American actress Lynne Thigpen was part of the original cast of the stage musical Godspell in 1971. She reprised her role for the 1973 film and went on to work for three decades on both the stage and screen. Theatrical audiences may remember her for her Tony-nominated lead role in Tintypes, but she is probably best known as the Chief, the host of the PBS educational game shows Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? On the big screen, Thigpen appeared in the mainstream features Tootsie, Lean on Me, and Bob Roberts. However, she fared much better in powerful roles on television. She was Aunt Grace Keefer on All My Children, DA Ruby Thomas on L.A. Law, and Judge Ida Boucher on Law & Order. Other TV appearances include thirtysomething, Homicide: Life on the Street, and several Hallmark Hall of Fame features.
Possessing rich, powerful speech, Thigpen lent her voice to several different projects. Already known on PBS as the Chief, she narrated stories on Reading Rainbow and provided voices for Bear in the Big Blue House. She also read best-selling novels audiobooks, including titles by Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. After a lengthy career on-stage, two Obie awards, and an L.A. Drama Critics award, Thigpen finally received her first Tony award in 1997 for her portrayal of Dr. Judith Kaufman in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter. She reprised her role for the 2000 made-for-TV adaptation, released on home video with the title Trial by Media. That same year, she was cast as statistics clerk Ella Mae Farmer in the CBS dramatic series The District. On the big screen, she played authority figures like President Marjorie Bota in Bicentennial Man and Judge Brenda Daniels in Anger Management. A shock to her fellow cast members on The District, Thigpen died of a heart attack in her Los Angeles home in 2003. She was 54.