William B. Davis

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For other people of the same name, see William Davis.
William B. Davis
Toulouse Game Show 2011 - William B Davis - P1280944-CROP.jpg
William B. Davis in 2011
Born William Bruce Davis
(1938-01-13) January 13, 1938 (age 76)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1949-present
Spouse(s) Emmanuelle Davis
Children 2 daughters, Melinda and Rebecca
Website
williambdavis.com

William Bruce Davis (born January 13, 1938) is a Canadian actor and director, known for his starring as The Smoking Man on The X-Files. Besides appearing in many TV programs and movies, Davis founded his own acting school the William Davis Centre for Actors Study. In his personal life, Davis is an avid water-skier, works with the Canadian Cancer Society and lectures on skepticism most recently at Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's CSICON. In 2011 Davis published his memoir, Where There’s Smoke .... The Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man. He currently stars as the elderly Alec Sadler in Continuum.

Early life[edit]

Davis was born in Toronto, Ontario, to a lawyer father and psychologist mother.[1] He began his acting career as a child in 1949, in radio drama and summer stock theatre. His cousins Murray and Donald Davis ran The Straw Hat Players in Ontario in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and rehearsed in the basement of Davis' house. When they needed a boy they gave William his first professional acting job. He went on from there to have a career as a boy actor on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio before his voice broke.[2][3] In 1955 he enrolled in the University of Toronto to study philosophy, but actively pursued a career as an actor alongside future actor Donald Sutherland. In 1959, he graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. While at university he switched his attention from acting to directing and with his partner, Karl Jaffary, took over and ran The Straw Hat Players for four years.[4]

Career[edit]

In 1960 Davis went to England to train at LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). He worked in the U.K. for the next five years directing in repertory theaters and acting schools. He was artistic director of the Dundee Repertory Theatre.[5] His last position in the UK was as an assistant director at The National Theatre of Great Britain[6] under Laurence Olivier where he worked with Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, and Ronald Pickup among others.[3] He returned to Canada in 1965 to work at The National Theatre School of Canada and soon, at the age of 28, was appointed artistic director of the English Acting Section.[7] During this period he was also active as a free lance director at major Canadian theatres. In 1971 he joined the newly formed Drama Department at Bishop's University in Lennoxvile, Quebec. While there he became the founding artistic director of Festival Lennoxville, a professional summer theatre that ran for the next decade.[8]

Returning to Toronto in the late seventies Davis spent several years as a radio drama director and on the faculty of Humber College. In demand as an acting teacher during this period, he resumed acting after an absence of nearly twenty years. Davis earned a number of roles on stage and film before accepting the position of artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School, which required relocating with his wife and family. Davis writes in his memoir, "And so, in the fall of 1985, we hitched our second hand boat to our second hand car and drove across the country".[9]

While his time at the Vancouver Playhouse was short-lived, he remained in Vancouver where he founded his own acting school, The William Davis Centre for Actors Study,[7] a training ground for several future stars including Lucy Lawless.[10] Acting roles became more frequent leading to his iconic role, The Smoking Man (also referred to as "The Cancer Man"), on The X-Files where he made frequent appearances for the next nine years. In addition to The X-Files, Davis has played a wide range of roles, on series from Stargate SG-1 to Smallville and a host of television movies and other projects. From time to time he attends fan conventions, signing autographs and copies of his memoir.[11]

In recent years Davis has returned to directing for theatre and film. He wrote and directed three short films and co-wrote and directed several episodes of a television series for CBC Television, 49th & Main. In 2011 he directed two plays for The United Players of Vancouver, Waste by Harley Granville Barker and Hay Fever by Noël Coward.[12]

Currently, he is acting in a recurring role in the Canadian hit show Continuum as Alec Sadler on Show Case.

Personal life[edit]

Despite being known for his smoking character, Davis quit smoking in the 1970s; when The X-Files started up, he was given a choice between herbal cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes. At first, he chose to use tobacco cigarettes, but switched to herbal because he was afraid of becoming addicted to them again.[11][13] Davis used his notoriety on the show to assist The Canadian Cancer Society in its programs to combat smoking.[14]

He is also a former national champion water skier and for a time held various records in older age divisions. In a conversation with Brendan Beiser, Davis states he holds the record for tricks in his age category, and until recently "I did hold the slalom record until this past year until some young whippersnapper of 65 from Ontario took the record away from me".[2]

Davis now divides his time between North America and France where he recently married Emmanuelle Herpin who lives and works in the south of France. He has two daughters, Melinda and Rebecca, from an earlier marriage.

