The film world lost some true greats in 2020, from Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones and James Bond legend Sean Connery to the one and only Kirk Douglas, star of Spartacus and patriarch of the Douglas family dynasty. Marvel fans were left shaken by the shocking death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. Sadly, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The spread of COVID-19 made 2020 a particularly busy year for the Tinseltown obituaries, and the virus was still very much an issue as the new year rolled around, claiming its first actor a matter of days into 2021.
From screen legends of bygone eras to the people who were still in their prime that we said goodbye to way too soon, these are the actors we lost in 2021.
Philadelphia-born actress Marion Ramsey, best known for playing soft spoken Officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy movies, died in January 2021, her agency told The Hollywood Reporter. "Marion carried with her a kindness and permeating light that instantly filled a room upon her arrival," the statement read. "The dimming of her light is already felt by those who knew her well. We will miss her and always love her." No cause of death was given. She was 73.
She made her stage debut in the original Broadway production of Hello, Dolly!, which ran from 1964 to 1970. She popped up in another Broadway musical — the short-lived, New York City-set Soon — before making her onscreen bow in a 1976 episode of the classic sitcom The Jeffersons. A gig on Bill Cosby’s sketch show Cos followed, but Ramsey would return to the theater world for the best part of a decade after that. She made her first appearance as Officer Hooks in 1984’s Police Academy and would remain a mainstay of the wacky comedy franchise over the coming years, working on six installments.
Ramsey returned to television in the 1990s, landing one-off parts in the likes of MacGyver and Beverly Hills, 90210. She also got involved in voice acting, lending her unmistakable tones to the character of D.I. Holler in Hanna-Barbera’s The Addams Family. The cartoon began airing on ABC in 1992. Other notable credits include SyFy’s cult direct-to-TV movie Lavalantula (2015) and its follow up, 2 Lava 2 Lantula! (2016).
Rapper and actor Dearon Thompson, better known by stage his Deezer D, died of a suspected heart attack in January 2021. Thompson, who appeared as affable nurse Malik McGrath in all 15 seasons of the beloved medical drama ER, was discovered in an unresponsive state at his Los Angeles home, his brother told TMZ. He was 55.
Thompson made his first feature film appearance in 1991’s Cool as Ice, the critically panned movie debut of Vanilla Ice. He went on to land roles in the hip hop mockumentary Fear of a Black Hat and the N.W.A parody picture CB4, both released in 1993. He made his ER bow the following year, beginning a near-200 episode run on the NBC hit. "What a special spirit we have all lost," Thompson’s former castmate Mekhi Phifer said in an Instagram tribute message. "Since the first day I met him on the set of ER he absolutely made me feel at home and welcomed. My brother will forever be missed!"
Thompson had been dealing with heart issues for over a decade. In 2009, he told RadarOnline that he was awaiting surgery after "over 10 episodes of heart failure in the last eight months alone." Doctors identified a problem with his aorta, which was "the same thing that killed John Ritter," Thompson said. The Los Angeles native was still making music and actively promoting his songs at the time of his death. His track "History Can’t Be Stopped" was released the day after he died.
British actress Barbara Shelley, who appeared in numerous Hammer Horror films during the 1950s and ’60s, died in January 2021. The veteran scream queen contracted COVID-19 after a routine hospital visit, her agent, Thomas Bowington, told the BBC. She was 88.
She trained in theater as a child but her good looks naturally led her into the world of modeling. Her dream was to act, however, so when she was approached by Italian comic Walter Chiari with an offer while vacationing in Rome, she took a chance. Shelley went on to appear in a string of Italian movies over a four-year period, but it would be the work she did after returning to the UK that she would be best remembered for. The Londoner became the go-to female star for Hammer Horror, appearing in eight of the studio’s classic pictures. "She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolor queen of Hammer," Bowington said. "On screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness."
Shelley’s agent also mentioned her special relationship with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Speaking to the Express in 2009, she said that she was "honored" to have shared the screen with them. "They were so wonderful to work with, both so generous as actors with a wonderful atmosphere on the set and a wonderful sense of humor." She worked mainly in TV during the golden years of her career, including a stint on Doctor Who.
Beloved soap star John Reilly, best known for his 11-year run on ABC’s General Hospital, died in January 2021. The actor’s death was confirmed by one of his daughters, who called him "the brightest light in the world" in a tribute Instagram post. "Imagine the best person in the world," Caitlin Reilly said. "Now imagine that person being your dad. I’m so grateful he was mine. I’m so grateful I got to love him. I’m so grateful I made it in time to hold him and say goodbye." He was 86.
Reilly made his onscreen debut in the Midwest-set soap opera As the World Turns in the mid-’70s and would go on to become a regular face on American daytime television. He scored recurring roles on shows like The Bionic Woman and How the West Was Won, and would dabble in the superhero genre long before it dominated the Hollywood landscape. Reilly popped up in an episode of the Lynda Carter-led Wonder Woman series in the late 1970s, and he would appear in Lou Ferrigno’s The Incredible Hulk in the early ’80s. He got to play a hero himself in the ’90s, when he provided the voice of Hawkeye in the Iron Man animated series.
’90s kids will most likely remember Reilly as Kelly Taylor’s terrible dad on Beverly Hills, 90210. Other notable credits include Sunset Beach, Passions, and The Bay. The actor is "survived by his wife, Liz, five daughters and two grandchildren," Deadline reports.
