Clarence Gilyard Jr., well known for his roles as computer hacker Theo in “Die Hard” and navy flight commander Marcus “Sundown” Williams in “Top Gun,” has died at the age of 66.
His death was reported on Monday by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where he was an associate professor in the College of Fine Arts.
“It is with profound sadness that I share this news,” Dean Nancy Uscher said in the statement shared on Instagram. “His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.”
UNLV film chair Heather Addison remembered Gilyard as a “beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV.”
She added: “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”
There have been no new developments in his death.
Gilyard began performing after studying Theatre Arts at California State University, according to UNLV. In 1981, he received his first part on the TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.”
Gilyard made his cinematic debut in 1986 in “Top Gun,” as Sundown, one of the elite jet pilots.
Two years later, he was cast in the thriller “Die Hard” as Theo, a computer specialist who assists Hans Gruber’s terrorist outfit.
In 1989, he acquired the part of Conrad McMasters on the NBC courtroom drama “Matlock,” in which he co-starred with Andy Griffith. On “Walker, Texas Ranger,” he played Chuck Norris’ crime-fighting buddy Jimmy Trivette.
Despite his outstanding performing career, Gilyard retired from the stage in 2006 to teach at UNLV and oversee performances at the university’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre.
“I’m wired to teach. And I’m a professional, but the profession has to feed the classroom. It’s what stimulates my characters because I’m in touch with people’s lives in the 21st century,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017.
“I work best as an artist when I’m in a fertile arena. That means creative and imaginative. Being with all those millennials — I don’t understand what they’re saying but I’m siphoning off their energy.”
He did, however, make a brief comeback to the big screen in 2021, when he appeared in a “Die Hard” battery ad alongside Bruce Willis and De’voreaux White.