Starred in the TV series 'The Equalizer'

British actor Edward Woodward, who played the avenging detective in the gritty CBS drama “The Equalizer,” died Monday near Cornwall, England. He was 79. He had been suffering from several ailments including pneumonia.

In a long and distinguished career, Woodward was also widely known for his role in 1973 cult horror film “The Wicker Man.”

He first came to the attention of U.K. TV auds playing a seedy secret service agent in “Callan,” which ran on Blighty’s ITV network from 1967 to 1972. The part won Woodward a BAFTA for best actor in 1970. “Callan” was subsequently made into a feature film.

In 1980 Woodward played the title character in Bruce Beresford’s critically acclaimed Australian antiwar film “Breaker Morant.”

He was a prolific TV actor, starring recently in the BBC’s flag-

ship soap “EastEnders.” His final appearance in the skein was earlier this year. He also appeared in the recent British feature comedy “Hot Fuzz.”

In 1983 he said: “I think I’ve probably done more television than any actor living. I’ve done over 2,000, could be 3,000 now, television productions.”

In “The Equalizer,” which ran on CBS from 1985-89, Woodward was cast as Robert McCall, a sharply dressed government agent-turned-private detective. The show brought him a hefty following and critical acclaim ­ — Woodward won a Golden Globe for the part in 1987 and was nominated five times for an Emmy. He suffered a heart attack when he returned to Blighty after finishing “The Equalizer.”

A subsequent U.S. series, “Over My Dead Body,” was less successful, though Woodward won a news Emmy in 1989 for the documentary series “Remembering World War II.”

Woodward, who came from a blue-collar background in the south London suburb of Croydon, made his first professional stage appearance in 1946 at the Castle Theater, Farnham, England, having earlier gained a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Prior to working in TV, he had forged a successful career in legit working in both the West End and Broadway on a range of shows. Among the latter was a production of “High Spirits,” a musical version of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.”

After the play bowed on Broadway, Coward described Woodward in his diary: “One of the nicest and most cooperative actors I have ever met or worked with. He is the only one who has given me no trouble at all.”

Woodward is survived by his second wife, the actress Michele Dotrice, and four children.

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