We lost Bond girls Honor Blackman (Goldfinger) and Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) in 2020, and in the first month of 2021, Tanya Roberts was added to that list. She was best known for playing geologist Stacey Sutton opposite a much older Roger Moore in 1985’s A View to a Kill, the 14th installment in the British spy franchise. The actress died from a urinary tract infection that "got into her blood" and developed into sepsis, her longtime partner, Lance O’Brien, told Fox News. She was 65.
The New York native started out as a model but made the transition to acting a decade before her James Bond appearance, landing a part in the horror flick Forced Entry (a.k.a. The Last Victim). Her first major role came in 1980, when she joined the cast of the then-struggling Charlie’s Angels. She couldn’t save the show, but the exposure was enough to launch a film career. She went on to appear in sword-and-sorcery flick The Beastmaster and action-fantasy Sheena, in which she starred as the titular Queen of the Jungle. She remained busy during the 1990s, when she made her first appearance on That ’70s Show; Roberts became a fan favorite playing Midge Pinciotti, the hilarious mother of Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon).
In a bizarre twist, Roberts’ death was announced prematurely. A misunderstanding between her partner and her agent led to the latter jumping the gun and informing news outlets that she had died 24 hours before she did.
Croatian-American actress Mira Furlan, best known for her stints on Babylon 5 and Lost, died in January 2021. Her death was announced on her official Twitter account, alongside a message that she appeared to have written near the end. "I look at the stars. It’s a clear night and the Milky Way seems so near," the quote read. "That’s where I’ll be going soon… In the meantime, let me close my eyes and sense the beauty around me. And take that breath under the dark sky full of stars. Breathe in. Breathe out. That’s all." The cause of death was not revealed. She was 65.
Born in Zagreb, Furlan and her husband emigrated to America in the early ’90s amid rising tensions in their home country, settling in New York City. "We slept on my friend’s couch and I worked as a waitress and my husband as a mover," she told Lilith in 2016. "It was one of the harshest winters in New York and homeless people were dying in the street." Three years after the move, she landed what would become her most iconic role: Minbari Ambassador Delenn in Babylon 5. She briefly returned to Croatia before jetting off to Hawaii to play the part of Danielle Rousseau in Lost. She appeared as the French loner in 20 episodes ABC’s hit show.
Other notable credits include NCIS, Law & Order: LA, the Amazon Prime Original Just Add Magic, and Spider-Man: The Animated Series, in which she voiced Silver Sable.
New York-born actor Gregory Sierra, who appeared in ’70s sitcoms Sanford and Son and Barney Miller, died of cancer in January 2021. "He was doing the best he could and just couldn’t do it anymore," his widow, Helene Tabor, told CNN. "He was quite wonderful, and my heart is broken into 400 million pieces." He was 83.
According to Deadline, Sierra began his career as a member of the National Shakespeare Company, appearing in a number of off-Broadway productions during the 1960s. He made his onscreen debut at the end of the decade, playing a character named Fletcher in a 1969 episode of the Robert Wagner spy series, It Takes a Thief. He would go on to became a mainstay of the American TV in the years that followed, popping up in numerous sitcoms and cop shows.
He will be best remembered for his turns as Fred Sanford’s sidekick Julio in Sanford and Son and NYPD detective Chano in Barney Miller, but he also plied his trade on Mission: Impossible, The Waltons, Kung Fu, Colombo, Hill Street Blues, The X Files, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, to name but a few. Edward James Olmos, who worked with Sierra in a handful of Miami Vice episodes, called him "a friend, a mentor [and] a force of nature that I was so grateful to have known and worked with," in a tribute tweet.
Notable film credits include The Towering Inferno, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and John Carpenter’s Vampires.
Award winning actress Cloris Leachman, best known (among many memorable roles) for playing Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, died of natural causes in January 2021. She was "one of the most fearless actresses of our time," her rep and friend, Juliet Green, told Variety. "You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic." She was 94.
A native of Iowa, Leachman moved to neighboring Illinois to study theater at Northwestern University. She dropped out before she could graduate and took an unconventional route to Hollywood that included an appearance at the 1946 Miss America pageant. Her acting career began when she landed in New York and got in with the Actors Studio, but she wouldn’t come to national attention until she debuted on The Mary Tyler Moore Show some 20 years later. She won two of her eight primetime Emmy Awards for playing the catty Phyllis Lindstrom, who would later get her own spin-off, Phyllis.
Leachman also had an Academy Award in her trophy cabinet. She was named best supporting actress for her performance in The Last Picture Show, beating out stiff competition from her co-star and favorite for the Oscar, Ellen Burstyn. She notched over 280 credits over the course of her remarkable career (she appeared in Diagnosis Murder, Two and a Half Men, Malcolm in the Middle, and American Gods to name a few) and was still working at the time of her death.
The East Harlem native worked as a model before breaking into acting, appearing in top publications like Vogue. She learned her craft at the Actors Studio and became a regular face on the New York theater scene, but she’ll no doubt be best remembered for the work she did — and didn’t do — on the screen. Tyson made her debut in short drama Carib Gold (1957) and moved into feature films proper when she appeared as a jazz club worker in the Harry Belafonte picture Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), but she largely avoided movies in the decade that followed, making a conscious effort to turn down roles that demeaned Black women. She returned to the big screen with a bang in 1972’s Sounder, earning a Best Actress nomination for her turn as Depression era sharecropper Rebecca Morgan.
Tyson was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2019, by which point she was widely recognized as one of the industry’s pioneers. She plied her trade on important TV shows like Roots, King, and A Woman Called Moses, and would later appear on House of Cards and How to Get Away with Murder, her final role. Other notable film credits include Diary of a Mad Black Woman and The Help. Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, and Zendaya were among the many who paid tribute.
