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Thread: John Spencer (West Wing, LA Law) dead at 58

  1. #1
    would rather be cruising! marybethp's Avatar
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    John Spencer (West Wing, LA Law) dead at 58

    I was absolutely heartbroken when I heard this. He was a terrific actor. I will really miss him on the West Wing - I wonder how they'll deal with it.

    RIP John Spencer

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10498378/

    Actor John Spencer has died
    Publicist says heart attack took ‘West Wing’ star’s life

    NBC / Reuters file
    "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin called John Spencer "an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model, and a brilliant actor."

    Updated: 9:41 p.m. ET Dec. 16, 2005
    LOS ANGELES - John Spencer, who played a tough and dedicated politico on “The West Wing” who survived a serious illness to run for vice president, died of a heart attack Friday. He was 58.

    Spencer died after being admitted to a Los Angeles hospital during the night, said his publicist, Ron Hofmann. He would have been 59 on Tuesday.

    He was “one of those rare combinations of divinely gifted and incredibly generous,” said actor Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler on the NBC series.

    “There are very few personal treasures that you put in your knapsack to carry with you for the rest of your life, and he’s one of those,” Schiff said. He said Spencer had been struggling with health issues but seemed to have rebounded.

    Spencer played Leo McGarry, the savvy and powerful chief of staff to President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen). In a sad parallel to life, Spencer’s character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House job.

    McGarry recovered and was picked as a running mate for Democratic presidential contender Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits; the campaign against Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) has been a central theme for the drama this season.

    “John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor,” said Aaron Sorkin, who created the series, and Tommy Schlamme, one of the original executive producers, in a joint statement.

    “We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He’ll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends,” they said.

    Actress Allison Janney, C.J. Cregg on the series, described Spencer as a consummate professional actor. “Everyone adored him,” she said.

    “We have all lost a dear, dear brother,” said Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman.

    NBC and producer Warner Bros. Television praised Spencer’s talent but did not address how his death would affect the Emmy Award-winning series, in production on its seventh season.

    Spencer, who also starred on “L.A. Law” as attorney Tommy Mullaney, received an Emmy Award for his performance on “The West Wing” in 2002 and was nominated four other times for the series.

    Actor, character shared similarities
    The actor, whose world-weary countenance was perfect for the role of McGarry, mirrored his character in several ways: Both were recovering alcoholics and both, Spencer once said, were driven.

    “Like Leo, I’ve always been a workaholic, too,” he told The Associated Press in a 2000 interview. “Through good times and bad, acting has been my escape, my joy, my nourishment. The drug for me, even better than alcohol, was acting.”

    Spencer grew up in Paterson, N.J., the son of blue-collar parents. With his enrollment at the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan at age 16, he was sharing classes with the likes of Liza Minnelli and budding violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

    As a teenager, he landed a recurring role on “The Patty Duke Show” as the boyfriend of English twin Cathy. Stage and film work followed. Then his big break: playing Harrison Ford’s detective sidekick in the 1990 courtroom thriller “Presumed Innocent.” That role led to his hiring for the final four years of “L.A. Law.”

    Spencer played a streetwise lawyer on the David E. Kelley drama that was in sharp contrast to the show’s otherwise glamorous cast and setting.

    After attending the Manhattan performing arts school, Spencer studied at Fairleigh Dickenson University. He then began working on stage in New York and in regional theaters, in plays including David Mamet’s “Lakeboat” and Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”

    Spencer won an Obie Award for the 1981 off-Broadway production of “Still Life,” about a Vietnam veteran, and received a Drama Desk nomination for “The Day Room.”

    His made his feature film debut with a small role in “War Games,” which was followed by roles in “Sea of Love” and “Black Rain.” Spencer said his work in “Presumed Innocent” represented a “watershed role.”

    In recent years, he worked both in studio and independent films, including “The Rock,” “The Negotiator,” “Albino Alligator,” “Lesser Prophets” and “Cold Heart.”

    Spencer, an only child, is survived by “cousins, aunts, uncles, and wonderful friends,” Hofmann said.

  2. #2
    aga
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    John Spencer was an immensely talented actor. His characters on L.A. Law and West Wing were so complex and well played. His Emmy win was long overdue.

    My thoughts are with his family.
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  3. #3
    For Your Entertainment lobeck's Avatar
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    Wow...what a surprise and a shame. That show just won't be the same without him.

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    FORT Fogey
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    John was my favorite lawyer on LA Law, I liked the edgy, not glamorous style. I was so happy when his West Wing character came back to a more prominent role, and can't imagine how they will handle this...is production still on-going for this season? Like when John Ritter passed away in production, I also feel for the cast who will think about him every day they are on set.

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    PWS
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    He was super on both LA Law and WW. What a loss. To sthe show and the profession.

    I can't imagine how they will deal with this on the show...if they write this in and bring in another VP? It will make Santos look dumb for having chosen a man with a weak heart.... If they recast? This isn't a soap where people are used to that idea. Don't see how they can write around him the rest of the season...Stand ins from the back and mimics for the voice?
    I feel crass even worrying about the show. But he really was important to it....not so central as John Ritter of course, but still.
    Depressing

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    FORT Fogey Florimel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PWS View Post
    He was super on both LA Law and WW. What a loss. To sthe show and the profession.

    I can't imagine how they will deal with this on the show...if they write this in and bring in another VP? It will make Santos look dumb for having chosen a man with a weak heart.... If they recast? This isn't a soap where people are used to that idea. Don't see how they can write around him the rest of the season...Stand ins from the back and mimics for the voice?
    I feel crass even worrying about the show. But he really was important to it....not so central as John Ritter of course, but still.
    Depressing
    They don't really have to have the character die from the same thing that caused the actor's death. They could have Leo assassinated or die in an accident of some type or a plane crash to give a few examples. I seriously doubt they would recast. He was way too distinctive and talented to replace like th at.

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    Go Bruins! Qboots's Avatar
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    Rest in Peace, Mr. Spencer. You left us much too soon, and you will be missed.
    "I'm telling you - it's a madhouse out there. I feel like Charlton Heston waking up in the field and seeing the chimp on top of the pony." ~ Dennis Miller

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    PWS
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florimel View Post
    They don't really have to have the character die from the same thing that caused the actor's death. They could have Leo assassinated or die in an accident of some type or a plane crash to give a few examples. I seriously doubt they would recast. He was way too distinctive and talented to replace like th at.
    Very good points--getting too carried away with the similarities between actor and character.

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    CITY OF CHAMPS! aliasmq's Avatar
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    I really liked him and he was real good in this role.
    In these times of Greatness, what is better than being a Bostonian? Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics (NO. 5anyone?) and I'll even give props to the Black N Gold!!!

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    I read somewhere today that there had been a flash-forward at some point (3 years in the future) ... I don't remember it from any episode, so I must have missed it, so recasting may be something they have to consider. Otherwise, if they do have something unexpected (like Florimel suggested), then maybe CJ step into his shoes again? I think I'd prefer that than a recast...

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