Edward Herrmann: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Master Character Actor

Edward Herrmann was a master of character, one of those actors who could be counted on to deliver no matter what else was happening on the screen or stage.

Herrmann, who died Wednesday at the age of 71, was famously adept at playing historical figures, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt (many times, most recently as the voiceover in Ken Burns’ “The Rooosevelts: An Intimate History”) to Lou Gehrig, William Randolph Hearst (in Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Cat’s Meow”), Raymond Massey (in biopic “James Dean”), Joseph Breen (enforcer of Hollywood’s Production code from the 1930s-50s), Nelson Rockefeller, Alger Hiss, Fred Friendly and George Bernard Shaw.

Herrmann also had a face that was born to play priests, cops, dads and nondescript world leaders. Reviewing the 1999 NBC miniseries “Atomic Train,” Variety declared that Herrmann’s turn as the U.S. commander-in-chief was just about the only redeeming quality of the limp thriller (featuring Rob Lowe trying to stop a runaway freight train loaded with nuclear material).

Variety’s archives show that Herrmann rarely stopped working from the time he arrived on the New York legit scene in the early 1970s. Here are five things you didn’t know about Herrmann’s long career:

  • The thesp’s first mention in Variety came in the June 9, 1971, weekly edition as a member of the cast of David Rabe’s Vietnam War-set play “The Basic Training of Pavel Hummel,” produced by Joseph Papp.
  • Herrmann not only played Lou Gehrig in the 1978 TV movie “The Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story,” he played a character with Lou Gehrig’s disease a few years later — the compassionate Father McCabe in NBC’s “St. Elsewhere.”
  • Uncle Junior and Frasier? In 1982 Herrmann co-starred with Kelsey Grammer and Dominic Chianese in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of “Plenty.” He would earn a Tony nom for the same role the following year.
  • Herrmann was a booster and regular at the Williamstown Theater Festival, long after his career took off. In 1985 he and Dianne Wiest co-directed the Williamstown offering “Not About Heroes.” The direction and Herrmann’s work in the play was billed as “exceptional” by Variety’s reviewer.
  • He was an iron man of voiceover work and narration, doing everything from Dodge commercials to the History docu “Giganto: The Real King Kong.” He even lent his resonant pipes to voicing Rick Blaine in the 1998 audiobook rendition of “Casablanca” prequel novel “As Time Goes By.” Lynn Redgrave was his Elsa.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]


    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

  • Sean Spicer Emmys

    Sean Spicer's Casting Explained? Red States Love 'Dancing With the Stars'

    ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country. “Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% [...]

  • Peppa Pig

    Hasbro Acquires Entertainment One in $4 Billion All-Cash Deal

    Toymaker Hasbro is acquiring studio Entertainment One in an all-cash transaction valued at $4 billion, bringing My Little Pony and Nerf under the same umbrella as “Peppa Pig” and “PJ Masks” and furthering Hasbro’s growth goals in the infant and preschool categories. Hasbro aims to expand its operations in film and TV. Entertainment One’s production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content