Jul. 10th, 1927
Richmond, Virginia, USA
William Smithers' Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Although character actor William (or Bill) Smithers is not recognizable perhaps by name, the face is definitely familiar especially to baby boomer TV fans. A smart, articulate, well-groomed actor with noticeably premature gray hair, Smithers is probably best remembered for his on-again, off-again role as arch-villain Jeremy Wendell who frequently crossed paths with J.R. Ewing on "Dallas" (1978) from 1981-1985. Avid Trekkies will also remember his role as Capt. Merrick in the original "Star Trek" (1966) series. Born in Richmond, Virginia, on July 10, 1927, Smithers received his initial break on stage, making his Broadway debut and winning a Theatre World Award for his performance as Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet" in 1951. Olivia de Havilland, who played Juliet, also made her Broadway bow in that production. The following year Smithers joined the Actors Studio and became a major exponent of Lee Strasberg's "Method" style of acting. He continued to win acclaim on the stage, earning an Obie award in 1957 for Best Actor for his portrayal of Treplev in the off-Broadway production of "The Sea Gull". He made a successful feature film debut in 1956 as a harried infantry officer in Robert Aldrich (I)'s acclaimed war drama Attack (1956), but would make only a handful of large-screen appearances after that, including Trouble Man (1972), Papillon (1973), Scorpio (1973) and Deathsport (1978). Television, of course, was a different story. Smithers has appeared or guest-starred in nearly 400 programs in his nearly five-decade-long career. Often called to play serious-minded executives and other such authority figures, he had a real penchant for playing oily villains. You could find his unscrupulous, cold-hearted white collars on any given 1960s or 1970s crime series - "Mission: Impossible" (1966), "The F.B.I." (1965), "Mannix" (1967), "The Mod Squad" (1968), "The Name of the Game" (1968) and "Barnaby Jones" (1973), to name a few. Less seen since the early 1990s, he is also known for his acting seminars at colleges and universities. Smithers instructs alongside his second wife, noted acting teacher S. Loraine Hull.
- Bill's third wife (since 1995), Lorrie Hull Smithers, was an instructor for 'Lee Strasberg' (qv) for 12 years and is considered one of the preeminent proponents of the "Method" acting style today. She has also taught for various American Film Institute programs.
- A member of the Actor's Studio since 1952, he gives acting seminars throughout the country and is the director and co-author of the instructional videotape "The Method."
- From 2003-2005, Bill produced, directed and starred in "The Santa Barbara Theatre of the Air," a radio drama series, for KCSB, the FM radio station of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
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