John Spencer (actor)

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For other people named John Spencer, see John Spencer (disambiguation).
John Spencer
JohnSpencer- Actor.jpg
Born John Speshock, Jr.
(1946-12-20)December 20, 1946
New York City, New York
Died December 16, 2005(2005-12-16) (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California
Cause of death Heart Attack (Myocardial infarction)
Resting place Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey
Nationality USA
Occupation Actor
Years active 1963–2005
Notable work Leo McGarry on The West Wing
Home town Totowa, New Jersey
Partner(s) Patricia Mariano
Parent(s) John Speshock, Sr.
Mildred Speshock
Awards Emmy 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 won an Emmy Award in 2002 for his role as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the NBC political drama series The West Wing.

Early life[edit]

Spencer was born John Speshock, Jr. in New York City, and was raised in Totowa, New Jersey.[1] He was the son of blue-collar parents Mildred (née Benzeroski), a waitress, and John Speshock Sr., a truck driver.[2][3] Spencer's father was of Irish and Czech descent,[4] while his mother was of Ukrainian and Rusyn ancestry.[5][6] 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.[7]

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. Spencer's subsequent film and television work primarily consisted of supporting roles such as a work colleague and friend to Billy Crystal's basketball ref in Forget Paris and a prickly FBI official in The Rock.

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.[5] At Spencer's private funeral, his West Wing castmate, Kristin Chenoweth, sang the musical number "For Good" from the Broadway musical Wicked. Spencer's remains were interred at Laurel Grove Memorial Park in his hometown of Totowa, New Jersey. 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. Spencer's name remained in the opening credits throughout the remainder of the show's season. A tribute to Spencer, read by the show's lead Martin Sheen, was delivered at the start of episode 10 (Running Mates) of the final season.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1979 Meteor Control Center Worker Uncredited
1983 WarGames Jerry
1985 The Protector Ko's Pilot
1987 Hiding Out Bakey
1989 Black Rain Oliver
1989 Far From Home TV Preacher
1989 Sea of Love Lieutenant
1990 Presumed Innocent Det. Lipranzer
1990 Green Card Harry
1992 In The Arms Of A Killer Det Cusack
1995 Forget Paris Jack
1996 The Rock FBI Director James Womack
1996 Albino Alligator Jack
1997 Cop Land Det. Leo Crasky
1997 Cold Around the Heart Uncle Mike
1998 The Negotiator Police Chief Al Travis
1998 Twilight Capt. Phil Egan
1999 Ravenous Gen. Slauson

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1963–1964 The Patty Duke Show Henry 7 episodes
1976 Ryan's Hope Orderly 2 episodes
1986 Miami Vice Lt. Lee Atkins Episode: "The Good Collar"
1986 Spenser: For Hire Joe Moran Episode: "Home Is the Hero"
1988 As the World Turns Don West Unknown episodes
1990 Law & Order Howard Morton Episode: "Prescription for Death"
1990–1994 L.A. Law Tommy Mullaney 74 episodes
1994 Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man Agent Dennehy Episode: "Not So Easy Riders"
1995 Touched by an Angel Leo Episode: "The Driver"
1996 F/X: The Series Carl Scofield Episode: "High Risk"
1997 The New Adventures of Superman Hank Landry Episode: "Lethal Weapon"
1997 Tracey Takes On... Ray Weggerly Episode: "Crime"
1997 Early Edition Howard Banner Episode: "Jenny Sloane"
1998 Trinity Simon McAllister 3 episodes
1999–2006 The West Wing Leo McGarry 135 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2002)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2000, 2001)
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 (2002–05)
1999 The Outer Limits Col. Wallis Thurman Episode: "Summit"
1999 L.A. Doctors Dr. Edmund Church Episode: "The Life Lost in Living"

Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/Work Award Result
1983 Still Life Obie Award Won
2000 The West Wing Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Won
2001 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Won
2002 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Won
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2003 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
2004 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
2005 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lee, Jennifer 8. "Obituary: John Spencer, 'West Wing' actor". The New York Times. December 17, 2005.
  2. ^ "John Spencer Biography (1946-)". Film Reference. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  3. ^ "John Spencer (1946 - 2005)". Find a Grave. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  4. ^ "West Wing Actor John Spencer Dies". People. December 16, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Obituary: John Spencer, 58, actor on The West Wing" (PDF). The Ukrainian Weekly. January 1, 2006.  p. 4.
  6. ^ Custer, Richard D. "A Family Historian’s Guide to Discovering Carpatho-Rusyn Ancestry". FEEFHS Journal. Volume 14, 2006. p. 9.
  7. ^ PBS. "Transcript of October 16, 2004 interview with John Spencer". The Tavis Smiley Show. Retrieved October 1, 2015.

External links[edit]