John Hillerman

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John Hillerman
Betty white show 1977.jpg
Hillerman and Betty White, 1977.
Born John Benedict Hillerman
(1932-12-20) December 20, 1932 (age 81)
Denison, Texas, USA

John Benedict Hillerman (born December 20, 1932) is an American actor, known for his starring role as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on the television show Magnum, P.I.

Personal life[edit]

Hillerman was born in Denison, Texas, the son of German Americans Christopher Benedict Hillerman, a gas station owner, and Lenora Joan (née Medlinger).[1][2] His father was the grandson of immigrants from Germany and France. His mother was the daughter of immigrants from Austria and Germany. Young Hillerman grew up in Denison and attended St. Xavier's Academy.

After graduation, he attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years where he majored in journalism.[3] In 1953, he joined the United States Air Force, serving for four years and achieving the rank of Sergeant. During his years of military service, he worked with various theatrical groups, and on his discharge he moved to New York City to study at the American Theatre Wing. In 1957, he began his career in professional theater as the resident juvenile at the Chautauqua Playhouse in Middleton, Ohio.

Hillerman has been a long-time bachelor, saying "When I was a young struggling actor I couldn't afford a wife. And now I'm so set in my ways at the age of 44 no woman would live with me". However, in the 1970s, Hillerman had an actress girlfriend who shared his distaste of marriage.[4] He now stays away from the spotlight and irregularly attends events.[5] Hillerman retired in 2009, and now resides in his home state of Texas.[6]


Hillerman appeared on Broadway in 1959 and worked in live performances in a variety of venues before making his motion picture debut in 1970. He had roles in such noteworthy films as The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), High Plains Drifter (1973), Paper Moon (1973), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Chinatown (1974). His other roles include Lucky Lady (1975), At Long Last Love (1975), and a small appearance in the comedy film Up the Creek (1984).

In 1975, he was a co-star in Ellery Queen as Simon Brimmer, a radio detective who hosted a live radio show and tried to outsmart Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton). From 1976 to 1980, he had a recurring role as Mr. Conners on the television series One Day at a Time, and he co-starred as Betty White's ex-husband on the short-lived The Betty White Show in 1977.

He is probably best remembered for his role as former British Army Sergeant Major Jonathan Quayle Higgins III ("Higgins") on the television series Magnum, P.I. (1980–1988). Hillerman learned to do the English accent of Higgins by watching and listening to the performances of Laurence Olivier.

In 1982 John Hillerman played in the T.V. pilot of Tales of the Gold Monkey, where he played a German villain by the name of "Fritz the Monocle".

In 1984, he hosted the David Hemmings - directed puzzle video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link. In 1990, Hillerman returned to television to perform for one season as Lloyd Hogan in the series The Hogan Family. That same year, Hillerman portrayed Dr. Watson to Edward Woodward's Sherlock Holmes in Hands of a Murderer.

In 1993, he appeared in Berlin Break for one season. He played the role of Mac Mackenzie, a former spy and currently the proprietor of "Mac's", a bar in West Berlin considered to be neutral territory during the Cold War. He teamed up with two jobless spies as investigators: Valentin Renko (Nicholas Clay), an ex-KGB agent, and Willy Richter (Kai Wulff), an ex-BND (West German secret service) operative. The show also featured Jeff MacKay (who played "Mac" MacReynolds in Magnum P.I.).

Awards and nominations[edit]

Golden Globe Award

Year Nominated work Category Result
1984 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[7]
1985 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[8]
1986 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[9]
1987 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Won[10]


Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
1970 They Call Me MISTER Tibbs Reporter Uncredited
1971 Lawman Tots
Sweet, Sweet Rachel Medical Examiner
The Last Picture Show Teacher
1972 What's Up, Doc? Hotel Manager Kaltenborn
The Carey Treatment Jenkins
The Great Man's Whiskers Major Underwood
Skyjacked Walter Brandt
The Sixth Sense Adrian Weems Episode: "Once Upon a Chilling"
The Outside Man Manager
Mannix Larry Lawton Episode: "Light and Shadow"
1973 The Thief Who Came to Dinner Edmund Lasker
High Plains Drifter Bootmaker = Paper Moon Deputy Hardin/Jess Hardin
The Naked Ape Psychiatrist
Mannix J. H. Morell Episode: "Silent Target"
1974 Maude Drunk Episode: "The Commuter Station"
Blazing Saddles Howard Johnson
Kojak Mark Gallant Episode: "The Only Way Out"
The Nickel Ride Carl
Chinatown Yelburton
The Law Thomas Rachel
1975 At Long Last Love Rodney James
Mannix Norman Thompson Episode: "Search for a Dead Man"
The Day of the Locust Ned Grote
The Bob Crane Show Dean Harrington Episode: "The Son of the Campus Capers"
Lucky Lady McTeague
1975-1976 Ellery Queen Simon Brimmer 8 episodes
1976 Serpico Raoul Christie Episode: "Rapid Fire"
Hawaii Five-O Donald Blair Episode: "Man on Fire"
Wonder Woman Conrad Steigler Episode: "Wonder Woman vs Gargantua"
1976-1980 One Day at a Time Mr. Connors 6 episodes
1977 Delvecchio Dr. Augustus Hamilton Episode: "Licensed to Kill"
Audrey Rose Scott
1977-1978 The Betty White Show John Elliott 14 episodes
1978 Hawaii Five-O Nelson Bodine Episode: "A Stranger in His Grave"
Little House on the Prairie Sterling Murdock Episode: "Harriet's Happening"
1979 Sunburn Webb
The Love Boat Ed Hartnett 2 episodes
1980 Soap Minister Episode: "3.12"
Young Maverick McBurney Episode: "Makin' Tracks"
Hart to Hart Victor Sutter Episode: "Cruise At Your Own Risk"
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe William Whitney Episode: "Diamonds Aren't Forever"
Lou Grant Sturbridge Episode: "Pack"
1980-1988 Magnum, P.I. Jonathan Higgins 158 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1983, 1985, 1987-1988)
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (1984-1986)
1982 Tales of the Gold Monkey Monocle 2 episodes
Simon & Simon Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend"
1983 The Love Boat Manfred Episode: "The Last Case"
1984 Up the Creek Dean Burch
1986 Murder, She Wrote Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Magnum on Ice"
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Sir Francis Commarty 3 episodes
Gummibärchen küßt man nicht Padre
1990 Hands of a Murderer Dr. John Watson
1990-1991 The Hogan Family Lloyd Hogan 13 episodes
1992 Murder, She Wrote Edgar Greenstreet Episode: "Murder on Madison Avenue"
1996 A Very Brady Sequel Dr. Whitehead


  1. ^ "John Hillerman Biography". Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ Sheff, David (April 18, 1983). "The Lean Years Are Over for John Hillerman, Who's Finding a Magnum of Success in Hawaii". Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ Quttman, Monika (June 17, 1987). "'Higgins' Not Really British". Tribune Media Services. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  4. ^ Scott, Vernon (October 14, 1977). "John Hillerman Enjoys Being A Bachelor". Boca Raton News. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ "‘Las Vegas’ will seem like a ‘Magnum, P.I.’ reunion". August 10, 2007. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  6. ^ Potts, Kim (December 10, 2010). "'Magnum P.I.' Cast: Where Are They Now?". Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1984. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1985. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1986. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1987. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 

External links[edit]