Actor Dustin Diamond, who played iconic ’90s geek Samuel "Screech" Powers on the sitcom Saved by the Bell, died of cancer in February 2021, just three weeks after it was revealed that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma. "In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution," his agent said (per Variety). "Dustin did not suffer." He was 44.
A naturally funny child, Diamond landed the role of Screech with next to no onscreen experience. He debuted as the loveable loser in 1988 on the Disney Channel’s Good Morning, Miss Bliss (which would be picked up and revamped into Saved by the Bell by NBC when it was canned after a single season). Saved by the Bell finished in 1992, but Diamond reprised the role of Screech on several occasions in the years that followed, most notably in Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Saved by the Bell: The New Class. The California native appeared in 130 episodes of The New Class from 1994 to 2000.
Diamond’s career floundered after The New Class, and he faced troubles in his personal life, too. In 2015, he spent three months behind bars for stabbing a man during a barroom brawl. "We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malevolent," Diamond’s agent said. "He — much like the rest of those who act out and behave poorly — had undergone a great deal of turmoil and heartache."
Award winning star of stage and screen Hal Holbrook, best known for his portrayal of Mark Twain in his enduring one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!, died at his California home in January 2021, his agent told The New York Times. He was 95.
He studied drama at Denison University after graduating from high school, but World War II forced him to put his career dreams on hold. His first on-stage performances took place when he was stationed in Newfoundland with the U.S. Army; he joined a theater group and appeared in a number of local productions. He began working on what would eventually become Mark Twain Tonight! in 1952, and four years later he shot to prominence after Ed Sullivan invited him onto his variety show. Remarkably, Holbrook would go on to perform as Twain over 2,000 times, including two stints on Broadway. The first run scored him a Tony Award, and he was nominated for an Emmy when Mark Twain Tonight! transferred to TV.
Holbrook was also well known for his roles on the big screen. His work has been influencing filmmakers for generations, Edgar Wright included. "Loved his performances in The Fog, All The President’s Men, Magnum Force, Creepshow, Capricorn One, The Star Chamber, Wild in the Streets and Into the Wild," Wright said in a tribute tweet. Holbrook received an Oscar nomination for his supporting turn in Into the Wild. Notable TV credits include The West Wing, The Sopranos, and Sons of Anarchy.
Star of the stage and screen Christopher Plummer, known for a prolific career that included playing Captain von Trapp in the iconic Best Picture winner The Sound of Music and later becoming the oldest ever Oscar recipient, died in February 2021. He was 91.
The Toronto native made his Broadway bow in 1954’s The Starcross Story and debuted on the big screen four years later, starring alongside Henry Fonda and Susan Strasberg in Sidney Lumet’s Stage Struck. The actor disliked many of the films he appeared in during the 1960s, including the one he would come to be best known for (he famously called Robert Wise’s musical "The Sound of Mucus"). He was reportedly drinking heavily at the time, but he managed to turn his personal and professional life around with the help of actress Elaine Taylor, his third wife.
In the 1970s, Plummer bagged a Tony Award for his work on the musical Cyrano and then a Primetime Emmy for The Moneychangers, NBC’s adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s political thriller. He was named Best Supporting Actor for his turn as a gay man who comes out late in life in 2010’s Beginners, making him the oldest Academy Award winner at the age of 82. He was nominated in the same category for 2017’s All the Money in the World, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he stepped in to replace Kevin Spacey in the role of J. Paul Getty just six weeks before the film was due to be released.
Actress and singer Trisha Noble, who played the mother of Natalie Portman’s Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars universe, died in January 2021. The Australian died "after an 18-month battle with mesothelioma, a tumour caused by inhaled asbestos fibers," the Daily Mail reported. She was 76.
Born Patsy Ann Noble in Marrickville, Sydney, she got her start on the Aussie variety show Bandstand, which featured regular performances from the likes of the Bee Gees and Grease star Olivia Newton-John. Noble went on to become a famous performer in her own right in Australia, but her career wouldn’t take off internationally until she moved to Britain, where she secured a record deal with Columbia Records. Once settled in the U.K., she turned her attention to acting, most notably appearing in the raunchy comedy classic Carry On Camping.
By the time Carry On Camping was released, Noble had relocated once again. She adopted the stage name Trisha upon her arrival in the States, and she set about making her mark in a new country all over again. Over the next few decades she popped up on the likes of Columbo, How the West Was Won, Fantasy Island, The Rockford Files, Mrs. Columbo, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, T.J. Hooker, and the LA cop show Strike Force, in which she co-starred as Sergeant Rosie Johnson. She’s perhaps best known for playing Jobal Naberrie in 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, featuring prominently in Padmé’s funeral scene.
Actor and lifelong Buddhist Christopher Pennock, who appeared in 126 episodes of the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows and later recurred on General Hospital, died in February 2021. He had been given a melanoma diagnosis the previous year, Deadline confirmed. His death came on "the first day of the Tibetan Buddhist New Year," his wife, Lynn Dunn Pennock, said in a statement (via ComicBook.com). "Chris has transitioned into the pure land of Dewachen with complete enlightenment leaving only a rainbow body behind." He was 76.
