William B. Davis

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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

William Bruce Davis (born January 13, 1938) is a Canadian actor and director, known for his role 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]


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, 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.


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]


Year Film/Television Role Notes
1983 The Dead Zone Ambulance Driver
1984 SCTV Channel Man on the phone TV series - Half Wits Save the World Parade
1985 The Cuckoo Bird Ted TV Movie
Head Office University Dean
1986 The Beachcombers Dave Douglas TV series - Trial Balloon
1987 Deadly Deception Lawyer TV movie
Sworn to Silence Peter Massio TV movie
Airwolf F.I.R.M. official "The Key"
"Roque Warrior"
"Stavograd: Part 1"
"Stavograd: Part 2"
The Little Match Girl Dr. Sam Easton TV movie
1988 Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future Arvin TV series Judgement
Danger Bay Frank Norris
Jack Kane
TV series Racing Against Time
High Five
1989 Beyond the Stars Hal Simon
Matinee Heath Harris TV movie
Look Who's Talking Drug Doctor
Wiseguy Curant / Inspector #2 People Do it All the Time
The Merchant of Death
1990 Anything to Survive Dr. Reynolds TV movie
It Mr. Gedreau TV movie
1991 21 Jump Street Judge Harrison
Mr. Weidlin
Mr. Wickenton
"'Champagne High"
"Mean Streets and Pastel Houses"
MacGyver Judge TV series
Omen IV: The Awakening Lawyer (uncredited) TV movie
The Hitman Dr. Atkins
The Commish Don Chesley TV series
"A Matter of Life or Death: Part 1"
"A Matter of Life or Death: Part 2"
1992 Diagnosis Murder Marvin Parkins
Street Justice Badgely TV series - "Homecoming"
Nightmare Cafe Doctor TV series - "Sanctuary for a Child"
1993 North of 60 Inspector Nelson TV series - "Out of the Blue"
The X-Files The Smoking Man TV series
1994 Heart of a Child Vern TV movie
Beyond Suspicion Capt. Dick Roth TV movie
Don't Talk to Strangers Huddleston TV movie
1995 Dangerous Intentions Group Leader
Not Our Son Police Chief TV movie - uncredited
Circumstances Unknown Gene Reuschel TV movie
Sliders Prof. Myman TV series - "Eggheads"
Courting Justice Dr. Alexander TV movie
1996 Unforgettable Dr. Smoot
Poltergeist: The Legacy Dr. Bill Nigel TV series - "Do not go Gently"
The Limbic Region Teacher TV movie
1998 The X-Files The Smoking Man
The X-Files Game The Smoking Man Video Game
The Last Tzaddik Mr. Drazien short
Voyage of Terror Dr. Norman Ellisy TV movie
1999 Mentors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle TV series - "The Truth is in Here"
Murder Most Likely Detective Inspector TV movie
2000 Perpetrators of the Crime Henderson
Killing Moon Ed TV movie
Becoming Dick Dr. Hardwin TV movie
The Fearing Mind Michell Cofax TV series - "Gentleman Caller"
2001 The Proposal Angent Frank Gruning
First Wave Sagon TV series - "Checkmate"
Out of Line Russell
Mindstorm Parish
The Outer Limits Dr. Biemler
John Wyrner
TV series - "Worlds Within"
"Out of Body"
"The Conversation"
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back The Smoking Man uncredited
Andhrax Tye Crow
Mythquest Head Priest TV series "The Oracle"
Andromeda Professor Logitch TV series - "Pitiless as the Sun"
2002 Polished Phillip short
Aftermath Deputy Director Edwards
Damaged Care Dr. Sam Verbush TV movie
Body & Soul Dr. Edward A. Esseff TV series
The Thing Col. Whitely Video Game - voice
Saint Sinner Father Michael TV movie
100 Days in the Jungle TV movie
2003 Broken Saints Benjamin Palmer - voice
Arbor Vitae Old Soul short
Smallville Mayor William 'Billy' Tate TV series - "Relic"
Word of Honor Lewis Kaplan - Tyson's Boss TV movie
2004 Snakehead Terror Doc Jenkins
Kingdom Hospital Dean Swinton TV series - "The Young and the Headless"
The Cradle Will Fall Dist. Atty. Alex Myerson TV movie
Lyon King Finance Minister short
Murdoch Mysteries Alderman Godfrey Shepcote TV series "Expect the Dying"
Packing Up Jenkins short
The X-Files: Resist or Serve The Smoking Man Video game - voice
2005 The Cost of Living Mark Mortinson short
The Last Round Mitchell
Tilt Father Mike TV series - "Nobody Ever Listens"
Max Rules Rick Brinkley
Robson Arms Dr. Carlisle Wainwright "Aftershock"
"The Recipe"
"Educating Alicia"
"The Loney Passion of Mr. Tan"
"A Material Breach"
Dark Pines Shannon Fraser TV documentary
Stargate SG-1 Damaris
Ori Prior Damaris
"The Fourth Horseman"
2006 Supernatural College Professor TV series - "Scarecrow"
The Janitors Harvey short
Dark Storm General Killion TV movie
Her Fatal Flaw Richard O'Brien TV movie
Sisters Dr. Bryant
The Secret of Hidden Lane Judge Landers TV movie
Canadian Comedy Shorts finance Minister TV series - "Episode #10.9"
2007 The Messengers Colby Price
Judicial Indiscretion Senator Garland Wolf TV movie
Numb Peter Milbank
Masters of Science Fiction The President TV series - "The Awakening"
2008 The Femme Fatale Sam video short
Fear Itself Father Chris TV series - "In Sickness and in Health"
A Pickle Mack short
Passengers Jack
Reverse Chris short
2009 Possession Dr. Creane
Something Evil Comes Mr. Dutton TV movie
The Shortcut Benjamin Hartley
Caprica Minister Chambers TV series - "Pilot"
The Thaw Ted
Damage Veltz
Web of Desire Dr. Charles Friedman TV movie
2010 Blob The Boss short
Human Target Whitey Doyle TV series - "Run"
Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf Dr. Robert Parker TV movie
Flowers for Norma Older Gentleman #2 short
Amazon Falls[18] Calvin
2011 Goose on the Loose Alphonse David
Behemoth William Walsh TV movie
2012 The Tall Man Sheriff Chestnut
Motel de Gracia (rumored) pre-production
Continuum Alec Sadler (2077) TV series
2013 Stonados TV movie
Singularity Principle movie Lawrence Cason


  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. 


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