Richard Herd, famous for playing New York Yankees’ executive Mr. Wilhem on Seinfeld, and starring in over 150 TV and film projects throughout his career, died on Tuesday, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.
Patricia Crowder Herd, his wife of 40 years, confirmed the news. She said his cause of death was due to cancer-related causes. He died at their Los Angeles home on May 26, 2020.
Herd consistently worked in Hollywood for over five decades, playing a long list of memorable roles such as the Klingon L’Kor on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Admiral Noyce in on the series SeaQuest 2032. His standout film roles include ex-CIA agent James W. McCord Jr. in All the President’s Men, General Tennyons in Sgt. Bilko, Henry Skerridge in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Ramon in Get Out.
For three seasons, between 1982 and 1984, Herd famously played Police Captain Dennis Sheridan alongside William Shatner in the hit TV series, T.J. Hooker.
Here’s what you need to know about Richard Herd:
1. Herd Couldn’t Believe Booked the ‘Seinfeld’ Role After Telling Casting Directors That He Was a Red Sox Fan
When Herd first auditioned to play the wildly clueless Mr. Wilhem on Seinfeld, Herd remembered the process as being “easy” and “fun.”
“It was very inviting,” Herd said. “And as I left, I turned around and said, ‘Look, I have to tell you this. I hope it doesn’t make a difference, but I’m a Red Sox fan.’ And they all threw their scripts at me. The next day they said, ‘Come on out and play with us.’ ”
As for playing the New York Yankees executive, George Costanza’s boss, in 11 episodes throughout three seasons of one of the most successful TV sitcoms of all time, Herd had a blast. “[Mr. Wilhem] was always doing things that never got done and always going over to Mr. Steinbrenner and apologizing to him,” Herd told THR in 2016. “Some days, he had clear days, other days he didn’t. He was very vulnerable. He had an odd sense of humor… He was way out there on occasion. I’ve taken a few trips out there, so I know all about it.”
2. Herd Survived a Nearly Fatal Illness as a Child Which Inspired Him to Pursue Acting
Born in Boston on September 26, 1932, Herd developed an interest in an acting career after surviving what could’ve been a fatal illness as a child. He told the Patriot Ledger in 2015, “I had osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection, and almost didn’t survive. I became ill in second grade and went to the Cotting School, as it’s now known, in Lexington, for young people with various ailments. I was in and out of Boston Children’s Hospital. Lying there, month after month, you become very stoic. It really stimulated my imagination, and I think actually helped me later as an actor.”
Herd became one of the first patients to be treated with a novel miracle drug that debuted in the 1940s. “Penicillin knocked out the infection and saved my life,” he said.
After turning 19, Herd left Boston to study his craft in Manhattan before moving out West. “I went to acting school in New York and took some art classes with very fine teachers, Herd said. “After moving to Hollywood, I continued art classes on Saturday mornings for years.”
3. Herd was a Member of the Enterprise Blues Band
After starring on Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Herd often attended fan conventions with his fellow cast members, and they formed a band called the Enterprise Blues Band.
“It was made up of cast and crew from the five Star Treks series,” Herd told the Patriot Ledger. “We had a mandolin, violin, drums, piano, and I played the gutbucket, which has a hell of a good sound if you do it right. You never know, we might get to together and entertain the fans.”
4. Herd was Commonly Mistaken for Fellow Actor Karl Malden
Being compared or mistaken for actor Karl Malden was a common theme throughout Herd’s life. Malden, who won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1952 for his role in A Streetcar Named Desire, and an Emmy in 1985 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series in Fatal Vision, died of natural causes at age 97 in 2009.
While Herd never became as famous as Malden, his body of work and storied career in Hollywood spoke for itself.
5. Tributes to The ‘V: Final Battle’ Star Filled Social Media Following the News of Herd’s Death
With so many memorable roles on TV and film, fans had trouble picking which of his characters they loved most while sharing tributes on social media to the late actor. Many users online remembered his for his role of John in the TV mini-series V and V: The Final Battle, while others mentioned their memories of watching him on T.J. Hooker, Seinfeld, and Star Trek.