jason wingreen dead at 95

Actor Jason Wingreen, a veteran character actor with nearly 200 credits to his name across a 40-year career, has passed away at the age of 95. Although the bulk of his credits can be found in the dozens upon dozens of TV shows that cast him as doctors and bartenders and cab drivers, he has a unique attachment to  the biggest movie franchise of all time. Wingreen was also the original voice of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back.

Born on October 9, 1920, Wingreen served in the Air Force during World War II before breaking into film and television acting in the mid-1950s. His first credits reflect a truly bygone era: Armstrong Circle Theater, Climax!, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, and other relics of early TV history. However, once Wingreen started working, he simply didn’t stop. After appearing on shows like Playhouse 90, The Lloyd Bridges Show, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Wingreen snagged the role of Captain Dorset in The Untouchables, playing the character from 1960 through 1963.

From there, Wingreen’s career blossomed. He appeared in three episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the iconic “A Stop at Willoughby.” He also popped up several times on the 1960s’ other iconic genre anthology show, putting in work on three episodes of The Outer Limits. Roles in Dr. Kildare, Get Smart, The Long, Hot Summer, The Green Hornet, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Fugitive followed throughout the rest of the decade.

It’s hard to find a year where Wingreen wasn’t jumping from show to show. The ’70s brought Mission: Impossible, Night Gallery, Bonanza, Kung Fu, and Columbo. He even played six completely different characters on Ironside between 1967 and 1974. He appeared in 11 movies and TV shows in 1973 alone and his pace never let up.

However, his defining role arrived in 1976, when he took on the role of bartender Harry Snowden in All in the Family. He would play him in 26 episodes before taking the character over to the spin-off, Archie Bunker’s Place, where he would reprise the character in 92 more episodes.

In the midst of this, Wingreen auditioned for the voice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. He didn’t get that part, but he was cast as the merciless bounty hunter Boba Fett, lending the character a disquieting menace with only four lines. The many, many sins of the special editions include replacing his voice. For countless fans, this is the one true Fett:

Wingreen retried in the mid-’90s, but not before he appeared on Freddy’s Nightmares and Seinfeld and Matlock.

While he wasn’t a household name, Wingreen represents the kind of Hollywood that never receives the attention it deserves: the working stiff actor, the professional who takes a job, puts in the work, and never performs under par. Over four decades of work, he proved himself reliable to countless iconic shows and movies. These are the performers we need to treasure.

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