Pennock studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and would go on to finetune his craft with The Actors Studio before making his bow on Broadway. He began with understudy work, but he quickly leveled up and started landing roles in productions like 1969’s Patriot for Me, which is where Dan Curtis first laid eyes on him. The Dark Shadows creator cast Pennock as Leviathan, the first of many characters he would portray — he’s perhaps best known for the twin roles of Cyrus Longworth and John Yaeger, the in-universe versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Pennock became a regular at Dark Shadows fan conventions in the decades that followed, but he was also known for various other TV shows. He played Assistant District Attorney Mitch Williams in General Hospital and would also pop up in the likes of The Love Boat, Strike Force, Cagney & Lacey, Melrose Place, The A-Team, Dynasty, The Young and the Restless, and Baywatch.
Star of the stage and screen Martha Stewart, who appeared alongside Joan Crawford and Henry Fonda in love triangle drama Daisy Kenyon and later shared the screen with Humphrey Bogart in film noir classic In a Lonely Place, died in February 2021. "The original Martha Stewart left us yesterday," her daughter, Colleen Shelley, tweeted on February 18. "She had a new part to play in a movie with all her heavenly friends." She was 98.
The Kentucky native grew up in New York, where she began a career as a singer. She became a regular on NBC’s various radio shows, but it was a performance at Manhattan’s Stork Club that first got her noticed, according to The Hollywood Reporter. There was a studio talent scout in that night, and before she knew it, Fox had cast her in the musical comedy Doll Face, later renamed Come Back to Me (1945). She became a star of the silver screen in the years that followed, appearing in a string of films from the mid 1940s to early-50s. Notable credits from that period include 1947’s I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now, a musical biopic about songwriter Joe Howard, and 1948’s Are You with It?, based on the Broadway musical of the same name.
Her final film of that period was 1952 comedy drama Marshmallow Moon, another musical. She went quiet for over a decade after that, reappearing out of nowhere for a handful of TV appearances in the mid-’60s before vanishing again.
Versatile British actor Ronald Pickup, who was the Neville Chamberlain to Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour and gave a memorable turn as the Archbishop of Canterbury in The Crown, died in February 2021. His agent told the BBC that he "passed away peacefully […] after a long illness surrounded by his wife and family." He was 80.
Pickup was a classically trained actor with decades of experience on both the stage and the screen. He made his TV debut in the 1964 Doctor Who episode "The Tyrant of France" and broke into film in the 1970s, appearing in pictures like The Day of the Jackal and Zulu Dawn. He would move seamlessly between television and movies in the decades that followed, plying his trade in everything from long-running British soap opera Coronation Street to large scale Hollywood blockbusters like 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, in which he played King Sharaman, the murdered father of Jake Gyllenhaal’s hero. He was perhaps best known for his turn as aging ladies man Norman Cousins in 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its 2015 sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
News of Pickup’s death was mourned by the National Theatre, which called him an "exceptional actor" in a tribute tweet. "[He] had a long history with the NT, starting with 1964’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun. He went on to feature in 36 of our productions, and was a regular at The Old Vic under Laurence Olivier."
Actor and former Marlboro man Geoffrey Scott, best known for playing Linda Evans’ tennis pro husband on Dynasty, died in February 2021. Scott played the mustachioed Mark Jennings between 1982 and 1984, appearing in 45 episodes of the long-running soap opera. The cause of death was Parkinson’s disease, his family told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 79.
A native of Los Angeles, Scott lived on the same street as Hollywood icons John Wayne and Clark Gable growing up. He was raised in close proximity to actors and would become one himself after he impressed execs at Universal and won himself a contract (his brother would also end up working for the studio as a lawyer). He made his debut in a 1963 episode of General Hospital, but his first part of any real note was Sky Rumson, the wealthy publisher who showed up on Dark Shadows in 1970.
He found himself competing with Tom Selleck a lot in the years that followed (he even ended up playing Selleck’s character in the series adaptation of TV movie Concrete Cowboys when the former dropped out), but he never found himself out of work. He went on to recur in the likes of Cannon, The Secret Empire, Ramblin’ Man, and of course, Dynasty. Notable feature film appearances include Sidney Lumet’s The Morning After, for which leading lady Jane Fonda was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and Ang Lee’s The Hulk. Scott played the president in the Marvel movie, his final role.
New York-born actor Yaphet Kotto – who appeared opposite Roger Moore as a corrupt Caribbean politician in the James Bond film Live and Let Die and later played engineer Dennis Parker in Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi flick, Alien – died in the Philippines in March 2021. His wife, Sinahon Thessa, confirmed the news in a Facebook post. "You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you’re a real hero," she said, adding, "A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being." He was 81.
Kotto was a descendant of Cameroonian royalty on his father’s side, as he revealed in his book, The Royalty. After separating from his dad, Kotto’s mother (who was of West Indian heritage) joined the U.S. Army and left him to be raised by her Catholic parents. He made his movie debut aged 23 in Nothing but a Man, a film about a Black couple dealing with racial discrimination in 1960s Alabama. His sheer size led to him being cast in a variety of hardman roles in the years that followed, something that always bothered him. "I want to try to play a much more sensitive man," he once told The Baltimore Sun, adding, "There is an aspect of Black people’s lives that is not running or jumping."
Other notable credits include the Stephen King adaptation The Running Man, in which Kotto fought for his freedom alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the ’90s police procedural series Homicide: Life on the Street.
Latino trailblazer Henry Darrow, who played Manolito "Mano" Montoya in the beloved Western TV series The High Chaparral and appeared in films like The Hitcher and Maverick, died in March 2021. Actor Robert Beltran, who played his on-screen son in two mid-’90s episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, called him "a gentleman and an artist of the highest rank" in a tribute tweet. "His intellectual curiosity, his generous spirit, his joyfulness, were his great attributes." Darrow was 87.
