Morrison and Virginia Hamilton.

She was also known for playing the role of Luna in the television show, Bear in the Big Blue House. She had a role in Shaft, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, as Carla Howard, the murder victim’s mother. She also played the Second President of the World Congress in Bicentennial Man. Her last film was Anger Management, which was released a month following her death.

Thigpen died in 2003 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Her death led to a three-year hiatus of Bear in the Big Blue House, and a planned film version of the series was put on hold. Thigpen was posthumously nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for voicing Luna the moon in Bear in the Big Blue House, but she lost to Jeff Corwin.

Her friends and family established a non-profit foundation, The Lynne Thigpen – Bobo Lewis Foundation, to mentor young actors and actresses and help them survive and succeed in New York theater. Lynne Thigpen Elementary School in her hometown of Joliet, Illinois, was named in her honor.




  • Joseph Jackson, 3rd October 16, 2016 - 10:07 am

    Didn’t she co-star in the tv police drama The District with Craig T. Nelson of Coach fame?

    • Jennifer leyerle January 31, 2020 - 2:26 pm

      That’s exactly what I was going to say. I also think that her voice was that of the disc jockey in the 70”s movie, “The Warriors”. The movie shows her lips moving

    • E Napoleon January 31, 2020 - 3:51 pm

      It is an honor for a consummate actor school named in her memory, will leave a lasting impression for those coming behind her. I know she made the characters in movies come to life as though they were the real person. I will continue to remember character in the movie Lean On Me, as a disgruntle parent leading the charge against the principle played by Morgan Freeman.

  • Myra June 2, 2017 - 11:46 am

    Yes, she was in The District. She was even suffering health issues while filming the show. She even wore a scarf to cover her head after brain sugery.

  • Chantell June 9, 2017 - 9:55 am

    She was an amazing actress!

  • Zenobia June 11, 2017 - 1:21 am

    She played opposite Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie! Great actress!

  • Seimone July 10, 2017 - 10:08 am

    She was also in the film adaptation of Godspell! She was so talented and is so greatly missed!

  • G Smith August 9, 2017 - 12:13 pm

    She also was the “DJ” voice in the “Warriors”

  • Hattie Moore August 13, 2017 - 10:14 pm

    She also played in Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman ( principal Joe Clark)

  • Shaneka Apolinar June 18, 2019 - 2:28 am

    This is a cool post thanks a lot.

  • E Napoleon January 31, 2020 - 3:45 pm

    I believe Lynn often played characters especially comes to memory was a disgruntle parent ”Lean On Me.”