An actor who was a familiar face on TV, including a long run on “Magnum, P.I.” in the 1980s as Higgins, has died. John Hillerman died today at his home in Houston, the Los Angeles Times reports. He was 84.
While the cause of death was not immediately known, Hillerman had reportedly been in declining health.
“Besides playing manager of the Hawaiian estate that Magnum used as home base, Hillerman was known for his 1970s roles as arrogant radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the ‘Ellery Queen’ series and the difficult boss on the sitcom ‘One Day at a Time,'” the Times reports.
“When Hillerman decided to retire about 17 years ago, the actor born in Denison, Texas, returned to his native state and was content leaving Hollywood behind,” the story reports, citing Hillerman’s nephew Chris Tritico.
Tritico is quoted saying of his uncle: “He had an outstanding sense of humor and was one of the most well-read people I ever met. You couldn’t play Scrabble with him.”
The Times adds: “As for that quasi-British accent that Hillerman used on ‘Magnum’ and elsewhere, his nephew said that was honed during several decades of playing varied roles on the New York stage before he turned to TV and movies.”
The report also notes: “Hillerman used something closer to his own voice in Mel Brooks’ ‘Blazing Saddles,’ playing Howard Johnson, one of the comic Western’s many Johnsons. He appeared in a number of TV series, including ‘Valerie,’ ‘The Love Boat’ and ‘The Betty White Show,’ and in films including ‘The Last Picture Show’ and ‘High Plains Drifter.’”
Hillerman was nominated for four consecutive Emmy Awards for supporting actor from 1984-1987 for “Magnum,” winning the Emmy in 1987. He also won a Golden Globe for the role in 1982, one of five times he was nominated for the Globe.
Here’s a clip of Hillerman telling a favorite joke …