The Working Actor EDITOR'S INTRO
This is the twenty first in a continuing feature at IndustryCentral profiling "The Working Actor". (See Archives below)
William Shakespeare said "There are no small parts.....". William Shatner may have said it too, but the longhair with the tights was first, or so the reports go. In this feature we will explore what it really means to be an actor working in Motion Pictures and Television.
Broad public acknowledgment may have eluded some who find their way to these pages, or perhaps they may have brushed against what is referred to as stardom by virtue of one or more remarkable performances. However for many, the rewards of plying their craft in a field which has allowed them to earn a living may exceed the burdens of public acclaim. Given the chance, some in this clan might prefer the longevity offered by anonymity over the potential for short lived fame.
These individuals, either by design or fate, have managed to sustain a career by crafting performances which rendered them a good casting choice. They are usually thought of as a face you recognize, but you just can't get the name past the tip of your tongue.
Most of these folks have spent countless hours on stage in theaters ranging from 20 seats to 2000, building characters from the works of Ibsen, to Eliot, to Williams, to yes even Shakespeare, and so many of the modern Playwrights. They have rounded their skills doing drama, comedy, & musicals. Their work is a serious venture.
These people have given us screen performances which quite often were the catalyst that brought an Oscar or Emmy to another and yet they continue to work as "Characters" or "Co-Stars" without the trophies and plaques adorning their mantle.
William Dainels
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William Dainels, A versatile character actor of stage, film and, most successfully, TV, is often cast in arrogant, authoritative or WASPish roles, currently serves the Industry in the tireless roll of President of the Screen Actors Guild.

Born in Brooklyn, Daniels made his first stage appearance tap dancing at the age of four and a half years old. Three years later, he and a sister Jacqueline, then five, began performing as a song and dance team on radio, children's shows, in clubs and at benefits. They frequently appeared on the Nick Kenny Radio Show. After television performances on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, emceed by Ralph Edwards, they formed their own radio show, The Daniels Family, with a younger sister, Carol.

At 15, he became assistant stage manager and understudy for the two boys in Life with Father road company. While hired for the New York company, he performed the roles of son, John, and, later, of older son, Clarence, during two and half years on Broadway.

Following military service as a staff sergeant with Armed Forces Radio, he turned to mentor, Howard Lindsey, the author of Life with Father, to discuss his future. Lindsey suggested enrolling in a college with an outstanding drama department. Mr. Daniels chose Northwestern University, where he met and married Bonnie Bartlett, also a drama major.

His first important break came when Tennessee Williams chose him to play "Brick" in the national company tour of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. He continued in the role for 33 weeks and his career was launched. Off-Broadway, he replaced George Segal in The Iceman Cometh, portrayed Jimmy Porter in Look Back In Anger and starred in Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award. His Broadway credits include: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest; A Thousand Clowns; Dear Me; The Sky Is Falling; On A Clear Day You Can See Forever; Daphne In Cottage D; 1776 and A Little Night Music. Between shows, he served as assistant director with Jerome Robbins on Gypsy and Oh Dad, Poor Dad.

Even after his success on Broadway, it was a gamble that won William Daniels the important role that changed the direction of his career and made him the household name and face that he is today. In 1969, after appearing in the Broadway hit On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, he was asked to repeat his role in the Hollywood film directed by Vincent Minelli. At the same time, he was also offered the opportunity to play the lead role in the Broadway play, 1776. He chose the latter and went on to star as the fiery leader, John Quincy Adams, for 954 performances on Broadway stage and in the subsequent motion pictures.

Throughout his career, Mr. Daniels has appeared in several video and television dramas including: Rockford Files; McMillan and Wife; Quincy; McCloud and Toma. His debut in television occurred when he played the title role in the critically acclaimed series, Captain Nice. For several years, he also had the rare privilege of having two hit TV series running at the same time.

He won the Emmy Award two years in a row, playing "Dr. Craig" on St. Elsewhere, while simultaneously playing the voice of "KITT," the car on the popular series, Knight Rider. In addition to having a successful career in television, he has also appeared in several films including: The Graduate; Reds; Parallax View; Her Alibi, A Thousand Clowns; The President's Analyst; Two For The Road and Blind Date.

He has also appeared in many television movies such as: The Adams Chronicles as John Quincy Adams, Blind Ambition as G. Gordon Liddy, A Case For Rape and Making The Case For Murder (The Howard Beach Case). Currently, he appears as "Mr. Feeny" on the ABC sitcom Boy Meets World (1993-2000).

In November 1999, Mr. Daniels was elected to a two-year term as President of Screen Actors Guild. He and his wife, actress Bonnie Bartlett, divide their time between Studio City and Santa Barbara, California. They have two sons, Michael, 35 and Robert, 33 and two granddaughters, Shaina and Eliza.

Artists Agency
10000 Santa Monica Blvd. #305
Los Angeles, 90067
(310) 277-7779

William Daniels' advice to the aspiring actor:

"Every actor has a different story. For several years in the fifties I made less than two thousand dollars per year (my wife worked). I couldn't get an agent in New York until after appearing in Edward Albee's Zoo Story and winning the Clarence Derwent award. Before that, nobody was interested. Having been a child actor, I was used to being obedient; so it took me years to get the courage to do my own work and not always obey the director. Then I found that my instincts and experience were more reliable than others. I studied and fought with Lee Strasberg for four years. During this time, I expanded my range and explored weak areas in my work. I was lucky to finally develop a range in both Comedy and Drama that was useful to the Producers and Writers. Maybe it's different today-but if you still want to be an actor, good luck!"