Darrow, whose real name was Enrique Tomas Delgado Jimenez, was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. The family moved home in 1946, but Darrow would return to the States upon receipt of an acting school scholarship. He settled in California and got his foot in the door at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he was able to finetune his skills. He made his screen debut in 1959 and went on to land roles in a string of TV Westerns, including Cimarron City, Wagon Train, and Stoney Burke. He would later become the first Latino actor to play the iconic Zorro on TV.
Outside of his own work, Darrow was a passionate advocate for Latino actors. He co-founded the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee in 1972 (per the Los Angeles Times) and did his utmost to help members land roles that went against stereotypes. Other notable credits include Babylon 5, Knight Rider, T.J. Hooker, The Incredible Hulk, Magnum, P.I., and Santa Barbara, for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award.
Academy Award nominee George Segal, best known in recent years for his work on ABC’s popular period sitcom The Goldbergs, died in March 2021. "The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery," his wife, Sonia, revealed in a statement (per Variety). He was 87.
A native of New York, Segal was trained at the famed Actor’s Studio. He made his on-screen debut in the TV movie The Closing Door in 1960, and the following year, he landed a spot on the cast of the play Gideon, which ran on Broadway from November 1961 to June 1962. He was snapped up by Columbia Pictures, and the studio handed him the role of Dr. Howard in its medical drama The Young Doctors, but it was 1930s-set romance Ship of Fools that put Segal on the map. He went on to turn heads as college professor Nick in Oscar juggernaut Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, picking up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work on the dramedy classic. Other notable film appearances include A Touch of Class, Look Who’s Talking, The Cable Guy, and 2012.
Of course, he began his stint as Albert "Pops" Solomon in 2013 and would go on to appear in over 175 episodes of The Goldbergs in the years that followed. Creator Adam F. Goldberg called Segal "a legend" in an emotional goodbye tweet. "Just like my grandfather, George was a kid at heart with a magical spark."
Award-winning actress Jessica Walter, who won an Emmy for her turn as a San Francisco cop in Ironside spinoff Amy Prentiss, and became known to later generations for playing Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development and voicing Malory Archer in Archer, died in her sleep in March 2021. "A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off," daughter Brooke Bowman said in a statement, per Deadline. "While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class, and overall joie de vivre." She was 80.
The New York-born Walter began her career on Broadway and quickly started turning heads, picking up the Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her work in the show Photo Finish. She continued to impress after making the move to the big screen, where Walter played Clint Eastwood’s knife-wielding ex-girlfriend in the actor’s directorial debut, 1971’s Play Misty for Me, earning a Golden Globe nomination in the process.
She was up for multiple Emmys over the course of her career, including for Arrested Development. The cast and crew of the cult sitcom took to Twitter to mourn Walter’s passing after the news broke. "What a brilliant, funny, intelligent, and strong woman," omniscient narrator and producer Ron Howard tweeted. "Thank you for a lifetime of laughs and for sharing your incredible talent on our show and with the world."
Craig ‘muMs’ Grant
Actor and poet Craig Grant, who performed under the stage name "muMs da Schemer" and was best known to TV fans for HBO’s Oz, died of natural causes in March 2021, a rep told Deadline. He was hailed as a "spoken-word giant and fire-breathing teddy bear" by former colleagues at the LABryinth Theater Company, which addressed the shocking news in an Instagram post. "MuMs’ presence, performances, and words inspired a generation. His legacy will live on, from the Bronx and into the beyond. Keep rocking the mic, Schemer!" He was 52.
After earning a name for himself on the slam poetry scene, the New Yorker gained wider recognition through the 1988 documentary Slam Nation: The Sport of Spoken Word and his role in the prison series Oz. In the HBO show, he would portray heroin addict and gang member Arnold "Poet" Jackson in all six seasons of the critically acclaimed prison drama, being absent in just a handful of episodes. It’s the role he’ll be best remembered for, though he went on to notch up some impressive credits in the years that followed, appearing in the likes of The Sopranos and Luke Cage.
More recently, he played Cash Jackson in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It series, and he also popped up in the director’s hit feature film BlacKkKlansman. Grant was working steadily at the time of his death, too — he’d been recurring as Wayne on Starz series Hightown and had recently filmed scenes for Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming crime thriller, No Sudden Move.
Former child actor Houston Tumlin, who played Will Ferrell’s trash-talking son Walker Bobby in 2006 speedway comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, died at his home in Alabama in March 2021. His death was ruled a suicide, Shelby County coroner Lina Evans confirmed to TMZ. His girlfriend, Charity Robertson, said that she would miss his "big heart, caring spirit [and] infectious laughter" in a Facebook post. "I love you so much Houston Lee, and thank you for loving me so passionately and unapologetically for the time we had each other." He was 28.
Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – which also starred the likes of John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jane Lynch, and Amy Adams — was Tumlin’s one and only acting credit. The film’s director, Adam McKay, said that he was "truly heartbroken and stunned at Houston’s passing" in a tweet. "He was a joyful and talented person," McKay recalled. "[I] will never forget the laughs and good times we had. Sending love and prayers to his family and friends."
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Gilliland appeared in everything from Westerns to fantasy shows to period dramas over the course of his near-five decade career. He reportedly caught the acting bug after landing the part of Jesus Christ in a 1972 production of the musical Godspell. "He was Jesus, and I was Judas," actor Joe Mantegna (The Godfather Part III), who was best man at Gilliland’s wedding, tweeted. "I, my wife, and children mourn the passing of a great friend."