Skepticism[edit]

William B. Davis participating in "Skepticism and the Media" panel at CSICON 2011 in New Orleans

While on The X-Files, Davis was constantly challenged by The X-Files fans about his non-belief in the paranormal and aliens.[15] Davis credits Barry Beyerstein and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) for introducing him to the skeptic community. Davis became increasingly involved in the skeptical movement and began to give lectures as a skeptical spokesman at universities across North America and at skeptic conventions, including CSI's CSICON in New Orleans.[16]

When asked about his belief in the paranormal at the London Film and Comic Con in 2010, Davis replied, "The onus is on you to prove the extraordinary ...I did a lot of research and saw where a lot of the arguments were wanting."[11]

Interviewed by Jacob Fortin on guilt about being a skeptic on a show that Richard Dawkins campaigned against, Davis replied that at first he had some trepidation until realizing that Dawkins "had no evidence whatsoever and presented none" that the show encouraged people to think uncritically. "The show is fiction... it isn't a documentary." Asked about a debate Davis moderated with alien abduction believer John E. Mack, Davis said that many people expected him to support Mack, but they discovered that he was "way on the other side". Davis recounted that he had some great discussions with Mack; "He was brilliant... he was wrong, but he was very good... One of the problems with human intelligence is that we are so good at defending ideas that we arrived at irrationally."[17]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1983 The Dead Zone Ambulance Driver
1985 The Cuckoo Bird Ted Television movie
1985 Head Office University Dean
1987 Deadly Deception Lawyer Television movie
1987 Sworn to Silence Peter Massio Television movie
1987 The Little Match Girl Dr. Sam Easton Television movie
1989 Beyond the Stars Hal Simon
1989 Matinee Heath Harris Television movie
1989 Look Who's Talking Drug Doctor
1990 Anything to Survive Dr. Reynolds Television movie
1990 It Mr. Gedreau Television movie
1991 Omen IV: The Awakening Lawyer (uncredited) Television movie
1991 The Hitman Dr. Atkins
1992 Diagnosis Murder Marvin Parkins Television movie
1994 Heart of a Child Vern Television movie
1994 Beyond Suspicion Capt. Dick Roth Television movie
1994 Don't Talk to Strangers Huddleston Television movie
1995 Dangerous Intentions Group Leader
1995 Not Our Son Police Chief (uncredited) Television movie
1995 Circumstances Unknown Gene Reuschel Television movie
1995 Courting Justice Dr. Alexander Television movie
1996 Unforgettable Dr. Smoot
1996 The Limbic Region Teacher Television movie
1998 The X-Files The Smoking Man
1998 The Last Tzaddik Mr. Drazien Short film
1998 Voyage of Terror Dr. Norman Ellisy Television movie
1999 Murder Most Likely Detective Inspector Televisio movie
2000 Perpetrators of the Crime Henderson
2000 Killing Moon Ed Television movie
2000 Becoming Dick Dr. Hardwin Television movie
2001 The Proposal Angent Frank Gruning
2001 Out of Line Russell
2001 Mindstorm Parish
2001 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back The Smoking Man Uncredited
2001 Andhrax Tye Crow
2002 Polished Phillip Short film
2002 Aftermath Deputy Director Edwards
2002 Damaged Care Dr. Sam Verbush Television movie
2002 Body & Soul Dr. Edward A. Esseff
2002 Saint Sinner Father Michael Television movie
2002 100 Days in the Jungle N/A Television movie
2003 Broken Saints Benjamin Palmer
2003 Arbor Vitae Old Soul Short film
2003 Word of Honor Lewis Kaplan Television movie
2004 Snakehead Terror Doc Jenkins
2004 The Cradle Will Fall Dist. Atty. Alex Myerson Television movie
2004 Lyon King Finance Minister Short film
2004 Packing Up Jenkins Short film
2005 The Cost of Living Mark Mortinson Short film
2005 The Last Round Mitchell
2005 Max Rules Rick Brinkley
2005 Dark Pines Shannon Fraser Television movie
2006 The Janitors Harvey Short film
2006 Dark Storm General Killion Television movie
2006 Her Fatal Flaw Richard O'Brien Television movie
2006 Sisters Dr. Bryant
2006 The Secret of Hidden Lane Judge Landers Television movie
2007 The Messengers Colby Price
2007 Judicial Indiscretion Senator Garland Wolf Television movie
2007 Numb Peter Milbank
2008 The Femme Fatale Sam Video short film
2008 A Pickle Mack Short film
2008 Passengers Jack
2008 Reverse Chris Short film
2009 Possession Dr. Creane
2009 Something Evil Comes Mr. Dutton Television movie
2009 The Shortcut Benjamin Hartley
2009 The Thaw Ted
2009 Damage Veltz
2009 Web of Desire Dr. Charles Friedman Television movie
2010 Blob The Boss Short film
2010 Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf Dr. Robert Parker Television movie
2010 Flowers for Norma Older Gentleman #2 Short film
2010 Amazon Falls[18] Calvin
2011 Goose on the Loose Alphonse David
2011 Behemoth William Walsh Television movie
2012 The Tall Man Sheriff Chestnut
2013 Stonados Ben Television movie
2013 Singularity Principle Lawrence Cason

