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 82)
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[disambiguation needed].

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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
1982 Magnum, P.I. Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Nominated[7]
1984 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[8]
1985 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[9]
1986 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[10]
1987 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Won[11]



Year Title Role Notes
1970 They Call Me MISTER Tibbs Reporter Uncredited
1971 Lawman Tots
1971 Sweet, Sweet Rachel Medical Examiner Television film
1971 The Last Picture Show Teacher
1972 What's Up, Doc? Hotel Manager Kaltenborn
1972 The Carey Treatment Jenkins
1972 The Great Man's Whiskers Major Underwood Television film
1972 Skyjacked Walter Brandt
1972 The Outside Man Manager
1973 The Thief Who Came to Dinner Edmund Lasker
1973 High Plains Drifter Bootmaker
1973 Paper Moon Deputy Hardin/Jess Hardin
1973 The Naked Ape Psychiatrist
1974 Blazing Saddles Howard Johnson
1974 The Nickel Ride Carl
1974 Chinatown Yelburton
1974 The Law Thomas Rachel Television film
1975 At Long Last Love Rodney James
1975 The Day of the Locust Ned Grote
1975 Lucky Lady McTeague
1977 Audrey Rose Scott
1979 Sunburn Webb
1984 Up the Creek Dean Burch
1989 Gummibärchen küßt man nicht Padre
1990 Hands of a Murderer Dr. John Watson Television film
1996 A Very Brady Sequel Dr. Whitehead


Year Title Role Notes
1972 The Sixth Sense Adrian Weems Episode: "Once Upon a Chilling"
1972 Mannix Larry Lawton Episode: "Light and Shadow"
1973 Mannix J. H. Morell Episode: "Silent Target"
1974 Maude Drunk Episode: "The Commuter Station"
1974 Kojak Mark Gallant Episode: "The Only Way Out"
1975 Mannix Norman Thompson Episode: "Search for a Dead Man"
1975 The Bob Crane Show Dean Harrington Episode: "The Son of the Campus Capers"
1975–1976 Ellery Queen Simon Brimmer 8 episodes
1976 Serpico Raoul Christie Episode: "Rapid Fire"
1976 Hawaii Five-O Donald Blair Episode: "Man on Fire"
1976 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"
1977–1978 The Betty White Show John Elliott 14 episodes
1978 Hawaii Five-O Nelson Bodine Episode: "A Stranger in His Grave"
1978 Little House on the Prairie Sterling Murdock Episode: "Harriet's Happening"
1979 The Love Boat Ed Hartnett 2 episodes
1980 Soap Minister Episode: "3.12"
1980 Young Maverick McBurney Episode: "Makin' Tracks"
1980 Hart to Hart Victor Sutter Episode: "Cruise At Your Own Risk"
1980 Tenspeed and Brown Shoe William Whitney Episode: "Diamonds Aren't Forever"
1980 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, 1987-88)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (1984-86)
1982 Tales of the Gold Monkey Monocle 2 episodes
1982 Simon & Simon Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend"
1983 The Love Boat Manfred Episode: "The Last Case"
1986 Murder, She Wrote Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Magnum on Ice"
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Sir Francis Commarty 3 episodes
1990–1991 The Hogan Family Lloyd Hogan 13 episodes
1992 Murder, She Wrote Edgar Greenstreet Episode: "Murder on Madison Avenue"


  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. ^ "IMDb profile". Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1984. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1985. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1986. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Nominees/Winners". 1987. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 

External links[edit]