Gilliland made the transition to screen acting in 1974, appearing in two TV movies and two shows – The Streets of San Francisco and Medical Center. He would go on to land recurring roles in the likes of McMillan & Wife, Petticoat Affair, Just Our Luck, The Love Boat, Heartland, Thirtysomething, and the sitcom Designing Women, which is where he met his wife, actress Jean Smart. In an interview she gave to Northwest Prime Time back in 2017, Smart revealed that "he was kissing someone else" on the show when they met, so she got co-star Delta Burke to do some digging. "Naturally, Delta walked up to him and blurted, ‘Jean wants to know if you’re married.’"
New Jersey-born actor Robert Rodan, best known for his portrayal of Adam, the Frankenstein’s monster-inspired character in the cult ’60s show Dark Shadows, died in March 2021. The cause of death was heart failure, the official Dark Shadows newsletter ShadowGram confirmed (via Deadline). He was 83.
The Newark native made his onscreen debut in a 1963 episode of Day in Court, a series that took viewers inside real criminal trials via reenactments long before true crime became popular. Rodan appeared uncredited in two feature films the following year, popping up as "Office Employee on Phone" in the musical Looking for Love and "Dancing Party Goer in Baby Blue Blazer" in the rom-com Goodbye Charlie. He didn’t catch his big break until 1968 when he made his bow as Adam, a towering creature composed entirely of body parts procured by Addison Powell’s Dr. Eric Lang.
Created by Dan Curtis, Dark Shadows ran from 1966 until 1971 and featured a cast of rotating actors that often popped up as different characters. Rodan was one of the few who only played a single character, though that only made him more popular with fans of the gothic soap opera. Rodan also went on to star as a power-mad business mogul in 1969’s grindhouse picture The Minx, but he quit acting sometime after to concentrate on real estate, instead. His death was mourned by everyone at Dark Shadows News, which confirmed in a tribute tweet that his ashes were to "be scattered off Catalina Island."
California-born actress Amy Johnston, who played Cindy Lou in the Oscar-winning biopic The Buddy Holly Story, died at her Arkansas home in March 2021. The cause of death was cancer, her family confirmed (via The Hollywood Reporter). She was 66.
Johnston was best known for appearing opposite Best Actor nominee Gary Busey in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story (which garnered critical acclaim at the time and is still very much respected today, boasting a perfect 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but what you may not know about her is that she debuted alongside another rising star from that period. The year before The Buddy Holly Story came out, Johnston made her bow in the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, playing the fleeting love interest of John Travolta’s Vinnie Barbarino. She went on to appear in every episode of Brothers and Sisters, a short-lived sitcom inspired by the success of college comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House.
Other notable TV credits include Charlie’s Angels (she also contributed to the soundtrack of the spy series), beloved ’80s procedural Cagney & Lacey, and Highway to Heaven, a Michael Landon-led show about an angel who returns to Earth and forms a partnership with a disgruntled former cop. When it comes to feature film appearances, Johnston plied her trade in the drama Rooster: Spurs of Death! and Jennifer, a boarding school-set supernatural horror. She played a reporter in her final film, a 1992 TV movie called In the Best Interest of the Children.
British character actor Paul Ritter, who won plaudits for his powerful performance in HBO’s Golden Globe-winning miniseries Chernobyl, died in April 2021. The Kent native "had been suffering from a brain tumor," his agent told The Guardian. "He died peacefully at home with his wife, Polly, and sons, Frank and Noah, by his side." He was 54.
Ritter was well known in theater communities on both sides of the Atlantic, having been nominated for both an Olivier Award and a Tony Award in his time. He made his onscreen bow in 1992, with an appearance in the long-running police procedural The Bill. He went on to carve out a career as a prolific TV actor, landing recurring roles in the likes of City Lights, Land Girls, Vera, The Game, Hang Ups, No Offence, Resistance, Cold Feet, and Belgravia. Alongside his turn as engineer Anatoly Dyatlov in Chernobyl, his best-known performance came in the British sitcom Friday Night Dinner, where he played oddball dad Martin Goodman. Robert Popper, creator of Fright Night Dinner, said that he was "devastated at this terribly sad news" in a tribute tweet. "Paul was a lovely, wonderful human being. Kind, funny, super caring and the greatest actor I ever worked with."
Notable feature film appearances include The Libertine, Hannibal Rising, Quantum of Solace, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In the sixth Potter movie, Ritter played Eldred Worple, the wizard who unsuccessfully tries to convince Harry to let him write his biography at Professor Slughorn’s party.
New Jersey native Walter Olkewicz, who was most famous for his role as bartender Jacques Renault in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, died in April 2021 after years of health problems, his son told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 72.
Olkewicz traveled to Kansas for college and then Colorado for university after graduating high school. He debuted in the 1976 sci-fi thriller Futureworld and hit the big time just three years later, appearing as Private Hinshaw in Steven Spielberg’s wartime comedy 1941. The versatile character actor went on to rack up over 100 screen credits in a career that spanned more than four decades, popping up in the likes of Christopher Guest’s The Big Picture and Joel Schumacher’s The Client. He was a familiar face on television, having worked on everything from The Rockford Files, L.A. Law, and ER to Cheers and Married… with Children. He played oil worker Dougie Boudreau in multiple episodes of ABC sitcom Grace Under Fire, but Olkewicz’s career was defined by his relationship with David Lynch.
