John Spencer Biography
The following biography
Spencer was born in Paterson, New Jersey
and grew up in nearby Totowa, the son of blue-collar parents, a
Ukrainian-American father and an Irish-American mother. With his
enrollment at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan at age 16,
his classmates included Liza Minnelli and violinist Pinchas Zukerman.
Later he attended Fairleigh Dickinson University but did not complete a
Spencer began his television career on The
Patty Duke Show. In the early 1990s, he was a regular cast member on
L.A. Law, playing "Tommy Mullaney". Later, he acted in the romantic
comedy Forget Paris (1995) as a wisecracking co-worker to Billy
Crystal's basketball referee; The Rock (1994) as the untrustworthy FBI
official "Womack", and the 2002 theater production of The Exonerated.
Paralleling his character on The West Wing, he was a recovering
alcoholic and heart attack victim.
Spencer won an Obie Award for the 1981
off-Broadway production of "Still Life," about a Vietnam veteran, and
received a Drama Desk nomination for "The Day Room." After two previous
nominations, Spencer won his first Emmy Award in 2002 for Outstanding
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Leo McGarry on
The West Wing. The episodes Spencer submitted for judging by the Emmy
voters were "Bartlet for America", in which Leo has to testify in front
of a Congressional committee about the President's health and flashes
back to his own medical lapse, and "We Killed Yamamoto".
Spencer died following a heart attack in a
Los Angeles hospital, four days before what would have been his
fifty-ninth birthday. He was an only child and never married. NBC and
Warner Bros. Television have not addressed how Spencer's death will
affect the storyline of The West Wing, though it is possible that they
will simply have his character also die of a heart attack.
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Date Article Copied:
December 17, 2005
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