Statements regarding the passing of John Spencer of "The West Wing"
BURBANK, Calif. -- December 16, 2005 -- Joint statement from NBC and Warner Bros. Television:
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend John Spencer. John was a remarkable man with enormous talent and beloved by everyone who had the privilege of working with him on 'The West Wing.' Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this most difficult time. He will be greatly missed."
Statement from Executive Producer John Wells:
"John was a wonderful actor, a pleasure to work with and a true gentleman, but most importantly, a generous and gracious friend. He will be missed by everyone who ever had the great fortune to know him."
Statement from Executive Producers Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme:
"We're shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague. John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor. We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He'll be missed and remembered everyday by his many, many friends."
Obituary for John Spencer:
Los Angeles (December 16, 2005) John Spencer, the Emmy-winning actor best-known for starring roles in such popular television series as "The West Wing," and "L.A. Law" has passed away at 58 after suffering a heart attack in the morning of December 16. Service and funeral arrangements have not been determined at this time.
The versatile character actor is perhaps best known for his role as Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on "The West Wing." His work on the show was rewarded with an Emmy Award win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2002 and nominations in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. He also has a Golden Globe nomination under his belt for his role as Leo. Earlier noted work includes his portrayal of the quirky and charismatic New York attorney Tommy Mullaney on "L.A. Law."
Spencer began his professional acting career at age sixteen when he left his home in Patterson, New Jersey to pursue his passion. While attending Professional Children's School in the city, he earned catalog modeling jobs, leading to his first television role as Henry Anderson, the boyfriend of the English twin on "The Patty Duke Show." Following high school, Spencer enrolled at Fairleigh Dickenson University, earning a consistent spot on the Dean's List.
He returned to New York to understudy the lead in Butterflies Are Free, a role he subsequently played on tour. Regional theatre opened up for Spencer, leading him to seek out new plays by new playwrights and providing him entry into the New York theatre scene. From 1974-81 he performed in such stage works as David Mamet's Lakeboat, Michael Weller's Fishing and Loose Ends, John Hopkins' This Story of Yours, and the gentleman caller in Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie and Still Life. The latter production, about a Vietnam vet, went on to earn Spencer an Obie Award during its off-Broadway run in 1981. A Drama Desk nomination later came for his performance in The Day Room. He also portrayed Dan White in the critically acclaimed production of Execution of Justice. Other stage appearances include Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Peter Hedges' Good as New, Amulets Against the Dragon Forces, and Pera Palas among others.
When Still Life came to the Los Angeles stage, Spencer opened a new door with his first feature film role ? a bit part as a military grunt who won't push "the button" during the opening scene of War Games. His natural charisma and strength led to authority roles: Al Pacino's boss in Sea of Love and Michael Douglas' in Black Rain, with Harrison Ford as Detective Lipranzer in Presumed Innocent ("a watershed role," said Spencer), Billy Crystal's basketball referee friend in Forget Paris, Harvey Keitel's partner in Copland. More recently Spencer has moved between studio and independent projects, taking roles in Caf? Society, Albino Alligator, Lesser Prophets, Ravenous, Cold Heart, and Green Card while coming down ? usually ? on the side of the law in The Rock, Twilight, and The Negotiator.
After seeing his work in Presumed Innocent, producer David E. Kelley invited Spencer to join the cast of "L.A. Law" for the final four of its eight-year run. From 1990-94 he mesmerized audiences with his tough, funny portrayal of Tommy Mullaney, reinvigorating the series and solidifying his reputation as a preeminent character actor. Spencer appeared in the highly rated telefilm, "The Tangled Web," starred in Joseph Wambaugh's "A Jury of One" and guest starred on such episodic series as "Miami Vice," "Spenser for Hire," "Law & Order," "Touched By An Angel," "The Outer Limits," "FX," "Early Edition," "Lois & Clark" and "Tracey Takes On..." He also portrayed Simon McCallister on the drama "Trinity."
A few years ago he created the role of ex-jazz musician, ex-junkie Martin Glimmer in the world premiere of Warren Leight's The Glimmer Brothers at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Spencer played the part of Martin Glimmer in Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine (same play, new title) in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum and the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City to rave reviews.
Known for his dedication, authenticity and generosity as an actor, John was always quick to share his success as an actor with the tremendous good fortune of working with the world's finest writers and actors. From David E. Kelly to Warren Leight to his recent collaboration with Aaron Sorkin and John Wells, actors Martin Sheen to Stockard Channing, to Harrison Ford to Al Pacino, he would always credit his fellow actors and the words on the page for allowing him to stretch as an actor.