Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Hertha Mae (née Ward) and Joseph T. Taylor, former dean of students at Dillard University in New Orleans, who was also the first dean of arts and sciences 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 Wittenburg 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 WIFE (now 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.
Taylor’s first professional acting gig was in a national tour of Hair. He honed his craft in repertory theater as a member of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, and the Organic Theater Company alongside Joe Mantegna, André DeShields, Dennis Franz, Keith Szarabajka, Jack Wallace, and director Stuart Gordon. While in Chicago, he appeared in David 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 1998, Taylor made his Broadway debut as Lumiere 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.
In 1977, 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 Ghostley, 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 1993-97, he was a series regular as plastic surgeon Sheldon Baylor on Dave’s World (CBS), and had a recurring role as Alastair Wright, the history teacher turned school principal, on Nickelodeon’s sitcom, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide (2004–07) and Buffalo Bill (NBC) with Dabney Coleman. Other appearances include: The Unit (CBS), Jessie (Disney Channel), Hannah Montana (Disney Channel) as a fashion designer, All of Us as Neesee’s father, The Drew Carey Show (ABC), Static Shock (Kids WB!), Caroline in the City (NBC), Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (Nickelodeon), Women of the House (CBS), In the Heat of the Night (NBC), Punky Brewster (NBC), What’s Happening Now!, Hill Street Blues (NBC), ALF (NBC), Melba (CBS), The Golden Girls (NBC), Cagney & Lacey (CBS), Barney Miller (ABC), Lou Grant (CBS), The White Shadow (CBS), The Incredible Hulk (CBS), and Barnaby Jones(CBS).
In 1996, Taylor hosted his own series on HGTV, The Urban Gardener with Meshach Taylor, and in 1998, he hosted Meshach Taylor’s Hidden Caribbean on The Travel Channel. He was a regular panelist on the 2000 revival of the television game show 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 (CBS), opposite Joe Mantegna (Rossi), as Harrison Scott, Rossi’s former Marine sergeant with whom he served in Vietnam in “The Fallen” (Season 8, Episode 7). In January 2014, he reprised this role in “The Road Home” (Season 9, Episode 13) which aired January 22, 2014, just five months before his death. Joe Mantegna will helm a Criminal Minds (CBS) Season 10 episode to honor the late Meshach Taylor. 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, daughters Tamar Taylor, Esme Taylor, Yasmine Taylor, and son Tariq Taylor, and four grandchildren. Suffering from colorectal cancer, Taylor died on June 28, 2014, at his home in Altadena, California. Taylor is survived by his wife Bianca Ferguson Taylor, their four children, his mother Hertha Ward Taylor (who celebrated her 100th birthday 11 days before Meshach died), his sister Judith Taylor, his brother Hussain Taylor and four grandchildren. A memorial service to celebrate his life was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) on July 6, 2014.
- April, 11, 1947
- Boston, Massachusetts
- June, 28, 2014
- Altadena, California
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
- Los Angeles, California