John Spencer (actor)

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John Spencer
JohnSpencer- Actor.jpg
BornJohn Speshock, Jr.
(1946-12-20)December 20, 1946
New York City, New York
DiedDecember 16, 2005(2005-12-16) (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California
Cause of death
Myocardial infarction ("heart attack")
Resting place
Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey
NationalityAmerican
OccupationActor
Years active1963–2005
Notable work(s)Leo McGarry on The West Wing
Home townTotowa, New Jersey
Partner(s)Patricia Mariano
ParentsJohn Speshock, Sr.
Mildred Speshock
AwardsEmmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
2002 The West Wing
 
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John Spencer
JohnSpencer- Actor.jpg
BornJohn Speshock, Jr.
(1946-12-20)December 20, 1946
New York City, New York
DiedDecember 16, 2005(2005-12-16) (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California
Cause of death
Myocardial infarction ("heart attack")
Resting place
Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey
NationalityAmerican
OccupationActor
Years active1963–2005
Notable work(s)Leo McGarry on The West Wing
Home townTotowa, New Jersey
Partner(s)Patricia Mariano
ParentsJohn Speshock, Sr.
Mildred Speshock
AwardsEmmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
2002 The West Wing

John Spencer (December 20, 1946 – December 16, 2005) was an American actor. He was best known for playing White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the hit NBC political drama series The West Wing, for which he had won an Emmy Award in 2002.

Early life[edit]

Spencer was born John Speshock, Jr. in New York City and raised in Totowa, New Jersey.[1] He was the son of blue-collar parents Mildred (née Bincarowski), a waitress, and John Speshock, Sr., a truck driver.[2][3][1] Spencer was of Irish and Rusyn descent. With his enrollment at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan in 1963, Spencer found himself sharing classes with such fellow students as Liza Minnelli and violinist Pinchas Zukerman. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson University, but did not complete a degree.[1] Spencer often referred to himself as a "dyed-in-the-wool liberal" and described Franklin Delano Roosevelt as one of his heroes.[4]

Career[edit]

Spencer began his television career on The Patty Duke Show, and eventually began appearing in supporting roles in feature films commencing with 1983's WarGames. He won an Obie Award for the 1981 off Broadway production of Still Life, about a Vietnam War veteran, and received a Drama Desk nomination for "The Day Room." He became a full-fledged supporting actor with the hit 1990 courtroom thriller Presumed Innocent portraying a tough, veteran homicide detective, starring opposite Harrison Ford. The same year, Spencer joined the cast of the television series L.A. Law, playing rumpled, pugnacious, street wise, trial attorney Tommy Mullaney. Spencer's work also extended to video games, portraying the role of Captain Hugh Paulsen in the 1995 video game Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom.

In 1999, Spencer was cast as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the hit NBC political drama series The West Wing. McGarry was later a senior staff consultant to President Josiah Bartlet and a Vice Presidential candidate until his death in 2005. Both Spencer and McGarry were recovering alcoholics. Spencer's role on the show eventually earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2002, after being judged on the show's third season episodes "Bartlet for America" and "We Killed Yamamoto".

Death[edit]

Spencer died of a heart attack in a Los Angeles hospital on December 16, 2005, four days before his 59th birthday. At Spencer's private funeral, his West Wing castmate, Kristin Chenoweth, sang the musical number "For Good" from the hit Broadway musical Wicked. Spencer's remains were interred at Laurel Grove Memorial Park in his hometown of Totowa, New Jersey.[5] At the time of his death, Spencer had filmed two of the five West Wing episodes that were in post-production: "Running Mates" and "The Cold". Spencer's death was subsequently written into the show's seventh and final season, in which McGarry was said to have died of a heart attack on election night. It was a strange twist of fate that McGarry had also suffered a life-threatening heart attack earlier in the show's sixth season episode "The Birnam Wood".[6] Spencer's name remained in the opening credits throughout the remainder of the show's seventh and final season.

Filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1963–1964The Patty Duke ShowHenry7 episodes
1976Ryan's HopeOrderly2 episodes
1979MeteorControl Center WorkerUncredited
1983WarGamesJerry
1985The ProtectorKo's Pilot
1986Miami ViceLt. Lee AtkinsEpisode: "The Good Collar"
1986Spenser: For HireJoe MoranEpisode: "Home Is the Hero"
1987Hiding OutBakey
1989Black RainOliver
1989Far From HomeTV Preacher
1989Sea of LoveLieutenant
1990Law & OrderHoward MortonEpisode: "Prescription for Death"
1990Presumed InnocentDet. Lipranzer
1990Green CardHarry
1990–1994L.A. LawTommy Mullaney83 episodes
1995Forget ParisJack
1995Touched by an AngelLeoEpisode: "The Driver"
1996The RockFBI Director James Womack
1997Cop LandDet. Leo Crasky
1997The New Adventures of SupermanHank LandryEpisode: "Lethal Weapon"
1997Tracey Takes On...Ray WeggerlyEpisode: "Crime"
1998The NegotiatorPolice Chief Al Travis
1998TwilightCapt. Phil Egan
1998TrinitySimon McAllister3 episodes
1999–2006The West WingLeo McGarry154 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2001–02)
Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2000–01, 2003–04)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2003–06)
1999RavenousGen. Slauson

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lee, Jennifer. " Obituary: John Spencer, 'West Wing' actor", International Herald Tribune, December 19, 2005. Accessed June 9, 2007
  2. ^ John Spencer Biography (1946-)
  3. ^ See interview quoted in his Ukrainian Weekly obituary (link in the references section).
  4. ^ October 16, 2004 Interview with John Spencer, Tavis Smiley Show
  5. ^ Browse by Cemetery: Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Find a Grave. Accessed June 9, 2007.
  6. ^ The West Wing, Episode No. 112, "The Birnam Wood," written by John Welles.

External links[edit]