Anderson was born in 1945 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was best known for playing Judas in Norman Jewison's film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice opus Jesus Christ Superstar, for which performance he was nominated for two Golden Globe awards. He also played Judas as a replacement in the original Broadway production (his Broadway debut) and returned to the role in a 1992 tour of the show. His final Broadway appearance was in the Duke Ellington musical Play On! (1997) and he can be heard on the two-disc concept recording of Frank Wildhorn's The Civil War.
Aside from Jesus Christ Superstar, his film credits include The Black Pearl, The Color Purple, and Mello's Kaleidocope. Anderson also did a stint on the daytime television drama Another World and he had a role in the 1979 TV movie Mind Over Murder.