Olkewicz made his bow as Jacques in the original Twin Peaks in 1990 and returned for 1992’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. And in his final appearance, he played Jean-Michel Renault (a relative of Jacques) in the 2017 reboot. "He did it all from behind a bar to cover the fact that he couldn’t stand," his son, screenwriter and producer Zak Olkewicz, said.
Oklahoma-born actor James Hampton, who played Michael J. Fox’s werewolf father in 1985’s Teen Wolf, died in April 2021. The cause of death was Parkinson’s disease, a rep told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 84.
Hampton was raised in Dallas and studied theater arts at the University of North Texas. After a stint in the military, he returned to Dallas and got his foot in the door at the Knox Street Theater, where he was under the tutelage of Sidney Lumet’s father, Baruch Lumet. When a short film he starred in (1962’s The Cliff Dwellers) got an unexpected Oscar nod, Hampton secured an agent and was soon rubbing shoulders with Burt Reynolds on Western series Gunsmoke. The two struck up a friendship and would work on several movies together, most notably 1974’s The Longest Yard.
Hampton received a Golden Globe nomination for his turn in the prison-set sports comedy. He was originally tapped to play the snitch character, but he saw more value in the caretaker role. It was a similar story when he went in to audition for Teen Wolf‘s basketball coach and ended up reading for the dad part instead. "I thought, ‘I’m gonna do this picture to be a wolf, I wanna be a wolf," he once said. "At that time there was only three or four actors who had played [a wolf]." Hampton was also known for the Western comedy series F Troop, having appeared in 65 episodes of the satirical sitcom during the mid-’60s.
Grammy-nominated rapper and actor DMX, whose songs regularly broke the Billboard Hot 100 in the late ’90s and early ’00s, died after being hospitalized in April 2021. He was rushed to a critical care unit following a drug overdose, TMZ revealed. "Our sources say the overdose triggered a heart attack." In a statement (via The Hollywood Reporter), his family called him "a warrior who fought till the very end." He was 50.
Born Earl Simmons in Mount Vernon, New York, DMX spent much of his childhood in the care system after being removed from his physically abusive mother. He began developing his gritty stage persona, "Dark Man X," during his time, and he remained true to it as his peers started to gravitate towards designer labels and smoother beats. Songs like "What’s My Name" and "Party Up (Up in Here)" had made him a star come the turn of the millennium, and Hollywood soon came calling.
DMX appeared in a string of action movies directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak around this time. For example, there was 2000’s Romeo Must Die, a martial arts-heavy Shakespeare transplant starring Jet Li and Aaliyah. And then, DMX headlined in 2001’s Exit Wounds, and 2003’s Cradle 2 the Grave, alongside Steven Seagal and Jet Li, respectively. He never walked away from acting, and he was still active in the industry at the time of his death. He featured in two films, Chronicle of a Serial Killer and Fast and Fierce: Death Race, in 2020, and he had two more movies in production.
Actor Joseph Siravo, who debuted as the vengeful son of a slain mobster in Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Way and later played Tony Soprano’s father in HBO’s iconic mafia series The Sopranos, died in April 2021, his daughter announced on Instagram. "I was by his side when my dear father passed away this morning, peacefully," Allegra Okarmus said (via the BBC), adding, "I am so immensely grateful to have had him here on Earth, and I know that he hasn’t gone very far." The cause of death was colon cancer, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. He was 66.
The Washington D.C. native learned his craft at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, and his early successes were largely on the stage. He shone in critically acclaimed plays like Oslo and Conversations with My Father, and he was equally as comfortable in musicals, appearing in The Boys from Syracuse, The Light in the Piazza, and most notably, Jersey Boys. It was here that he played Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo, patriarch of the Genovese crime family, over 2,000 times during the show’s national tour in 2006. To television fans, however, he’ll be best remembered as the head of another famous Jersey family.
Siravo appeared as the young Johnny "Johnny Boy" Soprano in dreams and flashbacks, but the impact he made on the cast and crew of The Sopranos was very much real. Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on the show, called him "an excellent actor and a wonderful guy" in a tribute Instagram post.
Child star Lee Aaker, best known for his turn as Wild West orphan Rusty in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, died following a stroke in April 2021. He was 77.
The son of a California dance school owner, Aaker started his training young. In the late 1940s, he and his brother formed a double act that would get him noticed by Hollywood filmmaker Fred Zinnemann. During the ’50s, Aaker quickly became one of Tinseltown’s go-to child actors, appearing in no less than ten different projects during 1952 alone. He was still just 9-years-old at the time, but he popped up in everything from Zinnemann’s critically acclaimed Western, High Noon, to the Oscar-nominated thriller The Atomic City.
He returned to Westerns in 1953 with John Wayne’s Hondo, and the following year, he made sure he’d be remembered for his work in the genre when he debuted as Rusty, best pal to a German Shepherd named Rin Tin Tin. Aaker played Rusty — a boy being raised by U.S. cavalrymen following the death of his parents — between 1954 and 1959, appearing in all 164 episodes of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. He carried on acting into the early ’60s but was largely forgotten about when he aged out of the roles he used to get. "You are around just to please everyone, and when there’s nothing left, they are done with you," former child star Paul Petersen, who worked alongside Aaker on The Donna Reed Show, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Timothy Patrick Quill
Horror movie actor and regular Sam Raimi collaborator Timothy Patrick Quill, who played the bald blacksmith in the director’s Evil Dead sequel Army of Darkness and later appeared in all three of his Spider-Man films, died in 2021. News of his death was shared by Bruce Campbell, his longtime friend and fellow Raimi regular. "Tim was full of fun and mischief, and he left it all on the dance floor," the actor tweeted. "Safe travels, sir!"