William Dainels' Credits (partial)


  •  Lottery, The (1996) (TV)  .... Rev. Hutchinson
  •  Magic Kid II (1994)  .... Manny
  •  "Boy Meets World" (1993) (TV Series)  .... George Feeny
  •  Back to the Streets of San Francisco (1992) (TV)  .... Judge Julius Burns
  •  Knight Rider 2000 (1991) (TV) (voice)  .... K.I.T.T.
  •  On Thin Ice: The Tai Babilonia Story (1990) (TV)  .... John Nicks
  •  Howard Beach: Making a Case for Murder (1989) (TV)  .... Slaney
  •  Her Alibi (1989)  .... Sam
  •  Little Match Girl, The (1987/II) (TV)  .... Heywood Dutton
  •  Blind Date (1987)  .... Judge Harold Bedford
  •  Drop-Out Father (1982) (TV)  .... Draper Wright
  •  "Knight Rider" (1982) (TV Series) (voice)  .... Voice of K.I.T.T.
  •  Rooster (1982) (TV)  .... Dr. DeVega
  •  Rehearsal for Murder (1982) (TV)  .... Walter Lamb
  •  "St. Elsewhere" (1982) (TV Series)  .... Doctor Mark Craig
  •  Knight Rider (1982) (TV) (uncredited) (voice)  .... KITT
  •  Reds (1981)  .... Julius Gerber
  •  All Night Long (1981)  .... Richard H. Copleston
  •  Million Dollar Face, The (1981) (TV)  .... Henry Burns
  •  Blue Lagoon, The (1980)  .... Arthur Lestrange
  •  "Freebie and the Bean" (1980) (TV Series)  .... District Attorney Walter W. Cruikshank
  •  Father Damien: The Leper Priest (1980) (TV)  .... Bishop Koeckemann
  •  City in Fear (1980) (TV)  .... Freeman Stribling
  •  Conquest of the Earth (1980) (TV) 
  •  Rebels, The (1979) (TV)  .... John Adams
  •  "Blind Ambition" (1979) (mini) (TV Series)  .... G. Gordon Liddy
  •  Sunburn (1979)  .... Crawford
  •  Sergeant Matlovich Vs. the U.S. Air Force (1978) (TV)  .... Father Veller
  •  One and Only, The (1978)  .... Mr. Crawford
  •  Bastard, The (1978) (TV)  .... Samuel Adams
  •  Killer on Board (1977) (TV)  .... Marshall Snowden
  •  Black Sunday (1977)  .... Alan Pugh, VA Caseworker
  •  Big Bob Johnson & His Fantastic Speed Circus (1977) (TV) ... Lawrence Stepwell III
  •  Incredible Hulk: Death in the Family, The (1977) (TV) 
  •  Oh, God! (1977)  .... George Summers
  •  "Nancy Walker Show, The" (1976) (TV Series)  .... Lt. Cdr. Kenneth Kitteridge
  •  Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident (1976) (TV)  .... Bissell
  •  "Adams Chronicles, The" (1976) (mini) (TV Series)  .... John Quincy Adams (age 50-81)
  •  One of Our Own (1975) (TV)  .... Dr. Moresby
  •  Sarah T. - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (1975) (TV)  .... Matt Hodges
  •  Parallax View, The (1974)  .... Austin Tucker
  •  Case of Rape, A (1974) (TV)  .... Leonard Alexander
  •  Murdock's Gang (1973) (TV)  .... Roger Bates
  •  1776 (1972)  .... John Adams (MA)
  •  Marlowe (1969)  .... Mr. Crowell
  •  Graduate, The (1967)  .... Mr. Braddock
  •  Two for the Road (1967)  .... Howard Manchester
  •  "Captain Nice" (1967) (TV Series)  .... Carter Nash, Captain Nice
  •  President's Analyst, The (1967)  .... Wynn Quantrill, Tourist
  •  Thousand Clowns, A (1965)  .... Albert Amundson
  •  Ladybug, Ladybug (1963)  .... Mr. Calkins

Notable TV guest appearances

  • "Simpsons, The" (1989) playing "K.I.T.T." (voice) (Multiple Episodes)
  • "Galactica 1980" (1980) playing "Norman"
  • "Family" (1976) playing "Snobby Professor"
  • "The Incredible Hulk" (1978) playing "the doctor"
  • "Quincy" (1976)
  • "The Rockford Files" (1974) (Multiple Episodes)
  • "Barbary Coast" (1975)
  • "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972) playing "Edgar T. Vickers Jr."
  • "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" (1974) playing "Lt. Jack Matteo"
  • "Ironside" (1967) playing "Stillwell, the bank manager" 1973
  • "Cannon" (1971) playing "Dale Corey"
  • "T.H.E. Cat" (1966)

For more info and credits see IMDb

-- End ---
IndustryCentral wishes to acknowledge the efforts of Ilyanne Morden Kichaven, Sherry John, and Greg Krizman of the Screen Actors Guild Communications Department for their contributions to this Profile.

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