Actor William Schallert died at his home in California Sunday night. The former television star was 93 years old.
The thespian’s seven decades-long career began in the late 1940s. He is mainly known for his role as the beloved father, Martin Lane, on “The Patty Duke Show,” which he starred in from 1963-1966. Other roles Schallert is famous for include English teacher Leander Pomfritt on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” Mayor Webb Schubert in the Oscar-winning film “In the Heat of the Night,” Admiral Hargrade on “Get Smart” and Judith’s father on “Dream On.” Most recently, he’s had roles on “True Blood” (Mayor Norris), “Bag of Bones” (Max Devore) and “2 Broke Girls” (as an elevator operator).
However, Schallert said that the role he is most recognized for is that of Nilz Baris, the man who discovered the furry tribbles on the now classic 1967 episode of “Star Trek” titled “The Trouble with Tribbles.” In a 2011 interview, he said that the role was just like any other guest spot for him. “I was not a ‘Star Trek’ fan,” he said. “So, ‘Star Trek’ was just a job, and I was playing a rather stuffy bureaucrat, not the most appealing character.”
From 1979-1981, Schallert served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. During this time, he lead one of the Guild’s longest strikes (13 weeks) due to issues related to “rates and residuals for Pay-TV, videocassettes and videodiscs,” and also established a committee for Performers with Disabilities, which he said was his proudest achievement with the organization.
“Bill Schallert’s remarkable career put him in the rare position of being able to understand actors at all levels of the business,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said after learning of his death. “He worked virtually every SAG contract, he appeared opposite movie stars and background performers, he was a series regular and an uncredited bit player. He turned this knowledge and experience into service for his fellow actors. Despite leading the union during a very difficult time, Bill maintained his integrity and commitment, a commitment that extended into many more years of board service. I am especially pleased that Bill lived long enough to see the SAG-AFTRA merger become a reality as he was one of the pioneers of that effort.”
Schallert was born in Los Angeles to Edwin, a reviewer and drama editor for the Los Angeles Times, and Elza, a writer, publicist and radio personality. He served as an Army fighter pilot during World War II and got a degree from UCLA before turning to acting. In 1946, he helped form the Circle Theater in Hollywood.
He had been married to former actress Leah Waggner from 1949 until her death last year. He is survived by four children (Edwin, Joseph, Mark and Brendan) and seven grandchildren.
His son Edwin confirmed the death, however, he did not reveal its cause.