by Howard Campbell
[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – Volier Johnson, a giant of Jamaican theater, died Friday, July 9 from a heart attack. Both daily newspapers, the Gleaner and Jamaica Observer, reported his passing.
He died in hospital shortly after reportedly collapsing at home. Johnson was in his late 60’s.
Johnson got his break as the handcart man in the first 10 minutes of The Harder They Come. He got the part courtesy of his mentor, Trevor Rhone, who co-wrote the 1972 movie.
“When he told mi about it, I was excited. Just to be in the movie was great, no matter how small the part was,” Johnson told the Jamaica Observer in 2013.
Though he worked in other films including Milk And Honey and Better Mus’ Come, his forte was theater. Johnson began acting in stage productions during the late 1960’s while in high school, first appearing in an adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, directed by Rhone.
He co-starred in numerous hit plays such as Power Play, What The Hell Is Happening To Us Dear? and Toy Boy.
In the 1990’s, Johnson formed a strong comedy duo with Oliver Samuels. His turn as con artist Maffie in an episode of Samuels’ hit television series, Oliver at Large, won him a new generation of fans.
Lennie Little-White directed Johnson, Samuels and Jamaican theater legend Leonie Forbes in 39 episodes of Traxx, a comedy that aired on television during the late 1990’s.
“Volier was very easy to work with. He and Oliver were like twins, they fed off each other. Volier always knew his lines and was willing to compromise,” said Little-White.
In 2013, the Jamaican government awarded Volier Johnson the Order of Distinction, Jamaica’s sixth highest honor, for services to the arts.