Mar. 31st, 1927
Brooklyn, New York, USA
William Daniels' Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Daniels was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Irene and David Daniels, a builder. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1949, where he was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. He has been married to actress and fellow Emmy Award-winner Bonnie Bartlett since June 30, 1951. They have two adopted children.
William Daniels began his career as a member of the singing Daniels family in Brooklyn, New York. He made his television debut as part of a variety act (along with other members of his family) in 1943, on NBC, then a single station in New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1945, in Life With Father, and remained a busy Broadway actor for decades afterwards. Broadway credits include starring or supporting roles in 1776, A Thousand Clowns, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and A Little Night Music. He earned an Obie Award for The Zoo Story (1960).
Daniels' motion picture debut was as a school principal in the 1963 anti-war drama Ladybug Ladybug. In 1965, he reprised his Broadway role as a child welfare worker in the screen version of A Thousand Clowns. In 1967 he starred in The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman, and Anne Bancroft. In 1969, Daniels starred as John Adams in the Broadway musical 1776; he also appeared in the film version in 1972. Two years later, he co-starred with Larry Hagman, Linda Blair and Mark Hamill in Richard Donner's telefilm Sarah T. - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.
Daniels' first network television appearance came in 1952 when he portrayed the young John Quincy Adams, eldest son of John and Abigail Adams in the Hallmark Hall of Fame drama A Woman for the Ages. In 1976, he reprised the role as the middle-aged and elder John Quincy Adams in the acclaimed PBS miniseries The Adams Chronicles (George Grizzard played John Adams).
He appeared as acid-tongued (but well-meaning) Dr. Mark Craig in St. Elsewhere from 1982 to 1988, for which he won two Emmy awards. Almost simultaneously, he provided the voice of KITT in Knight Rider from 1982 to 1986, pioneering the catch phrase, "thats what she said Michael.' Speaking of his role in "Knight Rider", Daniels said in 1982, "My duties on Knight Rider are very simple. I do it in about an hour and a half. I've never met the cast. I haven't even met the producer." Daniels requested that he not receive on screen credit for the role.
He reprised the voice-only role of KITT in 1991 for the television movie Knight Rider 2000, again in the movie The Benchwarmers, and twice in The Simpsons as well as at the Comedy Central Roast of his co-star David Hasselhoff.
Daniels then portrayed teacher (later principal) George Feeny at John Adams High School in Boy Meets World from 1993 to 2000. Daniels also starred in the 1967 superhero sitcom Captain Nice, and was a regular on the 1970s TV series Freebie and the Bean and The Nancy Walker Show. A familiar character actor, he has appeared as a guest star on numerous TV comedies and dramas, including Soap, The Rockford Files, Quincy, M.E., and many others.
- He and his wife, actress 'Bonnie Bartlett' (qv), won Emmys for their portrayals of a married couple, Dr. and Mrs. Mark Craig, on the cult TV series _"St. Elsewhere" (1982)_ (qv) in 1982.
- As a child, he was part of the Daniels Family song-and-dance troupe that traveled in and around the state of New York. His entire family appeared on one of the first experimental TV broadcasts in 1941.
- Nominated for a Tony as Supporting Actor in a Musical for his lead role of John Adams in the 1969 musical "1776." He could not be nominated for lead actor because he did not then have star billing (i.e., above the title). Adams is clearly the lead role in _1776 (1972)_ (qv), so Daniels declined the nomination.
- Worked conscientiously to lose the Brooklyn accent he grew up with, so that he could obtain a wider range of roles. His adopted accent is close to the Boston dialect he used as Dr. Mark Craig on _"St. Elsewhere" (1982)_ (qv).
- (November 1999) Elected president of Screen Actors Guild upsetting incumbent 'Richard Masur' (qv), as well as candidate Angel Tompkins who conjoined her two names to call herself "Angeltompkins" so she could be listed first on the ballot(!) The SAG president serves a 2-year term.
- While performing on both _"St. Elsewhere" (1982)_ (qv) and _"Knight Rider" (1982)_ (qv) in the 1980s, Daniels made goodwill visits to children's hospitals. He discovered that not many children were thrilled to meet an actor who played a doctor, but the fact that he voiced the talking car KITT always appealed to them, so he shifted emphasis during his visits. He entertained the children with KITT-styled phrases, and answered their questions about "Knight Rider" while hardly mentioning his other, larger acting role.
- Plays the husband of real-life wife 'Bonnie Bartlett' (qv) on both _"Boy Meets World" (1993)_ (qv) and _"Touched by an Angel" (1994)_ (qv).
- One episode of _"St. Elsewhere" (1982)_ (qv) called for Dr. and Mrs. Craig to visit Philadelphia. Inspired by returning to Independence Square, he sang a few lines of the song, "Sit Down, John" from _1776 (1972)_ (qv). The moment was included in the episode.