William Daniels, a veteran thesp who debuted as a child actor on Broadway in 1939 and is currently seen in ABC’s “Boy Meets World,” on Thursday declared himself a candidate for the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild.
Daniels, running on the slate of the Performers’ Alliance, plans to challenge incumbent Richard Masur as unpaid chief of the fifth largest union in the country, with approximately 96,000 members.
Often cast in authoritative, even arrogant roles, Daniels made his mark in television, although he is known also for playing John Adams in “1776” on Broadway and for his role as the father of Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” (1967). He won two Emmys in the mid-1980’s as a leading actor on “St. Elsewhere.”
Daniels was on the “Boy Meets World” set Thursday evening and could not be reached for comment.
Meeting at deli
His interest in running for the SAG presidency arose only last week, according to associates in the Performers’ Alliance, who met with Daniels and his wife, actress Bonnie Bartlett, to seek their help in finding a suitable candidate to run against Masur.
In the course of their conversation — held Aug. 25 at Art’s Deli in Studio City with SAG Hollywood board member Chuck Sloan and guild vice-presidents Bob Carlson, Paul Napier and David Jolliffe — Daniels eventually came to the conclusion that, rather than look for someone else, he would place himself in contention.
“After listening to us for three hours, he said, ‘What about me? I’ll run,’ ” Sloan recalled. “We were ecstatic. He is a highly respected actor with impeccable credits. He is a man of integrity and with his own questions about how the union has been run.”
Sloan said Daniels “was listening to some of the difficulties that we expressed and he expressed several of his own.” Among Daniels’ concerns was the handling of the proposed merger with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which was supported by Masur and his allies but which failed in a referendum.
In favor of merger
“Daniels was in favor of the concept of merger, but he had real problems with the plan as it was presented,” said Sloan, who quoted Daniels as saying that he would “like to be able to open the windows and let people see what’s really going on in the union.”
Jolliffe, who is running for re-election as 11th national vice president, a post he has held for one two-year term, said he “got all choked up” when he heard Daniels say he would run for president of the union.
“When you meet William Daniels you are immediately struck by the fact that he is a man of integrity, honesty and fair play, which is exactly what is needed right now in the Screen Actors Guild,” Jolliffe said. “With Mr. Daniels as president, we will finally be able to move ahead and deal with the real issues and concerns of all performers. This union must be headed by a person of his caliber. I’m thrilled.”
Ballots for the SAG election will be mailed to members on Oct. 13. Results will be announced on Nov. 5.