Edward Herrmann, the actor who gained fame playing a young FDR on TV but was known more recently as the patriarch of “Gilmore Girls,” died Dec. 31 in New York. He was 71.
Herrmann, who co-starred with Jane Alexander in a pair of much-praised “Eleanor and Franklin” telepics in 1976 and 1977, had been previously diagnosed with brain cancer. His family told TMZ that he had been in the ICU for the past three and a half weeks, and they decided to take him off the respirator when his condition did not improve.
Herrmann was well-liked in the biz and respected for his deft touch any number of character roles. He lent both gravitas and warmth to “Gilmore Girls” in his role as the upper-crust wealthy father who softens in the face of his strong-willed daughter and granddaughter. Herrmann was a series regular through the show’s seven-season run from 2000-2007 on the WB and CW nets.
“Ed Herrmann was a towering presence who filled the room with grace, laughter, Chekhov references and several salty stories. He was our patriarch,” “Gilmore Girls” creator/exec producer Amy Sherman-Palladino told Variety. ” ‘Gilmore Girls’ would not exist without Ed. There really are no words.”
“Gilmore” star Lauren Graham paid tribute to her on-screen dad via Twitter.
“My friend Ed Herrmann was the kindest, classiest, most talented man. It was an honor and a joy to know him, a devastating blow to lose him,” she wrote.
Herrmann’s accolades include an Emmy in 1999 for his guest appearances as a law professor on “The Practice” and a Tony in 1976 for the play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” Most recently, he appeared on several episodes of CBS’ “The Good Wife” and “How I Met Your Mother” and ABC’s “Black Box.”
Born in Washington, D.C., Herrmann grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University in 1965 with a degree in English. After leaving Bucknell, he studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts on a Fulbright scholarship.
By the early 1970s, Herrmann’s career in theater had progressed to Off Broadway productions such as the Joseph Papp-produced “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel” by David Rabe. After his Tony win and the success of “Eleanor and Franklin,” Herrmann became a much in-demand character actor in film and TV.
In the 1980s he logged a guest stint as priest on NBC’s “St. Elsewhere.” He was also seen in several episodes of HBO’s gritty prison drama “Oz,” NBC’s “Law & Order” and “Harry’s Law” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”
His notable film roles included 1981’s “Reds,” playing the father of Macaulay Culkin in 1994’s “Richie Rich,” as well as Max in 1987’s “The Lost Boys.” Earlier in his career he had roles in “The Paper Chase” (1973), “The Great Gatsby” (1974), “The Great Waldo Pepper” (1975), “The North Avenue Irregulars” (1979), “Annie” and “A Little Sex” (1982) and “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985).
He earned two Emmy nominations for his work in “Eleanor and Franklin” and “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.” The actor was nominated for five Emmys overall. He also nabbed a second Tony nom in 1983 for the play “Plenty.”
Herrmann’s resonant voice made him a favorite choice as narrator of documentaries and specials and for voiceover work. He did a slew of such specials for A&E, History Channel and PBS over the years.
Herrmann was married twice and is survived by three children.