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1984 SCTV Channel Man on the phone Episode: "Half Wits Save the World Parade"
1986 The Beachcombers Dave Douglas Episode: "Trial Balloon"
1987 Danger Bay Norris Episode: "High Five"
1987 Airwolf F.I.R.M. official 4 episodes
1987 21 Jump Street Mr. Wiedlin Episode: "Mean Streets and Pastel Houses"
1988 Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future Arvin Episode: "Judgement"
1988 Danger Bay Jack Kane Episode: "Racing Against Time"
1988 21 Jump Street Mr. Wickenton Episode: "Champagne High"
1988 Wiseguy Curant Episode: "The Merchant of Death"
1989 Wiseguy Inspector #2 Episode: "People Do It All the Time"
1991 21 Jump Street Judge Harrison Episode: "Crossfire"
1991 MacGyver Judge Episode: "Trail of Tears"
1991 The Commish Don Chesley 2 episodes
1992 Street Justice Badgely Episode: "Homecoming"
1992 Nightmare Cafe Doctor Episode: "Sanctuary for a Child"
1993 North of 60 Inspector Nelson Episode: "Out of the Blue"
1993–2002 The X-Files The Smoking Man 37 episodes
1995 Sliders Prof. Myman Episode: "Eggheads"
1995 The Outer Limits Ed Episode: "The Conversion"
1996 Poltergeist: The Legacy Dr. Bill Nigel Episode: "Do Not Go Gently"
1996 The Outer Limits John Wymer Episode: "Out of Body"
1999 Mentors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Episode: "The Truth Is in Here"
2000 The Fearing Mind Michell Cofax Episode: "Gentlemen Caller"
2001 First Wave Sagon Episode: "Checkmate"
2001 The Outer Limits Dr. Biemler Episode: "Worlds Within"
2001 Mythquest Head Priest Episode: "The Oracle"
2001 Andromeda Professor Logitch Episode: "Pitiless as the Sun"
2003 Smallville Mayor William 'Billy' Tate 2 episodes
2004 Kingdom Hospital Dean Swinton Episode: "The Young and the Headless"
2004 Murdoch Mysteries Alderman Godfrey Shepcote Episode: "Expect the Dying"
2005 Tilt Father Mike Episode: "Nobody Ever Listens"
2005 Robson Arms Dr. Carlisle Wainwright 10 episodes
2005–2006 Stargate SG-1 Ori Prior Damaris 2 episodes
2006 Supernatural College Professor Episode: "Scarecrow"
2006 Canadian Comedy Shorts finance Minister Episode: "Episode #10.9"
2007 Masters of Science Fiction The President Episode: "The Awakening"
2008 Fear Itself Father Chris Episode: "In Sickness and in Health"
2009 Caprica Minister Chambers Episode: "Pilot"
2010 Human Target Whitey Doyle Episode: "Run"
2012–2014 Continuum Alec Sadler 8 episodes

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Davis, p. 4
  2. ^ a b Brendan Beiser (June 16, 2008). "William B. Davis - This Conversation". This Conversation TV. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  3. ^ a b "William B. Davis on Fame Dragon Con 2010". 2010-09-12. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  4. ^ Fred Euringer (2000). A Fly on the Curtain. Oberon Press, 978-0778011415. page 103.
  5. ^ Davis, p. 112
  6. ^ "History 1960-1969". National Theatre School of Canada. 2008. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  7. ^ a b "Program Advisory Committee". Vanarts. 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  8. ^ "Festival Lennoxville". Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia. 2006-11-17. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  9. ^ Davis, p. 210
  10. ^ "Expanded Bio for Lucy Lawless". Lotolux. Retrieved 2011-12-16. 
  11. ^ a b c "William B. Davis Interview". LSQTV 2010. 2010-07-18. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  12. ^ "William B. Davis - News". Official site of William B. Davis. Retrieved 2011-12-16. 
  13. ^ Nuytens, Gilles (October 11, 2005). "Interview with William B. Davis". The Sci Fi World. Retrieved July 11, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Potpourri". Tobacco Control. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  15. ^ Allison Cossitt (March 1998). "Cigarette-Smoking Man". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  16. ^ John Semley (October 18, 2011). "Random Roles: William B. Davis". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  17. ^ Jacob Fortin (2011-12-22). "The Good Atheist Podcast: Episode 154". The Good Atheist. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  18. ^ "William B. Davis, Amazon Falls, Toronto Film Festival". Real TV Films. 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]