The TV community is in mourning once again after another beloved small screen star has passed away. John Hillerman, who is best known for playing Thomas Magnum's estate caretaker in the iconic 1980s TV series Magnum P.I., has passed away at the age of 84, at his family home in Houston, Texas. Lori De Waal, a family spokesperson, confirmed the actor's death with the Associated Press, although no cause of death was given at this time.
John Hillerman was born December 20, 1932 in Denison, Texas, and he attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years before enlisting in the United States Air Force. During his time in the Air Force, he also developed a love of performing after working with various theater groups. Upon his discharge, the late actor moved to New York City to study at the American Theater Wing, and he got his first professional acting gigs in Ohio, particularly The Cincinnati Playhouse, where he developed the iconic British accent that would come in handy later in the actor's career.
He eventually made his way to Washington D.C. in the 1960s, where he became one of the most prestigious actors affiliated with the O Street Theater in the nation's capitol. Towards the end of the 1960s, legendary director Peter Bogdanovich happened to be in the nation's capitol and caught one of Hillerman's performances. He was so impressed with his work that he met him backstage and offered him a role in his movie The Last Picture Show. He would continue to work regularly in film and television throughout the 1970s, with film roles in What's Up, Doc?, The Carey Treatment, High Plains Drifter, Paper Moon, Blazing Saddles, Chinatown and Lucky Lady, along with TV appearances in Kojak, Mannix, Ellery Queen, The Betty White Show, One Day At a Time and many more, before landing the iconic role of Jonathan Quayle Higgins III in Magnum P.I.
Jonathan Quayle Higgins III was the caretaker of a lavish estate known as Robin's Nest, where Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) stayed in the guest house. A stickler for rules and order, the cantankerous caretaker often clashed with the easy-going Magnum throughout the show's eight-season run of 158 episodes, between 1980 and 1988. John Hillerman earned his first Emmy in 1987 for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, after receiving three straight Emmy nominations for his work as Higgins. He also won one Golden Globe for his portrayal of Higgins, with four other nominations as well. He even appeared as Higgins on episodes of Simon & Simon and Murder She Wrote throughout Magnum P.I.'s run.
After Magnum P.I. went off the air, John Hillerman appeared in the Around the World in 80 Days mini-series in 1989, the 1989 movie Real Men Don't Eat Gummi Bears and the TV series Valerie. His last role was in the 1996 movie A Very Brady Sequel, playing a character named Dr. Whitehead, who was quite similar to his iconic Higgins character. He would retire from acting in 1999. This news also comes just after a Magnum P.I. reboot is in the works, which puts a new spin on the series, with a female version of Higgins named Juliet. John Hillerman is survived by his two sisters. The actor's death was reported by The Hollywood Reporter.