Quill, Raimi, Campbell and Scott Spiegel (who co-wrote Evil Dead II) all went to the same high school in Detroit. It was here that they developed a passion for film and a friendship that would last a lifetime. "We made movies back in the ’70s, the old Super-8 movies," Quill told Groovey.TV in a 2013 interview. "And the funny thing is — Sam mentioned this to me on Spider-Man — all the gags are the same, just different budget!"
He went on to call Raimi "very loyal" for casting his old friends in his projects ("We’ve all worked together and tried to stay together," Quill said), and he thanked the director for getting him "into Hollywood" with Army of Darkness. The part apparently came with one condition. "He goes, ‘Tim, would you shave your head for $5,000?’ And I said, ‘Sam, I’ll shave my whole body!’ He goes, ‘No, it’s not that kind of movie, Timmy!’"
Quill also appeared in Raimi’s films The Quick and the Dead and Oz the Great and Powerful.
British actress Helen McCrory, best known for her turns as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies and Aunt Polly in all five series of Peaky Blinders, died in April 2021. "I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family," her husband, actor Damian Lewis, tweeted. "She died as she lived. Fearlessly." She was 52.
McCrory was born in London but moved to Cameroon and then Tanzania (which she called her "most formative country" in a BBC interview) with her diplomat dad when she was still just a toddler. She returned to the UK for her studies, and after a year in Italy, she enrolled at Drama Centre London, per Sky News. She made her TV debut in 1993 and appeared in her first movie, Kate Beckinsale-led thriller Uncovered, the following year.
She went on to appear in films like The Count of Monte Cristo, Helen Mirren’s The Queen, and James Bond installment Skyfall, but she never lost touch with her theater roots. In fact, he met Lewis, future star of Homeland, when she signed on to star opposite him in a play called Five Gold Rings in 2003. They married in 2007 and had two children together.
Skyfall director Sam Mendes was among those who paid tribute, as was Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who called McCrory "an extraordinary actress and a wonderful woman."
Italian actor and stuntman Felix Silla, who played the iconic Cousin Itt on ABC’s macabre sitcom The Addams Family and later appeared as bald Nazi villain Litvak in The Maltese Falcon sequel The Black Bird, died in April 2021. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, friend and former co-star Gil Gerard confirmed. "The only good I can draw from his passing is that he didn’t suffer any longer," Gerard said when he announced the news on Twitter. "I will miss him terribly, especially the great time we had at our panels." He was 84.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Silla arrived in the States in 1955 and traveled the country as a trapeze artist and tumbler with the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. His skills landed him regular stuntman work in Tinseltown, and by 1963, he’d made the transition to credited roles. He appeared in TV shows Grindl and Bonanza before debuting on The Addams Family, appearing as the Addams’ hairy, sunglasses-wearing cousin in 17 episodes of the cult show.
Silla went on to become a favorite among sci-fi fans, playing Twiki in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and later working on both Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. He also had Star Wars on his resume, having played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi, and he popped up in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs too. He retired in 1996 and moved to Las Vegas in 2003, but he continued to make regular convention appearances.
New Orleans native Gloria Henry, who was best known for playing the mother of the mischievous Dennis Mitchell in classic ’60s sitcom "Dennis the Menace," died in April 2021. "She’s flying now, free of her body," her daughter, Erin Ellwood, said in a tribute Instagram post. "She was such an incredible woman in so many ways. This last year with her has been beautiful and heartbreaking." She died one day after her 98th birthday.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Henry was working in radio when a scout from Columbia Pictures noticed her. Before she knew it, she’d been signed to a contract at the studio and was firing out several movies a year, appearing in no less than seven pictures in 1949 alone, most notably the Lucille Ball rom-com "Miss Grant Takes Richmond" and "Johnny Allegro," a film noir drama starring George Raft. By the time CBS started casting for the role of Alice Mitchell on "Dennis the Menace" a decade later, Henry was ready for a new challenge.
As well as her daughter, Erin, Henry is survived by her two sons, Jeffrey and Adam. The actress once revealed that she considered Jay North (Dennis Mitchell) to also be her son. "I mean, he may have been his mom’s child at night, but he was my child during the day on the set when we were working," she told NJ.com in 2011. "That’s what usually happens if you’ve got a nice cast to begin with. They bond like family."
Emmy-nominated actor Johnny Crawford, who was one of Disney’s 24 original Mouseketeers in the 1950s, died in April 2021. "Sadly, Johnny was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and he was living in a memory care residence before contracting COVID-19, then pneumonia," a statement posted to the Johnny Crawford Legacy website revealed. He was 75.
Crawford was best known for his time as a child star. After acing his Disney audition with a mixture of tap-dancing, singing and fencing, he appeared in the first season of "The Mickey Mouse Club." Producers decided that they wanted fewer Mouseketeers on the team ahead of the second season, however, and Crawford was among those cut loose. "When they dropped my option, that really broke my heart, and I didn’t have any other prospects," he once said in an interview. "I was a has-been at nine."
He dusted himself off and got back in the saddle a few years later, landing the co-lead part in Western series "The Rifleman." He was 12 years old when he made his debut as Mark McCain, son of the Winchester-wielding Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), a role that earned him an Emmy nod for Supporting Actor. "I had a great time and really never thought about the fact that I was a kid," he said of his years on the show. He began a second career as a recording artist around this time and would go on to have some chart success in the 1960s. Other notable credits include "Rawhide," "El Dorado," and "Hawaii Five-O."